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Opportunity Green

Opportunity Green is underway now over, and I'm glad I got a chance to play a role. The event struck me as a case study of the cultural transition underway in the center of gravity of the green movement, from activism to business. This is not a painless change, but arguably a necessary one. If environmentalism is to have a persistent mainstream presence, it has to make the leap from imperative to normative -- that is, from environmentally beneficial action being something driven by guilt or morality to being something commonplace and assumed. The question, for me, is how to navigate that transition without losing the elements of the activist culture that bring energy, enthusiasm, and -- most importantly -- a long-term perspective to the party.

The lesson I took from the Opportunity Green event is that activist passion doesn't necessarily translate well into business passion. This is less a result of the transformation from "green movement" to "green markets" than a dilemma inherent in a change in the dominant participats: the most successful voices of the movement are often not as successful as market advocates, and (at the same time) the most effective salespeople are often not as deeply immersed in the underlying science and the complex tapestry of the broader issues. As a result, there's a noticeable tension between these different perspectives.

As a result of this conference, I'm increasingly convinced that the core dilemma of sustainability today is how to make environmental responsibility mainstream and normative while responding effectively and quickly to an accelerating crisis. To paraphrase the old tech joke, our situation appears to be: "Rapid response, broad adoption, affordability -- choose two."

[Edited significantly at 10:35 pm PST.]


Wow! What a HUGE disappointment this was! Not only was this NOT as advertised but it cost me an entire day away from my business and, more importantly my family! I'm not alone- I watched, and listened to others who felt the same way but were afraid to speak up about it.

The message and tagline was- "Being green and being profitable". They touted that we would: "Learn from the best how to grow profitable, sustainable enterprise. Discovering cutting edge trends and establish a competitive advantage." (their words, not mine!)

We got NONE of this.

It seems the only ones to profit from this conference were it's organizers (and the UCLA students who made up 35% of the attendees). Everything was donated, expensive entry, and sponsorships to boot! Nice going! I'll stay away from future events! Next time I hope they market them properly- as left wing, save the planet, feel-good events, not as opportunties for business leaders.

Why are business leaders so afraid to say what's really on their minds. That we strive to earn profits from our green efforts. The bonus is that we get to do something good for the environment at the same time. How many people can we reach if we go out of business because we took our 'eye off the ball- the bottom line'?

Thanks for your insightful presentation today at Opportunity Green. I couldn't agree with you more - the movement taught us a lot, but the stiff arm watchdog approach toward business and capitalism that is the movement's legacy is not how the big change is going to happen. It takes engagement with business. Witness the good work of Act Now led by Adam Werbach at WalMart. Castigated by his activist peers for sleeping with enemy, Adam perseveres *inside* of WalMart and has, in less than one year, unequivocally moved the needle at the world's biggest private employer. We owe a lot to Sam LaBudde, Randy Hayes, and David Brower for the deep roots of activism anchoring the green revolution, but the future will be shaped by the Bill McDonoughs, John Pickards, and Adam Werbachs who recognize that fighting capitalism doesn't work. Entrepreneurial Wing Chun is the way to spread environmental and social justice.

@Jeff - you came with the wrong intention. The organizers set the right expectations. Your disappointment is only a result of insufficient awareness. Good luck to you catching up on your homework. Sounds like you were looking for a get rich quick formula. The leaders you had the privilege to hear today know that's how we got into the mess we're in. The mindset that creates a problem is not the mindset that can solve it. Or did you think social and environmental injustice isn't really a problem?

Scott, my expectations were set by the event's organizers themselves. Talk to any of the business members who attended- most, if not all agree with me. Get rich quick? How dare you? I'm not sure where in my comments I indicated that I had ANY intention to get rich- either fast or slow.

Your other comments were right on, but the conference didn't address the other important issues facing entrepreneurs- green or otherwise. Engaging business is certainly a necessity. To take your comments a bit further- it'll take teaching business to maintain/grow profits through 'green' to really effect change and get businesses to embrace green. Make NO mistake, Wal-Mart is doing what it is doing for profits and self preservation. Once environmentalists realize this they'll truly be able to help Corporate America use it's muscle to effect positive environmental change.


We really hear your frustration. We think that you're a very committed business man and appreciate you taking the time to let me know what didn't work for you about the conference.

We are very surprised that you got no value out of the conference as the people who were there, as I'm sure you'd agree were top notch. The Lunch break, break in the morning, and four hour after-party were all dedicated to networking, not to mention the fact that we had erected sound walls to facilitate networking throughout the day in the back of the room (at low voice levels), and at any given time there were about 30 people outside the entrance networking. We would very much appreciate learning more about how our event came off as a zero networking event.

Please know that it was our commitment to leave you empowered as a entrepreneur, and if you're open to it we would love to hear what you think we could do better. Ultimately, as I'm sure you've found for yourself as a business owner, sometime our most vocal critics are our most valuable asset as we can improve the most from them. With this in mind, and that it's our intention that everyone we do business with have a good experience, would you be open to a 10 minute conversation to discuss? If not, that's fine too, we'll be sending out a survey and I look forward to your constructive criticism.

Finally, please note that we are not a large venture backed corporation, but rather we are startup entrepreneurs ourselves. You mentioned your were a family man, and we're sure you want a brighter future for your children to grow up in. Well, one important caveat of who we are is that we practice what we advocate. Our business model is both to generate profit AND facilitate a future that includes clean air, open spaces, good health, and lasting economic viability, which are very much threatened given the nature of our world-wide economic model which doesn't incorporate the value of "natural capital". It will take the concerted efforts of people like you and us who understand that sustainability in business is essential in order to enact sufficient change such that we can alter our current trajectory which, as evidenced by the preponderance of scientific evidence, suggests that we must make drastic changes and do so now.

Thank you again for your attending and being part of this important movement. If there is any way we can support you in locating the resources you felt were missing we'll do what we can to point you in the right direction to acquire that knowledge.


Mike Flynn
Opportunity Green
310 612 3983

I agree with Scott. I thought the conference was very informative and inspiring and I networked with some really amazing people, including panelists, most of whom I have already contacted. Most of the speakers were the real deal and I especially enjoyed the panel on Branding and Marketing. There were definitely places where it could have been better but overall, for a first year event, I felt it was the an incredible forum for those of us in the LA green business community to get together, share ideas and stategize for a very prosperous future.


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