One greenback

Bartering Web 2.0 Style

Green America, a national nonprofit, launched the Green America Exchange (GAEx) earlier this month "to loosen the recession's squeeze on green businesses." The help is really coming first to San Francisco (of course, it's in California) and to members of the Green Business Network. So for now, it's more of a club arrangement.

But, GAEx is advertising no upfront fee; complementary currency, or Exchange Dollars; and interest-free lines of credit. Sounds like a businessman's dream. GAEx members will pay transaction fees that ensure that the proper management and oversight to trading remains in place and sustainable.

To be in the "club," a business must be truly green. What does that mean? Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility programs at Green America, explained to me that "the initial members of the GAEx are all businesses that have been thoroughly screened by Green America."

Larsen said the screening process includes both social and environmental responsibility. Green America looks for evidence that a company is "values driven," has a responsible "parent" if it is a subsidiary, and has extraordinary practices and policies if it is a distributor.

"As the exchange expands, additional businesses may join, but they will need to only offer products that meet our definition of green, which they will be provided in advance and to which they will agree to adhere," Larsen said. "If we find that companies are not offering green products, we will tell them they need to remove any products that are not green. We will be closely monitoring the exchange and its offerings."

Green America has screened and approved about 3,500 companies. A look at the GAEx, finds companies offering up advertising space in national magazines, carbon-neutral Web hosting, graphic design, merchant services, and organic catering. That's not what I was expecting. Perhaps barter is not an appropriate exchange mechanism for the construction and cleanup markets. I plan to look at this again in about six months to see.

Would you consider using a barter system in your line of work?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Aug 16, 2010

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