Can a business improvement association label a whole region green? Vancouver’s Strathcona Business Improvement Association thinks so. They have branded themselves as the ‘Strathcona Green Zone’ and are in their third year of focusing, sharing and collaborating with local business members on sustainability.
This was the message at Sustainability 3.0, an annual presentation and mini trade fair headlined by sustainability author Bob Willard.
BIA Director Toby Barazzuol led off the evening.
“A business community is like a complex ecosystem. In Strathcona, we have all the diversity here, we just need to make the connections.”
And connections were not in short supply, with over 25 participants such as One Planet Catering, Ethical Deal, Tradeworks, Terasen Gas, the City of Vancouver, the Saul Good Gift Co, Eclipse Awards and CBR Products.
Sustainability more than a feel good initiative
Bob Willard brought a big corporate boardroom table approach with his presentation, ‘Communicating the Business Case for Sustainability’.
Quoting from a new Harvard Business Review study, Willard now describes corporate sustainability as a ‘business imperative’. Using the oft referenced symbol of the 3-legged stool, he urged green champions to abandon the ‘save the world’ rhetoric.
“Laying a guilt trip on someone is no way to connect with them” Willard suggested.
“It’s important to be flexible in language that you use. When talking with business types, use business language.”
So instead of ‘People, Planet, Profits’, consider sustainability as ‘Asset Management’ with categories like
- Financial Capital/Built Capital
- Natural Capital
- Human/Social Capital
Through his experience and research, SME companies that embrace these virtues stand to increase profits by at least 66% over 5 years.
And this is not a temporary thing. Willard describes the most recent economic upheaval as unique in that it’s the first recession where the corporate focus on green issues actually increased.
“The Sustainability Imperative is a Megatrend, magnified by escalating public and environmental concern,” Willard continued. Quoting from a May Harvard Business Review article, he explained that “Environmental issues have steadily encroached on businesses’ capacity to create value for stakeholders. That’s why companies must convert this threat to an opportunity.”
The most exciting developments are happening at the local / municipal and provincial / state levels
Willard encouraged everyone in the room to continue down the green path, no matter what the scale of their enterprise.
“Get on with it. Do not wait. People are taking ownership locally. It’s happening. The timing is perfect.”
For a room full of small businesses branding themselves as a ‘Green Zone’, these were welcome words, indeed.
The Green Briefs 2 Bits: Taking ownership and offering connections at the regional level may have greater effect than it first appears. I suspect we may well see more local neighbourhoods, communities and business groups take a similar sustainability approach, as the business case for green outpaces big business and big government’s ability to adapt.
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