Let’s imagine two business leaders, both entrepreneurs, both looking to create an environmentally friendly and efficiently produced sunscreen.
Entrepreneur One is a green purist. Inspired to start a business after failing to find effective non-toxic sunscreens for her first baby, and she decided to create the healthiest, most environmentally friendly sunscreen in the marketplace. She has done a comprehensive analysis of how to how to reduce environmental impact across all stages of the lifecycle, and impacts beyond just carbon emissions. She realizes the product manufacturing will be more expensive, so she is looking to distribute her product through Web sales, word-of- mouth and eventually specialty retail stores that cater to a hyper-aware, green consumer parent.
Now imagine Entrepreneur Two, a self-admitted and proud green opportunist. A serial entrepreneur who has successfully supplied products to Walmart and other big box retailers, Entrepreneur Two was inspired by the Walmart Sustainability Index effort. The first phase of Walmart’s effort focused on their suppliers, providing a set of questions and conversations with current and future vendors to suggest a preference environmentally efficient products. Entrepreneur Two is convinced of the market potential for a “clean sunscreen,” and is working furiously to create a cost-effective solution that might compromise with a few ingredients to achieve the right price for the business model. She is looking for her environmental gains to help her sell her product and get a distribution deal with Walmart, and then plans to dominate the category of sunscreens at the mass-market level.
These two stories post other questions for those starting business with a sense of purpose and opportunity. Do original intentions matter to you, as an entrepreneur or as a consumer? Do you think consumers care about the individuals and ideals behind a brand? If you were purchasing sunscreen for your baby, which product would you buy?
These two stories also provide us a framework to understand how we measure value in our society – cultural value, economic value, and environmental value. Looking through these three lenses of measurement, which entrepreneur will achieve the most business success, and which will achieve the greater good?