Ecoprenuership, also known as Green Entrepreneurship, not to be mistaken for “Sustainable Business” or “Green Business” is most simply referred to as the development of enterprise through entrepreneurship while incorporating an environmentally responsible perspective into the operations and goals of the entrepreneur. Ecopreneurship is also a term coined to represent the process of principles of entrepreneurship being applied to create businesses that solve environmental problems or operate sustainably.
History and Development of Ecoprenuership
Literature began being published on Ecoprenuership in the early 1990s with the introduction of Merging Economic and Environmental Concerns Through Ecoprenuership by Gwynn Schuyler (Schuyler. 1998). Schuyler offers a simple yet unprecedented definition of Ecoprenuership." Since Schuyler's definition in 1998 the definition of Ecopreuership has developed and concepts defining the term have changed. David Kainrath of the Umea School of Business has defined Ecoprenuership as the convergence of three main concepts, including:
- Eco- commitment
Furthermore, Kainrath states that an Ecoprenuerial Company is "a company in which the three Ecoprenuership Concepts manifest."
Systems Thinking is a core principle to any business concerned with sustainability and the environment. It is an approach to problem solving that studies how something interacts with its environment as a whole, whether that be social, economic or natural. This is in contrast to a linear thinking model, which would isolate a problem and study only its directly related processes to find solutions. It consists of the notion that in order to understand vertical problems (looking deeply at one particular issue), you must understand and evaluate the horizontal environment as a whole (the entire system and its interrelated functions). As it pertains to business is best illustrated in the book Entrepreneurship and Sustainability by Andrea Larsen,
"Systems thinking applied to new ventures reminds us that companies operate in complex sets of interlocking living and non-living, including markets and supply chains as well as non-living systems.... Taking a systems perspective reminds us that we are accustomed to thinking of business in terms of discrete units with clear boundaries between them. We forget that these boundaries exist primarily in our minds or as legal constructs."
Product design incorporating sustainability can happen at any stage of the business, including material extraction, logistics, the manufacturing process, disposal, etc. Sustainable product design can be achieved using innovative technology (or Eco-innovation), cradle to cradle design, bio-mimicry, etc. In a description by the government of Canada's department on Innovation, Science and Economic Development, sustainable product design is further explained:
"Product design offers the opportunity to incorporate green and socially responsible attributes into a product. Referred to as Design for Sustainability (D4S), it is a process that addresses environmental and social considerations in the earliest stages of the product development process to minimize negative environmental and social impacts throughout the product's life cycle and to comply with the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability.
Sustainable product design can encompass the selection of materials, use of resources, production requirements and planning for the final disposition (recycling, reuse, remanufacturing, or disposal) of a product. It takes into account the socio-economic circumstances of the company and the opportunity for the firm to address social problems associated with poverty, safety, inequity, health and the working environment. It is not a stand-alone methodology but one that must be integrated with a company's existing product design so that environmental and social parameters can be integrated with traditional product attributes such as quality, cost, and functionality."
Companies practicing ecopreneurship aim to solve environmental issues by developing new technology or innovating existing technologies. Within the past five years modern society has witnessed development of precedent setting technologies such as long range electric vehicles as well as the improvement though innovation of existing technologies such as solar panels. Examples of innovation backed by an environmentally responsible attitude has inspired a new class of entrepreneurs who identify as Ecoprenuers.
The development of innovative technologies has developed an opportunity for Ecoprenuers to apply technology to sustainable or green businesses. Cosmin Nacu and Silvia Avasilcai state that "this trend has created a full range of opportunities for entrepreneurs: from creating green-technology, using technology to promote environmental sustainability (e.g. energy management) to simply make the existing business more environmentally friendly to take advantage of the benefits" (Source). The development of new and innovative technologies are complimentary to the development of green enterprises and enable Ecoprenuers to continue developing enterprise that are environmentally sustainable.
Cradle to cradle Design
Cradle-to-cradle design is a popular environmental approach to product design that seeks to eliminate waste by designing products that can be continuously recirculated through our economy. This is contrasted against a "cradle to grave" design which typically includes single use products or products made of multiple different materials that cannot be separated in order to be recycled properly. Cradle to Cradle design is mimicked after processes in the natural environment which do not create waste but instead every output is an input for another organism. Cradle to Cradle design is often achieved through using environmentally friendly resources (non-toxic) that can either be recycled into other products or composted. Another important component of cradle to cradle design is the ability to easily take products apart for better reuse as well as designing with durability in mind. This idea was popularized by the 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
Challenges and Opportunities
The Sustainable Business Industry is one of the biggest opportunities in commerce in the past 20 years according to Thierry Volery, author of Ecopreneurship: Rationale, current issues and futures challenges  Although, there continues to be a trend of challenges that Ecoprenuers face when developing their enterprise. "Ecology and economy have often been seen as conflicting, because the prevailing view is that there is an inherent and fixed trade-off between the two" and Ecoprenuers are constantly subjected to higher prices of operation that are inherit to operating in an environmentally sustainable way Rationale, current issues and futures challenges|url. The fact that Ecoprenuers aim to sustain "public goods" such as air, oceans, topsoil and wild species develops a challenge of measuring the use and value of these goods. Volery, author of Ecopreneurship: Rationale, current issues and futures challenges states "it will never be profitable to produce public goods privately, because the producer who incurs the cost of production cannot prevent the consumer from using the good freely" because public goods are non-excludable in consumption meaning that citizens cannot stop consuming certain public goods such as water or air.
Opportunities to develop sustainable business through Ecoprenuership represent a huge opportunity to take advantage of business practices of the future. Companies leading the way in sustainable business practices are taking advantage of sustainable revenue opportunities: according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills the UK green economy to grow by 4.9 to 5.5 percent a year by 2015. Since environmental concerns have become pressing many profitable opportunities have arisen. Government backed grants often lay the foundation for Ecoprenuers to take advantage of a quickly growing industry while being able to kickstart their endeavors with government money.
Triple bottom line Accounting is an accounting method that combines traditional accounting methods of measuring profit with those that measure social and environmental benefits as well. The phrase was created by John Elkington in 1994 at his company SustainAbility. Some criticisms have sprung up over what methods are to be used to measure environmental and social impacts.
Ecopreneurs may decide to develop their company under traditional business legal forms like a sole proprietorship or an LLC or they might chose some newer forms discussed below. These business forms are popular among the environmentally conscious community for their emphasis on social benefit.
- Low-profit limited liability company or (L3C) is a company that follows the same legal and tax codes as a traditional LLC but has a main goal of increasing social welfare like that of a non-profit organization. This form of business is not available in every state of the USA as of 2013.
- Benefit corporation is for-profit legal entity that differs in its purpose and accountability from that of a regular corporation. Its emphasis on mission-driven purpose allows it a different accountability to stakeholders. This form of business is not available in every state of the USA as of 2013. More information can be found on the official website benefitcorp.net 
- Schuyler, Gwen (1998). Merging Economic and Environmental Concerns Through Ecopreneurship.
- Aronson, Dan. "Intro to Systems Thinking".
- Larson, Andrea (2000). Business Strategy and the Environment. pp. 304–317.
- Volery, Thiery. "Ecopreneurship: Rationale, current issues and futures challenges" (PDF).