Yesterday, Joel Makower and the editors of released their third annual green business report, the State of Green Business 2010. In the report, Makower and the editorial team look back at the top green business trends in 2009 and then attempt to look into the future to see how green business will grow in 2010.

Last year was, without a doubt, one of the more difficult years for business owners in recent history. This holds true for green business owners as well. Even among traditional business models, those that focused on environmental initiatives weren’t the first to get a pink slip when times got rough. According to the State of Green Business report, these departments stayed intact, which is different from previous recessions. Although they stayed intact, they were still hit with major budget cuts while needing to meet stronger mandates. But they’re still there.

"Their survival is testament to how the greening of business has transformed in the past few years. What began as a seemingly altruistic endeavor, then shifted to a way to cut costs and improve reputation, has become a fundamental business competency, alongside accounting, finance, human resources, marketing, customer service, procurement, knowledge management and others." Source: State of Green Business 2010

This, in an of itself, is a positive trend for green business professionals. The fact that companies have now embraced the importance of environmental measures as standard operating procedure shows that despite the high unemployment and shaky economic state of our nation, green business is surviving.

Now on to the Top Ten Green Business Stories of 2009.

  1. Radical Transparency Goes Mainstream
  2. Green Marketing Gets Even Murkier
  3. Green Innovation Becomes a Great Idea
  4. Greener Fleets Hit the Streets
  5. Energy Efficiency Gains Horsepower
  6. IT Aims to Save the World
  7. Toxics Become a Strategic Issue
  8. Food Companies Put Their Supply Chains on the Menu
  9. Packaging Companies Rethink the Box
  10. Green Business and Cleantech Find Common Purpose
If you’ve read the Mother Nature Network over the past year, then you’ve seen all 10 of these topics covered extensively. I have written about energy efficiency on nearly a weekly basis for months, partly due to the Recovery Act funding. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) helped jump start many weatherization projects by providing low-income households with a way to improve their home’s energy efficiency while cutting power bills.

Another topic that has made the MNN Business blog is radical transparency. In November 2009, prior to the start of Greenbuild 2009, I attended a panel discussion hosted by green architectural design firm Perkins+Will. The topic – radical transparency. Perkins+Will released their Precautionary List, an online tool designed to help green building professionals improve their transparency. Today’s consumers and businesses want to know everything and if they find out, later, that something was withheld; they are going to be upset. Just look at the 2009 SIGG water bottle controversy as evidence.

After looking back at 2009, the report goes on to examine green business trends in 20 key environmental categories. Each of the 20 categories is ranked on a green, yellow, or red light system. Green light means that companies are making progress and are designated as swimming. Those treading water, in other words no forward or backward motion, are given a yellow light. Lastly, measures that aren’t doing so well are given the sinking (red light) label.

Out of the 20 environmental areas measured by the report, six are given a green light. It should come as no surprise that energy efficiency is one of the areas that companies are swimming ahead and making progress. I’d venture to guess that it will continue to be a top green business trend in 2010.

Another area rated with a green light is green office space. The report measured the amount of LEED certified building space available and considers green office space to be “one of the building industry’s few bright spots.”

At the other end of the spectrum, three categories were considered to be sinking. Companies are falling behind on their initiatives in carbon intensity, employee telecommuting, and e-waste. I am surprised that in 2010, with the IT infrastructure that we have, that telecommuting isn’t a booming trend.

Both my husband and I telecommute. I’m a freelancer and so I have no need to work in an office, but my husband works for one of the largest companies in the world. His office is in our spare bedroom. He doesn’t go to a centralized location to work, he works from home. His company is repeatedly named as one of the best companies to work for and is at the leading edge of telecommuting opportunities and technology.

My hope is that 2010 progresses, major corporations will realize that telecommuting is a legitimate way to work. Employees aren’t necessarily going to be less productive because they are at home and possibly in their pajamas. Telecommuting is a great way to increase employee morale, attract more top-notch employees to your company, and reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

The State of Green Business 2010 report is 65 pages filled with information about the exciting changes that green business will see this year as well as the challenges the industry will face. You can download the report after filling out a short survey on the website.

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