Minority community must mobilize today for green economy

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhat do solar energy, non-toxic cleaners, bio-plastics and alternative fuels have in common?  More than meets the eye.

All are obviously outgrowths of the emerging green economy—big business, about to get even bigger. But here is something else these industries have in common: All are enterprises owned and managed primarily by Caucasian Americans.

The growth of the green economy reflects growing public demand for products and services that reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet.  More and more, people are asking questions about what products contain, how they are manufactured and their impacts on human health.

The need for green goods and services is of particular relevance in communities of color, whose health and safety are more likely to be threatened by environmental impacts such as water and air quality, toxic exposure and hazardous working conditions.

Green jobs for minority communities
Many organizations that include non-profits, labor unions, community colleges, and the federal government have worked hard to promote “green jobs” for people of color.  These are jobs that give training and job skills in areas such as weatherization, solar panel installation, and green building.

This is a good thing, but it is not enough.  Green jobs may produce skilled laborers who can get family wage jobs.  These programs will not bring as much sustainable prosperity to communities of color as would a solar panel factory or a business that distributes environmentally-friendly products.  After the government funding ends, then what?

Businesses that are owned and managed by people of color are more likely to hire people of color, and more likely to return wealth and investment in their communities. What will be the opportunities for minority-owned businesses to play an early and formative role in the emerging green economy?

Scott Oki, a University of Washington MBA, who conceived and built Microsoft’s international operations, once said, “Preemption is worth its weight in gold.”  The sooner minority-owned businesses can establish a toe-hold in the green economy, the more likely they will be to establish a strong market presence.

For minority-owned business owners and leaders: In coming posts, we’ll discuss the tools and resources that minority-owned businesses need to get established in the world of green business—capitalization, market intelligence, networking, policy support and more.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, and we will marshal the resources to help you get what you need.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

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