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Can green firms grow in today's downturn?

A monthly discussion with notable experts.

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Green practices not only will survive in a slumping economy, they'll thrive, says Joel Makower, founder of in Oakland, Calif., and author of a new book, "Strategies for the Green Economy." Out of the spotlight, he says, corporate America is cutting pollution, resource use, and toxic inputs to become more efficient. The result is that, unwittingly, consumers are becoming greener, too. The Monitor's Laurent Belsie sat down with Mr. Makower recently to talk about the future of green. Here's an edited version of their conversation. (The views expressed here are for informational purposes and do not represent an endorsement by The Christian Science Monitor.)

Do sustainable firms have an easier path in a downturn – or a rougher one?

Makower: If you're selling a premium-priced product to a consumer right now, you may be in for a rough ride. Consumers are pulling back. We're keeping our wallets in our pockets and we're not spending on discretionary or luxury kinds of things. But that's a very small part of what's going on in the world of green business. If you can think of an iceberg, the tip that's above water is what we see in marketing [products]. But below that is this mass of company practices that they don't even talk about. It has to do with squeezing out waste and inefficiency, the toxicity of products and services, the carbon intensity, and the material intensity. That makes for more affordable business practices that actually can thrive during tough times.

Being green in some ways is being more efficient.


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