Climate change and loss of biodiversity are global challenges that need to be acknowledged at all levels in society. One tool to tackle these sustainability challenges is to enhance green entrepreneurship. The VIHTA project focuses on the creation of new solutions for green and digital work among the staff from Business Helsinki and Helsinki employment services. This article discusses the potential for green entrepreneurship based on interviews with business advisors from Business Helsinki.
What is green entrepreneurship?
Green entrepreneurship is related to a certain type of entrepreneurship that aims at creating and implementing solutions to environmental challenges and promoting social change. Green entrepreneurship has also been identified as a possible new business paradigm along with traditional entrepreneurship. Green entrepreneurs have usually an interest in doing more than launching eco-friendly products and services for niche markets. (Kirkwood & Walton 2010.)
Green entrepreneurs often act as change agents, aiming at transforming whole industries towards sustainability. In green entrepreneurship the products or services can be green, but it is also possible that the processes of the company or its field are environmentally sustainable. For instance, companies relying on business models and processes based on circular economy are currently a growing segment among green entrepreneurs. (Anckar 2023.)
Growing interest towards green entrepreneurship
VIHTA project interviewed business advisors from Business Helsinki to discuss green entrepreneurship. The business advisors define green entrepreneurship as a continuous aim to find more sustainable ways of doing business. Nowadays there is more interest towards socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable development, and sustainable development and circular economy have become more mainstream in business. Consumers also expect businesses to be sustainable.
According to the interviewees, the attitude of entrepreneurs towards green transition and green entrepreneurship is mostly positive. Entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in green transition, but sustainability is not yet automatically considered when starting a new business. Green transition or sustainability may be mentioned in the business plan, but it is not always clear, what this means in practice. However, discussing these themes with the business advisors has helped the entrepreneurs to better understand what sustainability could mean to their business.
In green entrepreneurship, developing products and services that support green transition is important. This can mean developing new business models, such as reusing old clothes as material for new textiles or developing new apps that help to reduce the use of energy. Some businesses may focus on new, more sustainable energy solutions. Businesses should also pay attention to their processes such as the use of resources.
What kind of skills does a green entrepreneur need?
According to the Business Helsinki business advisors, different skills are needed in green entrepreneurship. These include, for example:
- Understanding the potential of new business models and green transition
- Knowledge of sustainable development goals and interest in sustainability
- Innovative thinking
- Understanding what can be changed in the way a business operates
- Knowledge of resource efficiency and energy efficiency
- Knowledge of branding, productization, services, storytelling and design
- Knowledge of how to communicate sustainability to consumers
- Knowledge of where to find support and funding for green entrepreneurship
- Digital skills
According to the interviews, entrepreneurs interested in sustainability do not always know how to start pursuing green entrepreneurship. They may not have the necessary resources to focus on sustainability right from the start when starting a business, or they may have theoretical knowledge about sustainability, but not enough practical skills. Finding suitable funding can also be difficult. That is why there should be more knowledge of what green entrepreneurship means in practice and what different ways there are to pursue green entrepreneurship. This kind of support can make green entrepreneurship more accessible and encourage entrepreneurs to make their business greener and more sustainable.
Green entrepreneurship can make society more sustainable
Enhancing green entrepreneurship is an important strategy to make society more sustainable. There is a growing interest in green entrepreneurship, but based on the interviews with the business advisors at Business Helsinki more knowledge and new competences and skills are still needed. Business advisors supporting potential new entrepreneurs have an important role in convincing entrepreneurs that new businesses should be established with sustainability issues in mind. The VIHTA project offers different tools such as a Guide to digital and green work (in Finnish) and webinars (in Finnish) that help business advisors and potential entrepreneurs to address this in their work.
VIHTA – Digital solutions for green work is a 3UAS project conducted by Haaga-Helia UAS, Laurea UAS and Metropolia UAS. The project is funded by European social fund.
- Anckar, R. 2023. Vihreä yrittäjyys- mitä se on ja miten sitä voidaan saada lisää? In Siirilä, J (ed.). Vihreä siirtymä ja digitalisaatio. Haaga-Helia: Haaga-Helian julkaisut 7/2023, 78–88. Saatavilla https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/792347. Viitattu 15.8.2023.
- Business Helsinki business advisors, 5 persons. 2023. Anonymous interviews. Interviews conducted by Pauliina Pöyry & Eva Holmberg. 17.4, 19.4. and 26.4.2023.
- Kirkwood, J. & Walton, S. 2010. What motivates ecopreneurs to start businesses? International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research 16(3), 204–228.