There’s a growing movement in franchising towards eco-friendly or environmentally friendly businesses. Whereas 10 years ago there were only a handful of options for prospective franchisees, today there are many options among as many business categories, and the possibilities are expanding every month. The shift reflects a general feeling of moving from “fad” to “need.” While it’s impossible to say which is the best eco-friendly franchise opportunity because everyone’s business needs and goals will be different, here we can highlight five emerging trends in eco-franchising to watch. This category of franchise business is all about “going green,” conserving natural resources and limiting waste and energy use.

When you hear the term “green franchise,” you may immediately think that the business either produces a product or offers a service to consumers that’s environmentally friendly or somehow sustainable. But consider this: a franchise business may be considered green if they employ sustainable practices at their headquarters and have changed the normal way of doing things. This may mean a company-wide recycling program, limiting waste (no more printing every email someone receives), energy-efficient lighting options, requiring employees turn off computers and electronics when leaving for the day, having a water conservation system or incorporating other energy-efficient systems.

A prospective franchisee needs to approach these eco-friendly opportunities with open eyes. One can’t ignore sound business practices just because a business is considered to be “green.” Be careful of “greenwashing,” companies proclaiming to be environmentally friendly but don’t actually have the facts to substantiate their claims. Or worse, what they’re doing is actually harming the environment.

You need to watch out for those poseurs, those businesses that are claiming to be green to take advantage of the growing interest and demand for environmentally friendly businesses and business practices, but they’re not actually green. Joel Libava, also known as “The Franchise King,” explains it best: “To claim to be green, they have to be doing more than recycling paper or using an environmentally friendly cleaning solution. You have to really walk the walk and make sure the company is committed to green practices.” Libava recommends that potential franchisees ask questions to find out how deep their environmental commitment runs, a few of which include:

  • Is there a comprehensive waste-reduction program in place?
  • Do they practice energy reduction tactics like using solar panels or buying alternative-energy credits?
  • How is their environmental impact being minimized?

Top 5 trends in green franchising

Below are five trends to watch. Some on this list are predictable, while others represent more of a core-change in how things are done in business. In each category you’ll find just a few examples of current franchise opportunities in that category.

Organic or healthy food – Fresh or organic food delivery, restaurants and vending machines (Health Merchant, Sweet Pea Homemade Ice Cream, FiltaFry, la prep daily fresh, UFood Grill, Pizza Fusion, GrabbaGreen Food + Juice, Naturals 2 Go).

The environmentally friendly home – This category includes services like pest control, cleaning, landscaping solutions, air duct cleaning and lighting (Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning, Fish Window Cleaning, MaidPro, OpenWorks, Lawn Doctor, groOrganic).

Transportation – This category includes bicycle-centred businesses and even eco-friendly car washes (ElectroBike, Honest-1 Car Care).

Eco-friendly business products and services – There are consulting businesses that raise awareness or will help other businesses become green while improving their overall business performance. Companies like this focus not only on energy use and consumption but also the products that are used in the office and how they are recycled. This also includes green event planning (reducing or eliminating waste and energy in events—venues, materials and accommodations) eco-friendly materials and venues (Hello Eco, Cartridge World, Digital Doc, Mr. Bamboo Flooring, Ambit Energy Independent Consultant, Carbon Recall, FiltaFry).

Organic or recycled/upcycled clothing and furniture – This involves repurposing discarded or unwanted items instead of throwing them away (Uptown Cheapskate, Woodcraft*, ThriftSmart, Hut no. 8)

*While Woodcraft offers customers products and solutions to recycle furniture, cabinets and other building materials, which does meet the eco-friendly definition, they also distribute three million catalogs with over 8,000 items across the U.S. and to 111 countries. That might cause one to question their environmental impact in terms of waste, paper use, and production methods.

We’re just beginning to see the impact of the eco-movement in franchising. As it’s growth expands in business in general, it goes to reason that that growth will carry over into franchise opportunities as more and more businesses embrace their responsibility to be good stewards to our resources and our planet.

image: Row of city bikes for rent in Paris, France via Shutterstock