Why Women Business Owners and Sustainable Businesses Are a Powerful Combination

The statistics from the last few years confirm that women entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with. Women are starting businesses at twice the national rate, and the revenue from women-owned businesses is estimated at $2.8 trillion, according to an October 2009 report on the economic impact of women-owned businesses. If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world.

At the same time, we’re seeing that many of our most common business practices are fundamentally unsustainable. For example, many businesses today are built on the use of cheap labor from third world countries to develop products full of toxins that are then shipped worldwide using fossil fuels. How long, realistically, can such a model be sustained? The rise of sustainable business is in large part due to the realization that business models dependent upon the indiscriminate use of both social and natural resources are not sustainable in the long term.

Both women-owned businesses and sustainable businesses are fairly new trends in business. Neither had an impact until perhaps the past 20 years, and weren’t even a consideration during the Industrial Revolution when many of our business practices were established. Now, however, they are both positioned to significantly change the way we do business in the 21st century.

The opportunity that we have with women-owned businesses is this: to harness that entrepreneurial activity and steer it in a sustainable direction. By doing so, we can demonstrate that businesses can be successful without depending upon the exploitation of workers in third-world countries. We can show that businesses can be successful without destroying our natural environment or exposing us to toxins in the products we bring into our homes. We can show that business has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change. We can develop businesses that benefit the communities in which they operate.

All of this is possible through sustainable business, which shows that businesses can be financially profitable while also being ecologically sustainable and socially beneficial. And women can lead the way, because we are the ones who are currently driving much of the entrepreneurial activity. If small businesses are the engine of the economy, then women are in the driver’s seat. We can choose the path that we want to take.

What do you think? Would you like to develop your business to be sustainable? Why or why not?

Carolina Miranda is the founder of Cultivating Capital, a business consulting firm specializing in helping women business owners develop sustainable businesses. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise that combines fundamental business skills with a deep understanding of sustainable business practices. She has a background in both non-profit and for-profit businesses and has first-hand experience working as a Sustainability Manager, implementing sustainability certifications, and conducting green business audits.

This article originally appeared at Cultivating Capital. You can view it here.

  1. I can only agree with you Carolina that women do bring another perspective to business development. One, which I might add is more sustainable than the one we see being practiced in many companies around the world. If I remember correctly is the ration between women and male entrepreneurs about 1:5, so there is definitely some way to go before we see equality in this area. Women entrepreneurs do have something to offer which a traditional male started company do not bring to the table, but I do not think that women should let themselves be limited in that sense. The world of sustainability has opened up a niche for women in the corporate world, which offers unique opportunities to work with some of that traits which we often see associated with women.

    In the corporate world I think that women are much more effective when working with any anti-corruption, risk management, nurturing new leaders into the corporate leaders of tomorrow, stakeholder engagement and handling organizational crisis, and of cause creating the organizational base for sustainable development. This is not to say that men are useless in the 21 century business world, but rather that new and more diverse skills are needed if companies are going to remain financial, social and environmental sustainable. There is plenty of evidence that companies that are able to embrace and nurture women leaders will see long term results both in terms of financial value but not least in creating sustainable business models.

  2. Thank you Jacob for your astute comment. I welcome you to add your voice on our Women Of Green Facebook Fan Page. We need to hear the voices of men and women co-creating.

  3. Jacob,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. As you’ve noted, there is both room, and a need for, diverse perspectives in business in the future. Men and women, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders will all be needed in order to truly move us closer to seeing a world in which sustainable businesses are the norm.


  4. Thanks for counirbtting. It’s helped me understand the issues.

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