There is a new bottom line for business. Besides measuring financial success, companies are increasingly taking account of environmental and social performance - the so-called 'triple bottom line'. Entrepreneurs with a keen business sense and a desire to make the world a better place will reap the rewards.
In response to environmental and regulatory pressures, technology is advancing rapidly. To keep abreast of changes and to identify potential markets, entrepreneurs need to:
- Follow trends in regulations and standards, which can create or destroy markets overnight. Governments change regulations for a variety of reasons, including lobbying and scientific evidence.
- Become familiar with international environmental agreements. The markets created from these agreements will be massive, and cut across many regions and industries. Technologies developed to comply with the agreements will focus on eco-efficiency, pollution prevention, and sustainability.
- Monitor rapid technological advances, such as those taking place in electronics and photovoltaics. Technical advances, and reduced costs, can make new activities, products or services possible.
- Watch for economic and social trends that are 'pulling' the development of sustainable technologies. These include higher prices for resources, and a move by governments away from regulation towards economic instruments and performance standards.
Several tools are available to help entrepreneurs select from the vast range of technical developments under way:
- 'Technology trees', developed as part of the 'EarthEnterprise' project, organize technologies into functional groups. They show which technologies should be regarded as competitors, which might be especially promising, and which have the largest potential markets.
- Assessment criteria for technology opportunities help evaluate the appropriateness of a technology for a particular market and entrepreneur. Useful criteria include the state and timing of the technological development, its physical and financial scale, its potential market size, and barriers to entry.
- Characteristics of the technology that make it sustainable.
The question answered in this section of the site is not 'What are the winning technologies?', but rather 'What are the techniques or tools for identifying winning technologies?'