Yesterday, CALC’s “Greening Your Bottom Line” event, (planned in tandem with Greenovate Boston), was a huge success. With 52 businesses in attendance, the event was purposed to provide an opportunity for small business leaders to learn about programs within the City of Boston to incentivize small business sustainability, while also asking the business leaders to provide feedback on the programs to improve their efficacy in contributing to the city’s 2014 Climate Action Plan.
After a brief breakfast and introductions, the program began with brief talks by four panelists on current efforts to promote sustainable small business practices. The panel included Steve Rumpler, a senior business manager for the City of Boston, Todd Cowger of Rise Engineering, Kim Foltz from Boston Bikes, and Elise Vergnano of the state Department of Environmental Protection and RecyclingWorks. Each panelist discussed efforts by his or her respective organization. Steve Rumpler and Todd Cowger have thus far worked together closely to consult with small businesses to perform energy audits. The purpose of these audits is to make the physical space of the business more efficient and energy friendly. Kim Foltz offered an overview of the economic benefits of a bike-friendly business, including healthier, more productive workers and a higher chance that consumers will choose to make quick stops on their routes. Elise Vergnano discussed RecyclingWorks’ mission of simplifying recycling and composting projects for businesses of all sizes, resulting in over 11,500 tons of material being diverted from landfills.
Once the overview of programs was complete, representatives from “climate champion” businesses (including Tech Networks of Boston!) facilitated breakout sessions to allow more thorough discussion of small business viewpoints. Each small business leader shared something their organization has already done, and some acknowledged that there is more they COULD do to improve their sustainability further. The breakout discussions ended with table leaders asking their groups to come up with one piece of advice and feedback for the panelists and Greenovate representatives.
During the feedback period a consistent theme across all feedback and questions was the potential further community outreach and further expansion of programs on a more regional basis (especially those related to transportation). Ultimately, business leaders had determined that further outreach was critical to the success of these programs. One table went further to discuss what motivates business leaders to take steps towards sustainability. Not surprisingly, reasoning differed from one business to the next. Some organizations were comprised of people who were already social activists who chose to carry that activism to their business, while some business took actions towards sustainability purely because it made financial sense for them do to so. The feedback was hugely valuable to the city officials present at the meet up, and in their closing remarks, the referenced the need to continually develop policies in order to reach the goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan. With small business sustainability becoming the norm, it will be thrilling to experience that continued innovation result in an economy which is both financially and environmentally sustainable.