Contact: Leslie Anderson Maloy, Hastings Group, (703) 276-3256


What is this report?

The Big Green Opportunity report presents the findings of the first major study to look at the emerging green economy from the perspective of small business owners, including owners of “microbusinesses” – the very smallest of businesses that represent 88% of businesses in the United States.

What is the green economy?

The “green economy” refers to an economy in which socially just and environmentally sustainable practices are the norm.  It includes environmentally-friendly technology and practices, as well as economically-inclusive policies and practices designed to ensure prosperity and opportunity for all.

The Big Green Opportunity summarizes the dramatic growth of various “green economy” segments, including renewables in the energy sector, organic and fair trade foods and “socially responsible” finance, as the context for understanding the experiences of small business owners.

What were you trying to learn?

We sought to identify the nature and scale of resource efficiency and green market opportunities for small businesses in the United States. and identify barriers that small business owners are facing in realizing those opportunities.  The purpose of this research is to inform program and policy design for organizations interested in microenterprise, small business, and green market development.

How was the study conducted?

We surveyed over 1,300 small business owners on the environmental and social benefits attributes of their products and services as well as their adoption of environmentally-beneficial internal practices.  We then segmented respondents into three segments (Deep Green, Mid-Green and Light Green) based on two major factors:

1. The terms they use to describe the social and environmental attributes of their products and services (such as “organic,” “fair trade,” or “biodegradable,” and
2. The extent and nature of their adoption of environmentally-beneficial activities in their operations.

We then compared experiences and perceptions among these three groups on a range of factors, including financial performance, their experiences with customers’ demand for their green-oriented products and services, and their plans for developing additional green offerings and environmentally-friendly practices.

We conducted follow-up interviews with several dozen business owners to get more insight into the empirical findings. Some of the insights from those interviews are included in snapshots in the Big Green Opportunity report.

This sample was not meant to reflect the population of U.S. small businesses, but to understand the “green trendline” moving across the small business sector.  The three segments each comprised about 1/3 of our sample.

What did you find out?

Please visit our “Executive Summary” page.

What do you plan to do next?

We plan to use the findings to identify appropriate financing mechanisms, technical support, and other resources for the businesses that participated in the pilot.  We also want to make the case for a national roll out of practical, actionable, and valuable solutions to help the smallest of businesses fully realize their green opportunity.

Will you continue or expand this research?

Our intent is to repeat this study every two years.