GBENN 2017 Survey Results

In 2016, GBENN hosted a green business survey, collecting information from green business programming across North America to highlight program diversity and trends, establish best operational practices, determine Network learning opportunities, and identify areas of collaborative opportunity. There were 18 Green Business Programs in US and Canada that participated in the 2016 survey resulting in coast to coast participation. Most respondents have been working with green businesses for 5-9 years but some had been working as long as 21 years! The majority of programs have one to two full-time staff members and many utilize volunteer assistance to operate their programs.

On February 7, GBENN hosted a membership call to review the results of the 2016 green business program survey. GBENN also announced outcomes from the 2016 GBENN Summit, its strategic plan, and a call-to-action for volunteers interested in building the GBENN network.  Following are some highlights of the green business survey for 2016.  A recording of the meeting and a PDF of the PowerPoint can be found at the end of the web page.

2016 Green Business Program Survey – Number of Businesses Served

GBENN asked survey respondents to identify what a “participant” meant for their green business program. Respondents mainly described a participant as an enrollee or dues-paying members in green business engagement programs. Others noted specific business types/sizes, but public entities were also listed as participants in many descriptions. Here’s a breakdown of how many businesses or organizations green business engagement programs serve.

Number of business served 1Number of Businesses Served 2

Green business programs provide a multitude of services to their business participants. Here are the most common services provided:

  • One-on-One Assistance (100% of respondents)
  • Marketing and Recognition (100% of respondents)
  • Online Resources and Toolkits (89% of respondents)
  • Group Meetings and Networking (89% of respondents)
  • Technical Assistance (83% of respondents)

2016 Green Business Program Survey – Marketing

Promoting and increasing community awareness of green businesses is one of the most challenging aspects of green business program operation. To gather information on effective methods of promotion, we asked survey participants about the methods their programs used to communicate a business’ sustainable achievements, since increased community awareness and market differentiation are major benefits to engagement program participation. The most effective marketing or communication services provided for businesses included:

  • Case Studies or Infographics (14 Respondents)
  • Marketing and Recognition via Social Media (13 Respondents)
  • Annual Recognition or Awards (10 Respondents)
  • Window Decal (8 Respondents)

Business reported that the least effective marketing or communication services provided for businesses were:

  • Press/Marketing Kit
  • Press Releases
  • Certificate or Plaque
  • Film or Video

2016 Green Business Program Survey – Funding

We asked green business programs to identify their annual budgets to understand the diversity in size and resources of green business programs throughout North America.

Annual Program Budget

annual program budget Annual program budget 2

Most green business programs are either completely or substantially funded through grants (50% or more – 10 respondents), utilities, or membership fees (4 respondents at 40%). However, responses varied across the board on this question. A majority of organizations are either funded by 1-2 major funding sources, with a dash of other sources to comprise their budgets. This question was asked to understand the viable sources of funding that keep green business engagement programs running. Here are some additional findings:

  • Corporate sponsorship or partnership seemed to be a funding source that more programs are using, with 4 organizations noting that they receive between 30-50% of their budgets from this source
  • Membership fees comprise of about 40% of four respondents’ budgets, but this is a minor or unused opportunity for a majority of organizations.
  • Many programs are not funded by state funds, but there were a couple of programs that were either 20-40% funded or 90% state funded
  • Less than 5% of respondents said they were funded by utility programs, but 2 programs reported that they were 60 -100% utility funded.

2016 Green Business Program Survey – Participant Fees


2016 Green Business Program Survey – Utilities and Partnerships

Partnerships with utilities and municipalities can bring a multitude of synergy to green business program efforts in communities across the country. We also wanted to understand how other programs utilized these relationships to help benefit their program participants. We asked respondents how they utilize partnerships with these entities and what services they provided to their program participants. The top services provided by utilities and municipalities to green business engagement programs are:

  • Program funding (87% of respondents)
    • Incentives/rebates for participating businesses (67% of respondents)
    • Free audits (47% of respondents)
    • Marketing (47% of respondents)
  • Additional key partners for green business program success in local communities are:
    • Business Associations/Districts
    • Utilities
    • Elected officials

2016 Green Business Program Survey – Challenges

Climing a cliffThe most challenging aspects of managing or executing green business programs are:

  • Tracking metrics (energy, benchmarking, water, waste) and measuring impact
    • Not uniform systems, time constraint, follow-up difficult
  • Finding and maintaining funding
  • Marketing of program and recruitment of businesses
  • Community and business awareness


A written report of the GBENN 2016 Green Business Survey will be available in May 2017.


2017 GBENN Membership Call Recording

The MP3 recording from the February 7 meeting and a downloadable copy of the PowerPoint are below.  Please download the PowerPoint slides and follow along with the audio recording. We hope you can join us on our next membership call!

GBENN All Member Call PPT