Green businesses, also called sustainable businesses, seek to balance profit with the health of the planet and its various populations. There is a vast array of services and products offered by businesses in this category. The degree to which sustainable practices are embraced and implemented varies widely among them depending on many conditions, including public awareness, the economy, the level of industrialization, the degree of government support and regulation, and even the age of the entrepreneurs and decision makers in a given region. That said, the green business economy has expanded greatly in the past decade, and continues to do so today as it is increasingly embraced by employees, consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, especially in light of the recent assessment of imminent threat of climate change to our planet.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains sustainability based on a simple principle: "Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment,"1 and emphasizes the importance of making sure that we have and will continue to have the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
According to the World Council for Economic Development (WCED), sustainable development "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."2 The ideal green business applies these principles to the entire lifecycle of a product or service, from conception to disposal.
In 2015 the United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development External that set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve a sustainable and equitable future for both people and planet by ending poverty, fighting inequality and tackling the urgency of climate change. The business community is one of the major players in this effort to make this future a reality with a great number of companies looking closely at their impact on the environment and adopting Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance standards, known as ESG, in a move toward ethical and sustainable business operations. The number of certified B corporations or B Corps who meet high environmental performance standards are on the rise. Eco-conscious consumers and impact investors are seeking out sustainable brands and stocks with high ESG ratings. There is an increasing push for transparency and more scrutiny into corporate sustainability practices with significant implications for corporations that resort to "greenwashing" and "green marketing" tactics instead of constructive and genuine responses to environmental issues.3
This guide presents general resources on environmentalism and green business addressing its past, present and future. Resources on various green initiatives and sustainability guidance are offered for selected industries: agriculture, building and design, finance, fashion, manufacturing, and urban transportation. Also included in the guide are resources for businesses with sustainability goals and consumers interested in changing their lifestyles and consumption patterns with sustainability in mind.
Each section includes freely available online resources, subscription databases available from subscribing institutions, print resources from the collections of the Library of Congress, and links to explore the Library's catalog for more materials on the subject. If you have any questions on this subject please Ask a Librarian.
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