Entrepreneurs urged to confront climate change
8 December 2009
As the world gathers at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Deakin University and Australia Zoo's Terri Irwin have joined forces to urge entrepreneurs to use their skills to capitalise on a good crisis to help save the planet.
In a ground-breaking new book to be launched today in Melbourne (Tuesday, December 8), Deakin University's Professor of Entrepreneurship Howard Frederick and Australia Zoo's Terri Irwin, who was awarded the 2006 Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Winner in the Northern Region (QLD, NT) argue that a new breed of entrepreneurs could well be the saviours of the planet.
"Climate change is the great challenge of our time and the stakes could not be higher for entrepreneurs," says Professor Frederick. "Entrepreneurs who respond to the challenge will reap commercial success – while businesses which fail to do so face oblivion.
"Entrepreneurs are criticised for exploiting the environment just to make a profit."At the event, Irwin will issue a statement on her views of the Copenhagen process and on her personal concerns for the environment in Australia.
Mrs Irwin believes that a savvy new group of entrepreneurs called ecopreneurs are increasingly crossing over to the business of climate change for a cleaner, more sustainable planet. There are many examples:
*Australians Jason and Kim Graham-Nye are selling the world's first flushable and compostable nappy, developed in Tasmania, in the US.
*Gavin and Sylvia Tulloch of Dyesol in Queanbeyan NSW are using the principles of biomimicry to developed dye-sensitised solar cells that emulate plant photosynthesis.
This is not limited to small business entrepreneurs. Within large companies there are 'social intrapreneurs':
*Insurance Australia Group (IAG) has set an organisational goal to be carbon neutral
*Alcan Bauxite and Alumina (B&A) has the renowned Natural Step Framework to develop a sustainability vision that brings social and environmental concerns even more into focus.
"No other book has come to grips so comprehensively with the dual crisis of climate change and economic collapse," writes Mrs Irwin in the foreword. "This book is essential for social and business entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region," she adds.
Professor Frederick said that while governments struggle to protect the environment and achieve economic growth, the ecopreneur is well placed to help them in both areas.
"What is it that makes environmental entrepreneurs so special?," Professor Frederick asked. "They can see business opportunities, where others only see chaos and despair.
"Ecopreneurs are entrepreneurs who have moved to the next level. They are contributing positively to the environment rather than designing wasteful products.
"Entrepreneurs must use natural ecosystems so that they yield a positive flow of goods into the future. "They need to recognise the relationship between Earth's resources and the business environment. "The idea that at the end of life any product should be convertible into something else to close the cycle so that ultimately there is no waste."
Professor Frederick said ecopreneurs like Terri Irwin, combined the unrelenting drive of the entrepreneur with the stewardship of a conservator.
"Terri is the embodiment of the environmental entrepreneur who puts the Earth and her family first," he said.
Mrs Irwin said there were many themes in the book which resonated with her own experiences as an entrepreneur.
"One was about the pathways to becoming an entrepreneur," she said.
"Like Howard, I too started out with a lemonade stand, a natural progression from my decision at five to take over the family business.
"By six I had opened my own bank account, by 18 I had purchased my first house and by 20 I did in fact take over the family business.
"At 27 I met and married Steve and began my greatest adventure."
Mrs Irwin said family and an enterprising spirit were another of the book's themes and resonated with her life.
"When Steve and I married in 1992 we took over the running of the Irwin family's small wildlife park.
"The park has since expanded from four acres and two full time staff into Australia Zoo comprising 1500 acres, more than 600 staff, 1000 animals, a wildlife hospital and other business interests including wildlife documentary filming, more than 400000 acres of conservation properties, whale watching tours, international conservation programs and extensive research.
"I am instilling that enterprising spirit in my children Bindi and Robert.
"I want them to grow up understanding that there is no such thing as failure just varying degrees of success."
Mrs Irwin said entrepreneurship was difficult to teach.
"One of the reasons entrepreneurship is difficult to teach and to learn is because it relies on one magical ingredient – passion, " she said.
"You cannot teach another to be passionate, your level of passion is uniquely yours.
"I have never encountered anyone as passionate as Steve.
"In the spirit of entrepreneurship we launched a non profit organisation Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors.
"Currently we are battling to save the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve and the pristine wilderness on the Wenlock River in Queensland's remote Cape York Peninsula.
"We are determined to prevent strip mining from destroying this critically important rainforest region and instead continue environmentally sustainable management and employment."
Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, Practice, Professor Howard Frederick from Deakin University's Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Community and Dr Donald Kuratko from Indiana University
Dr Donald Kuratko from Indiana University video message.
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