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How to Raise $1 Billion for the Environment

How to Raise $1 Billion for the Environment

How to Raise $1 Billion for the Environment
Mark Winstein, The Ecological Finance Review
July 20, 2005

How to Raise $1 Billion for the Environment
The comedian Steve Martin once said, “Here’s how to make a million dollars. First, get a million dollars. Then…”

Our research indicates there are over 4000 ecological entrepreneurs attempting to start and run businesses that will resolve the globe’s ecological challenges. Our anecdotal evidence suggests that each and every one of them is looking for the same $1 million to get off the ground. (Hey, that’s only $4 billion!)

The financial gap between an environmental good idea and actual implementation at scale is Ecostructure’s area of investigation and solutions. Systematically closing this gap will unleash enough creativity to assure the health of people and the biosphere for generations to come.

If one wants to sell a green consumer product, for example, some organic salsa, the path to business success is already well-established.

  1. Mix up some organic salsa in your kitchen
  2. Sell containers of salsa at the Saturday market
  3. People like the salsa
  4. Collect profits and make more salsa for next week
  5. Repeat
  6. Perfect recipe and packaging
  7. Sell big order to major outlet
  8. Repeat

This system works so well, it has been the basis of rapid growth of the organic food industry, one of the highlights of the overall ecological economy.

However, there is only so much Rainforest Crunch you can eat if you wants to save rainforests. So many of our ecological solutions hinge on infrastructure-scale decisions. To dam or not to dam, for example. These challenges are beyond the scope of common consumer purchases. How does a person purchase a unit of “anti-sprawl” for example. How does one person purchase a unit of a salmon river restoration project, or open space, or an ecologically designed office building? Even the fuel cell, the windmill, and the solar panel really only make sense as part of much larger systems. There’s no real individual consumer base for these things.

To solve infrastructure problems, the basis of most ecological challenges, requires substantial pools of capital. The capital needs of today’s ecological entrepreneurs are therefore typically much higher than those of the consumer products companies that have done so much to advance the green economy. How does one bootstrap a company who’s first meaningful sale may be $1 million, $10 million, or more, and whose products and services may take many more millions to develop in the first place?

Business literature and personal experience tells me the current business development model of bootstrapping and venture capital is not well suited for getting ahead of the curve on our ecological challenges. Both of these notions stem from an era when competition among people for survival was most highly appreciated by commercial society. Today, cooperation among people is much more important if we are to solve challenges that affect us all equally.

The time has come for a much more coordinated and mature financial strategy that can be used effectively by today’s ecological entrepreneurs to help them solve our global ecological challenges.

Continued at
The Ecological Finance Review

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