From Pollution-Based to Inclusively Green


With the American Recovery and Investment Act allotting millions of dollars in support of green-collar training, weatherization, and more energy-efficient infrastructure, now is a ripe time for minority entrepreneurs to jump into an industry that can not only help communities, but be good for bottom lines.

“While we have finally reached a point where saving the environment is not pitting trees against people and is, in fact, an opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship, communities and businesses of color need to be brought up to speed about what it means to be green, the benefits, the costs, and the opportunities,” says Melissa Bradley-Burns, senior strategist for Green For All, an Oakland, California-based organization dedicated to “building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”

Bradley-Burns, a Georgetown University graduate, leads the Capital Access Program at the organization, working to provide human, social, and financial capital to entrepreneurs and businesses in an effort to create and sustain green jobs.

She spoke more with about the importance of environmental initiatives awareness, minority inclusion, and how simply greening the office can help entrepreneurs cut costs. There have been several reports of organizations such as the Sierra Club pushing for more diversity in the green movement. Why do you think many minorities are slow to get fully involved?

Melissa Bradley-Burns: I think there is a lack of understanding on what it means to go green and the potential of a green economy.  It is not just a place where you can spend money.  It is also an opportunity to earn money.

I think business owners of color have been hesitant to enter the space due to lack of data. When I read numerous studies on going green, there is clearly a lack of statistics on minority consumption of green products and services. Most business owners will make decisions based on data and not on a fad.

How can minority-owned businesses overcome challenges in getting involved?

The first thing to do is to get engaged in the conversation. The government is making big decisions about money and the environment. It is important to be informed about what is happening at both the national and local levels. Check out Green For All’s Guide to the Economic Recovery Package as a starting point.

Second, businesses should work closely with environmental and policy organizations. Understand what you can be doing personally and professionally to make the promise of an inclusive green economy a reality.

Third, get educated. Attend local conferences and trainings about the green economy. Learn where the business opportunities are and how to make money and save the environment at the same time.

What are some ways small businesses can tap into the support, both financially and resource-wise, when trying to get involved in the green movement?

In terms of money, it is important to know where to look. In terms of public funding, I would refer readers to Green For All’s guide to understanding