Today, the global environment presents many challenges. The demand for oil and natural gas is expected to exhaust known reserves by 2045. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident; and lack of access to clean water has become a mounting crisis.
A growing number of large and small businesses view these global environmental problems as business opportunities. Why? Because there are major profits to be made by those that develop solutions to them.
Use the links below to learn how businesses are using environmental problems as catalysts to develop innovative new products and services.
"We are going to solve tough customer and global problems and make money doing it."
- Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of the General Electric Company.
Successful businesses not only meet the world's needs, but anticipate them. Innovation is the key. It is the driver of competitive advantage, growth, and profitability.
A few federal programs provide grants to small firms engaged in scientific research and development (R&D). The federal government's SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs award a specific percentage of federal R&D funds to qualified small businesses. SBIR/STTR programs encourage small firms to undertake scientific research that helps meet federal R&D objectives, and have high potential for commercialization if successful.
The following federal agencies award SBIR/STTR grants:
Take-back programs give manufacturers the physical responsibility for products or packaging at the end of their useful lives. By accepting used products, manufacturers can acquire low-cost feedstock for new manufacturing or remanufacturing activities, and offer a value-added service to the buyer. Many companies, such as Xerox, have made take-back an essential part of their business operations. Currently, most take-back programs in the U.S. are voluntary, while legislation in many European countries requires manufacturers to take responsibility for the waste costs associated with their products and packaging.
Good candidates for take-back programs include products with packaging that is reusable or recyclable, e.g., disposable cameras and cardboard; products that become obsolete rapidly or have limited lifespan, e.g., furniture, electronics and appliances; products that contain significant material or energy value after use, e.g., power tools and batteries; and products that contain valuable components that can be refurbished and reused, e.g., photocopiers and printer cartridges.