State of Green Business Report 2008

If one were to rely strictly on the headlines — from the mainstream
media, the business press, the blogosphere, and all the rest — it
would be easy to conclude that the greening of business practices has
reached a tipping point. The daily drumbeat of announcements and
achievements has grown in recent years. Hardly a week goes by when
there isn’t a new development: a corporate commitment, a technological
breakthrough, a new partnership addressing environmental challenges,
or a new finding from a government agency, university lab, or research
group about the progress being made.

Amid the cacophony of developments there is progress, but it’s not
always obvious or straightforward. And the progress itself can be illusory.
Which led us to ask: What’s really going on? Does all of this amount to
a sea change in business, or merely a midcourse correction? And, most
importantly: Is it actually making a difference to the environment? We set
out to find answers.

It wasn’t easy. There’s insufficient data to show how companies are
doing, in aggregate, to move the needle on issues like climate change,
toxics reduction, water conservation, and resource efficiency — at least
in the United States, the main focus of our inquiry. In a few cases, it’s
nearly impossible to tell whether indicators of progress are moving
forward or backward.

Where we are able to measure, the verdict is mixed: Companies are
getting cleaner and more efficient, but only incrementally, and many of
the gains are offset by the ever-growing economy. So, while greenhouse
gas emissions per dollar of economic activity may be dropping, the
growing economy means those emissions are largely unchanged.
Those mixed results notwithstanding, there is much to celebrate. In the
pages that follow, we review the past year of trends and developments;
present the inaugural edition of the GreenBiz Index, which we’ll be
updating annually; and proffer our picks on the best books, websites,
reports, tools, and headlines of 2007.

The state of green business is improving, slowly but surely, as companies
both large and small learn the value of integrating environmental
thinking into their operations in ways that align with core business
strategy and bottom-line goals. Green business has shifted from a
movement to a market. But there is much, much more to do.
— Joel Makower, Executive Editor