Right now “sustainability” still means pushing back against business as usual. As a young sustainability professional, I wanted to further explore the characteristics of successful sustainability-driven entrepreneurs.
1. Sustainable DNA
They make sure sustainability is baked into their business model. Over 1,300 companies have met B-Lab’s requirements and are officially recognized as a Certified B Corporation. According to B-Lab, “By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.” There are also 1,200 companies have partnered with 1% for the Planet to donate one percent of their net annual sales to non-profit organizations working to tackle environmental challenges. Whether sustainability-driven entrepreneurs get official certifications and partner with big networks or just participate in similar practices without official recognitions, they always make sure they are having a positive impact on the economy, environment, and community.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post reported on a German study that found, “heightened sensitivity to the suffering of other people” is a major “emotional and personality-based driver of environmental attitudes.” Since systematically improving the way we treat communities is a major part of sustainability, it makes sense that the people who choose to work in the field also tend to be mindful of how they personally treat the individuals around them, which makes for great coworkers.
3. Highly Motivated
Sustainable entrepreneurship isn’t something people usually get into unless they are truly passionate about the issues. They believe in their vision for how much better the world could be and have an insatiable need to keep working towards it, even with the knowledge that they may not live to see it come to fruition. Because as anyone in the business of improving the world knows—it is an ongoing process, not a destination.
Working towards sustainability is inherently emotional work, and because it requires going against the status quo it is filled with roadblocks and naysayers. Successful sustainability-driven entrepreneurs must have strong emotional awareness and they develop strategies to help them keep moving forward when the world tries to burn them out. In an interview with Net Impact Adam Hammes, sustainability professional and author, cited high emotional intelligence as the most important skill successful sustainability professionals possess. He said, “Without the soft skills of dealing with interpersonal struggles, the hard skills will never be put to use. You will get overwhelmed and burn out. Once you have developed emotional intelligence and soft skills, it is also helpful to then know your strategy – to save time and energy – and know your audience – to frame your approach in ways that make it well-received.“
5. Holistic Approach
Successful sustainability-driven entrepreneurs know the importance of approaching their work systematically. They make sure their actions truly match their philosophy and that they are making the intended impact on their surroundings. For example, a if a sustainability-driven restaurant owner uses compostable food packaging, then they make sure there is an appropriate and user-friendly disposal system in place.