bryan-welch-ogden-publicationsWelch is the publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications, home to Mother Earth News and Utne Reader. Any opinions expressed are his own.

Green business is arguably the most important marketing innovation of the century. And it’s here to stay.

When we talk about green business, we’re really talking about the provenance of the products and services we sell. A business is green if its creators take into account its impact on the environment, and on society. Like a historic work of art, a pair of running shoes now has a provenance – a chain of collaborators, stakeholders and events that led to its appearance in your closet.

Did the factory owner in Guatemala employ child labor? Are the materials carcinogenic? What about the environment downstream from the factory, is it threatened? Did the shipping company control the pollution from its freighters? Does the U.S. distributor pay a living wage?

Consumers care.

And because consumers care, businesses can charge a premium for conscience.

Take the green building sector for instance. People often mistakenly assume that the boom in green building technologies was driven by conscientious consumers. In fact, contractors and manufacturers largely invented green building, then introduced it to the consumer as a way of differentiating, and premium-pricing, new products and services.