Biz wakes up to green

Green handshake. “Green business” used to mean niche enterprises selling hemp sandals and do-it-yourself solar arrays. But in the ’00s, green biz went big and broad. Wal-Mart, GE, Clorox, Dell, and lots of other corporate giants got in the game, recognizing that they could burnish their reps, cut overhead, and actually — gasp! — make money by adopting greener products and practices. Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Apple, and others called for climate action and distanced themselves from climate-denying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Even energy companies like Duke and BP started at least giving lip service to clean power and climate mitigation. In Silicon Valley, all the cool kids turned to green, from the Google guys to Paypal founder Elon Musk. And the funding — mmm, can you smell it? In 2001, venture-capital investment in cleantech in North America, Europe, Israel, China, and India totaled $507 million; by 2008, it hit $8.4 billion. Countless eco-products appeared for an increasingly eco-enraptured public, from the truly useful to the utterly abusrd. Now the sour economy has dampened some companies’ green efforts — and some of those efforts were window-dressing to begin with. But after the ’00s, no one can say that environmentalism is anti-business, or vice versa.