3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Antje Kingma, founder and CEO of Eco-Bella LLC, spearheaded the first carbon neutral retail zone in the U.S. when she purchased carbon offsets for her Atlanta-based organic lifestyle business. Kingma has found conducting her business in a sustainable way has been profitable while attracting customers who share her beliefs and interests in the environment.

She says sustainability must become a core part of all businesses’ plans now because it will be the only viable way of conducting business in the future.

How can investing in sustainability help businesses’ bottom lines?

Today’s consumers are increasingly educated on environmental consequences of their purchasing decisions. There’s a trend to support companies (that) have adopted sustainable business practices. Being sustainable means higher revenue — and the numbers will continue to grow. As this awareness grows, consumers will continue to flock toward sustainable businesses. The main reasons companies are slow to become more sustainable is lack of awareness, fear of high start-up costs and lack of resources for sustainable purchases. Once investigated, businesses will see [that] sustainability will average out to be cheaper. Incentives are helpful to making the initiative more mainstream.

Has the recent decrease in gas prices slowed businesses’ ambition to pursue alternative energy sources and adopt sustainable practices?

Whether a gallon of gas costs $2 or $4, it doesn’t change our tremendous dependence on foreign oil and the environmental impacts of traditional energy sourcing. This comes down to a larger responsibility than the price of gas. We’ve learned that the price of gas can change rapidly within weeks or even days. For short-term thinkers, the drop in gas prices will reduce that sort of ambition. Long-term, we will all have to make the change sooner or later. The more we invest now, the sooner and smoother the transition will be.

What is necessary to convince business owners to start using sustainable energy today given our poor economy?

Most businesses are concerned about finding the most cost-effective way to purchase energy. Unless you are an oil company or own land with coal reserves and have a personal interest in these types of energy, you will buy your energy from the cheapest, cleanest source possible and investigate alternative, renewable energy.