"In my mind, the question is 'What is a green company?' Ecostructure is working with leading ecological scientists to create a goal-oriented ecological business strategy," says Mark Winstein, founder of Ecostructure Financial.
For Winstein, any company's "ecological outcome" must mesh with its business strategy to fit into what his management company's private investment fund invests in.
Winstein's roots go back to what he calls a hodge-podge war to save the environment. "Hundreds of grassroots organizations in the U.S. were fighting the same set of laws. And then one day they woke up and realized the forests they lived by were gone."
His own background includes living in St. Louis, Tucson, and Washington, D.C. He remembers the day back in 1978 when he saw this big logging truck that was on a road show across the United States carrying a huge tree cut from public lands. Like many innovators, Winstein went west at a young age to hike and be in the wilderness, specifically in the Willamette National Forest. "It was pitiful," he says, "to see just a small percentage left of what was once this incredible forest." As a result of that trip, he was asked to work for a congressman on environmental issues.
In 1990, he co-founded Save America's Forests. "The problem was at the national scale to get major groups together for a coalition," Winstein says. What his group did, he emphasizes, was look at how the environmental movement talked about forest policy.
"It felt like I had participated in a war," he said of his 10 years battling in Washington.
He says that around 1996, a spiritual light went off after pondering the battle lines during six years of policy fights at the Capitol. Winstein harkens back to the moment he found Gandhi's autobiography in a basement. He read it through, recalling a simple affirmation: "I recognize no person on the face of the planet as my enemy."
Winstein then felt there had to be a cultural change in how environmental policy came about. "I wondered about the idea of what if everybody in politics learned one thing about the environment." He saw that political battles are about who has the most money, about not allowing effective leadership to "percolate up" and about not creating lasting solutions.
"With Ecostructure, we are looking at a for-profit mode. We have something to sell," Winstein says. "Large corporations have an ability to shift our culture. There's no reason a profit system can't effect environmental change."
Winstein made the move to the Pacific Northwest several years ago with his novelist and activist wife, Jyotsna Sreenivasan, and Ecostructure was born. "We're building something new that hasn't been done yet in this field," he says, "which is a systematic organization of ecological entrepreneurs around a set of ecological scientific goals for the health of the biosphere. Entrepreneurs, whether ecologically minded or otherwise, all want simplified access to capital and good advice."
Since June 2005, Winstein has been providing no-cost business development coaching to ecological pioneers, and he points out two "eco-preneurs" making "ecological restoration" their mission: Biohabitats out of Maryland and TerraGraphics, right in Moscow.
"I think everyone who wants to be a leader in this field should be able to get the training, technical assistance and financial resources necessary to succeed," Winstein says. "Ecostructure recognizes that there is a development curve for people, especially leaders, and that's why we want to help everyone who is attracted to ecological leadership, not just the frontrunners."
For more information, go to www.ecostructure.us or to www.cleantech.com, which has single-paragraph summaries of more than 600 green businesses.