Saturday, July 12, 2008

Environmental entrepreneurship - the sea change

This is just a reflection from my lecturer and enterprise educator perspective. As some of you will be aware this blog is about enterprise within the creative industries, following the research I am involved in within that sector. As part of this research I am pretty heavily immersed in enterprise education, initially from the how do you teach creatives to be more enterprising, but also generically how can enterprise be best taught and I've spoken about this here before.

Last month I attended and presented at the ICSB conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia - a sweet city by the coast. I presented some research related to recent ideas about implicit and explicit enterprise education and the idea of contextualised enterprise education. I'll explain about this another time maybe. But for now I just wanted to draw attention to an article I read in the guardian, some of the key note speakers at the conference and discussion I've had with my students.

I'll start with the latter. Back in January I was teaching on a module called 'Ideaslab' during these sessions one of the emphasis was on where folks find ideas, innovation and opportunities. To me an obvious area to look was to opportunities that climate change, greening consumer trends and the increasing emphasis on CSR might offer. So I developed a lecture and series of exercises to work through some of the potential ideas and opportunities. At the time I was a little bemused by how some (not all) of the students responded to this: i.e. as if I was trying to push some sort of political agenda or belief system. Still that is by the by and to me just re-iterated that attitudes towards enterprise and being an entrepreneur, in some quarters at least, are rather outdated.

Anyway fast-forward 6 months and I am in Canada at the ICSB conference and although there are a few papers here and there relating to the credit crunch, climate change and ethical businesses (you see it takes academia a little while to catch up - research -results-peer review to publication and dissemination is a slow process). But one of the occasionally annoying but generally valuable and interesting aspects of this conference was speakers during meal times - these were generally local successful entrepreneurs. A major characteristic of these entrepreneurs (and I don't know if it's a Canadian thing, a trend or a deliberate choice on behalf of the organisers) was that their businesses were generally coming from an ethical standpoint.

The first was a business who re-cycled office furniture and computers and stuff - they then re-used them elsewhere in the world - e.g. furnishing schools in a developing country. The point of the business was to reduce stuff, otherwise headed for landfill, service some corporate CSR policies, do some good in the world and make some money in the process.

The second was a modelling agency run by a very young entrepreneur (24 yrs old) he'd been in business since he was 14! Thing is the business was a different kind of modelling agency - the models were all 'normal' sorts of sizes - you might know some of them from the Dove campaign.

So I thought I'd take these examples back, both hugely successful companies with a conscience, for my next cohort of students. Then just to add a little punch to the argument I came across this from the Guardian. Seems investors are dictating change by backing environemntal and ethical businesses with their funds.

Perhaps the next group of students will start to take this a bit more seriously.


Annette said...

I am particularly interested in the reaction you had from your students Charlotte. Can they not see an entrepreneurial opportunity in green and ethical issues? As you said, it was only some of them. These are issues which I am coming across more and more with my students on the MA Media Enterprise course.

Charlotte Carey said...

I know it's nuts isn't it? It really was a small minority, I think it also has something to do with possible misconceptions of what an entrepreneur is and how they should behave etc.

I should say that to thier credit some of them have actally ended up with some top ideas of a sustainable nature.

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