Reuters news service is reporting on some new research from HSBC, a global financial services firm:

“Global revenues from climate-related businesses such as energy efficiency rose by 75 percent in 2008 to $530 billion and could exceed $2 trillion by 2020, HSBC Global Research estimated on Friday.”

And for those savvy investors looking to maximize return in emerging markets, the story goes on to say:

“’The four core investment pillars will be low-carbon energy production, energy efficiency, control of water, waste and pollution and climate finance,’ the report said… ‘This is a very significant trend given the substantial share of climate stimulus funds that have been directed at energy efficiency and energy management by governments across the globe,’ HSBC analysts said.”

But could this trend represent anything more than the basic drive to take advantage of new sources of capital (e.g. stimulus funds) and make a healthy profit? Perhaps. Perhaps there are entreprenuers involved who relish the idea of making a difference while making some cash.

To wit: Last week I helped introduce a crowd of Louisvillians to the newly inaugurated Bluegrass Chapter of an organization called Net Impact. Its aim is essentially to help MBAs and business leaders use the power of business to solve social problems, whether that’s empowering a marketing assistant to launch a new recycling program at work or providing resources to a “social entrepreneur” who wants to start a business that puts disadvantaged youth to work. While I simply facilitated a conversation with its founder for an audience gathered at an event space at the Louisville Zoo, it’s clear there are many folks in town who believe that business can change the world. At least, one little bit at a time.