The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Cordova fisherman R.J. Kopchuk salvages wood from couches hauled to the landfill in his hometown on Alaska's Prince William Sound, and fashions it into new furniture.
Image by Seth Zuckerman.

Green Business

Lacking appropriate market signals, current business practices often harm both ecosystems and human communities.

A Green Business simultaneously enhances Natural Capital, Social Capital, and Economic Capital. It creates new opportunities for itself by optimizing this "triple bottom line".

A Green Business reduces costs for raw resources, wastes, and management of toxic compounds by enhancing Resource Efficiency, participating in Sustainable Materials Cycles, and using Waste as Resource. A green business runs on Renewable Energy and uses Green Procurement throughout its supply chain to identify products and services consistent with A Conservation Economy.

A Green Business assumes product stewardship assessments for its products, providing customers with ways to return a durable product at the end of its life for disassembly and remanufacture into a new generation of products.

A Green Business operates for Community Benefit. It provides tangible social benefits to its employees, customers, suppliers, vendors, and local community. It is a , largely owned by, and therefore accountable to, a specific place. A green business reliably builds value over the , rather than seeking unsustainable short-term results.

The business case for participating in a conservation economy is strong. Many of the typical investments – for instance in energy-efficient lighting, native landscaping, or transportation reduction – offer a direct payback time of under three years. Other investments require the evaluation and internalization of social and environmental costs over a project's entire lifecycle. This internal use of True Cost Pricing allows Green Businesses to anticipate broader market shifts.

A Green Business is transparent in its activities, carefully reporting on its environmental and social performance. This can create better relationships with neighborhoods and local governments, speeding regulatory and permitting processes. Products and services that are sustainable – and that can be given credible Product Labeling to that effect – create differentiation in the marketplace, and in some cases capture a price premium. Enhanced employee morale from a values-based approach reduces turnover and improves productivity. Reduced environmental risks and liabilities decrease the cost of insurance and bank loans. Social and environmental commitments attract investment from the rapidly growing socially responsible investment sector.

Green businesses improve their ability to use resources efficiently, close their materials cycles, employ renewable energy, and practice green procurement. They build value over the long-term, emphasizing broader community benefit. They measure, report on, and base decisions on their triple bottom line.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Flexcar is the nation's oldest and largest personal mobility club, providing its members access to a fleet of vehicles conveniently located across a metropolitan area. Flexible pricing plans allow members to reserve and drive a car whenever they want, while Flexcar covers the cost of the vehicle, insurance, gas, parking and maintenance.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Collins Pine

The Joinery

ShoreBank Pacific


Frankel, Carl. In Earth's Company: Busines, Environment, and the Challenge of Sustainability. New Society Publishers. Gabriola Island, BC. 1998.

Nattrass, Brian and Altomare Mary. The Natural Step for Business: Wealth, Ecology, and the Evolutionary Corporation. New Society Publishers. Gabriola Island, BC. 1999.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling