Book Review–Ecopreneuring: Putting People and Planet Before Profit, by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
“One of the biggest ironies of our growth model is that we’re coming to realize that it has failed to make our society particularly satisfied–indeed, the number of americans who say they’re very happy with their lives was higher in 1956 than it is today, though the standard of living has trebled over that half century.”
Bill McKibben, in the Foreword.
In Ecopreneuring, Ivanko and Kivirist give us an inside view of what it’s like to be a social entrepreneur. There are frequent interviews with other social entrepreneurs, as well as an in-depth look at the Inn Serendipity (Ivanko and Kivirist’s green bed & breakfast), as models of social entrepreneurship lifestyles and business models.
If you’re wondering who these social entrepreneurs are, how they operate, how they think, and what their values and lifestyles are, this book demystifies it all–and replaces the conventional American Dream along the way.
“Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers…[they] become ecopreneurs when their spirit, boldness, courage and determination not only transform the landscape but [coalesce] into a movement to transform global problems into opportunities for restoration and healing.” p.23
“Ecopreneurs take sustainability beyond treading water. We aspire to continuously push the envelope to do better, with less negative impact on Earth…Sustainable businesses are not a cog in the wheel of capitalist prgress, turning natture and labor into private wealth for a select few. They’re catalysts for ecological change using the power of commerce to transform how we live on Earth.”
The book points out guideline and certification programs and websites for small businesses that help them go green, a thorough resource list for any small business owner, and walks you through what it would be like to go green with a business. The authors exhibit true social entrepreneurship traits, not the least of which is transparency in business operations. You’ll feel like you’ve been in business with Ivanko and Kivirist and taken steps along the way in helping the Inn Serendipity do what it can to go green and stay in business.
Ivanko and Kivirist make a point that following your heart is what matters in your career, and that money can come from those activities. They use the example of ‘what if you love photography or helping people savor healthy and locally grown food? Why not make that part of your livelihood” (p. 95). They weave this into the ‘portfolio perspective’, that argues that having one paycheck is a risk, and that you can often have better security if you’ve got multiple income streams coming in. “Different elements contribute to fulfillment and satisfaction”. This flows logically from their kind of business model, as a bed & breakfast allows owners some leisure time to concentrate on other activities, such as writing, however, I wonder how many social entrepreneurs might argue differently. Social entrepreneurs have a lot going on anyway, and adding multiple revenue streams from diverse businesses and pursuits might add complexity and stress, and detract from your efforts on the one main business. I invite comments from other social entrepreneurs on this point, and am genuinely curious.
In a section entitled “Eco-business Basics”, Ivanko and Kivirist argue that failure is not the end of the line for an entrepreneur, merely just a part of the process. Indeed. Social entrepreneurs are no different than conventional entrepreneurs in this regard, as business is a tough game to play.
Overall, I feel the book had terrific insight into the life and ethic of the social entrepreneur, and describes a good model for living life and doing well by our Mother Earth while running a business. The book doesn’t point specifically to types of green opportunities that are out there, but other books do. This book is about the lifestyle involved in giving up the 9-5 (8-6) for a heart-filled lifestyle, and what that might entail.
I am thankful for this book. It is a good contribution, and a non-threatening way for curious people to see behind the veil of the green business world. The book places uneven weight on People and Planet and less on Profit. Some might argue that the three deserve equal attention in order for a business to be truly sustainable, but Ivanko and Kivirist have staked their claim on what comes first, and their lives and lifestyles reflect the truth in their premise.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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