Say hello to the 'environmental entrepreneur'

The Environmental Entrepreneurs business advocacy group happens to believe strong environmental policy makes good economic sense.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It has become pretty well-accepted -- as least in my mind -- that private-public cooperation is imperative to advancing clean-tech and business sustainability agendas. Likewise, it has also become abundantly clear that the federal government won't provide much leadership over the short-term when it comes to environmental policy, which pretty much leaves it up to the business world to take matters into its own hands.

Enter the Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), an organization representing more than 850 entrepreneurs across 41 states. Its fundamental agenda: to shape environmental policy that is good for business, at both the national and state level. Its members are individuals, not companies, and there is not a paid lobbyist among the bunch, according to Nicole Lederer, E2 co-founder.

"We are not seeking to be an environmental organization, we are seeking to be a business advocacy group," she told me during a recent phone interview.

Here's a short documentary created for E2's 10th anniversary:

E2 works closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to identify practical areas and ways in which the group can effect change. It prioritizes environmental issues that have a sound economic footing, since as transportation, fisheries management or air quality. "We largely work on issues [the NRDC] can provide us with the science and law background, while they get instant access to a great business network," Lederer says.

As you might expect, more than one-third of the E2 members live in California. Lederer's co-founder, Bob Epstein, was the cofounder of database software company Sybase. But E2 also has a strong pressure throughout the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, New England and New York. "So many of our issues depend on how we put people in this country back to work, how we keep manufacturing in this country, how we redeploy our manufacturing base and skilled labor," Lederer says.

For that reason, a strong E2 recruitment focus moving forward is the Midwest, a region that has become critically important in the nation's economic recovery, she notes.

Sounds pretty much like a traditional chamber of commerce, doesn't it? Only this group of environmental entrepreneurs believe the interests of the economy and the planet are more closely entwined than some might think.

Lederer says: "The economic arguments are more compelling than ever. E2 is for values that are shared across party and across philosophy."

Now that, so to speak, is a break of fresh air.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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