Greening How You Take Green

Does this sound familiar? You are a business, and have been obsessive about finding as many ways as possible to do right while doing well. Your paper goods are on recycled paper, your office uses renewable energy, and you bike to work. Or some such combination of the many possibilities you’ve been able to find. Great, you’re doing a fine job being a part of the solution, and are doing business in a way that’s beneficial (and profitable!) all around.

Now what about you payment processing? What about it, you ask? In most cases, it’s some company that you send your money to each month to facilitate credit card and check payments. End of story. Not much action there. Hold on, friend, there is something else to consider. How about a company that donates a portion of their proceeds to causes of your choice? One that uses renewable energy to host their site? One that facilitates their payment processing through a green business, community focused bank? Does such a company exist? Yes, in fact. They’re called Dharma Merchant Services. Dharma Merchant Services logo

As a green business consultant, my radar is always out for tools to make the lives of my clients easier, their business greener, and save some money while they’re at it. So when, amongst all the hullabaloo at the recent Green Festival in November, I saw this company, I had to find out more.

In conversation with Jeff Marcous of Dharma MS, it became quite clear you were not dealing with your typical payment processing company. He comes from having worked on some of the largest endeavors in relation to payment processing, and is very familiar with the industry. In an echo to my article last week, he wanted to find a way to blend his values with his work, and thus decided to create this company. Rather then go the typical path of being strictly a cost competitor (though they are in parity with the best deals out there) they decided to run the company in a way that would be much more sustainable. From their choice of web host to the bank they do business through to their choice to donate 10% of their profits to the organizations of your choosing, it’s clear that they walk the talk.

Their name is no mere decoration. For them, dharma, or “right livelihood” is, “… a guiding force for us to always try to make the right decision based on respect and compassion, rather than on an economic outcome.” Not something you hear every day from a company of this kind. Even behind the scenes, their staff is foremost in their considerations, as demonstrated when they say, “We treat our employees with respect and compassion, and evaluate all work policies on the basis of their impact on employees’ work-life balance. ”

A question that may come to mind is, with all that they do, do they charge more? In a word, no. Well then, how do they make it work? According to Marcous, they take a smaller margin on profits. Why would they do that? They believe that by being a company that treats their customers exceptionally well, which includes stripping out the typical range of hidden fees, long contracts, etc, that they will have customers who will more likely stay with them for a longer time than is typical of this industry.

Now who are their customers? You can be anyone from a sole proprietor to a large corporation, they can help you all. One particularly interesting feature Marcous told me about is their “back office conversion” product. What’s that? A way for you to take a check, scan it, and have the payment instantly begin to process, versus your needing to go to the bank and physically deposit them.

It’s heartening to know that there’s a company of this kind out there, which in many ways helps close the loop for you out there wanting to do business in a planet positive way, all around.


We here at EcoPreneurist wish you a very happy holidays, and most successful 2008. Stay tuned for much more ecopreneur news you can use…

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see He also writes for Triple Pundit