The spirit of the Institute for Sustainable Development and Green Plus was perhaps best summed up by a past Sustainability Fellow who said it’s about “Sustainability for everyone.” We believe that sustainability is smart for businesses and smart for communities and that barriers to becoming greener and more sustainable should be lowered so that all can participate. More formally, the mission of the Institute for Sustainable Development is to:
- democratize triple bottom line sustainability by making it accessible to smaller employers and their communities,
- foster a new generation of sustainability leaders,
- and develop a common understanding of sustainability principles across cultures.
The Institute strives to be a model of the triple bottom line principles it espouses – conducting a financially sustainable operation with a positive environmental impact that fully engages its employees and stakeholders in its success.
The Institute seeks to educate, motivate, and recognize smaller enterprises for their efforts toward greater sustainability regardless of their means, and to extend practical knowledge and expertise in sustainability by developing new leaders in the field.
Certification, Education, Networks & Recognition
Certification: Green Plus is a two-year, triple bottom line education, networking and recognition program. Education combines online tools, graduate student coaching, and connecting peers region to region. Green Plus is now recognized as a university backed, third-party certification through a broad, mainly chamber based network. In some areas (notably Cleveland, Ohio and North Carolina) the Institute offers scholarships for energy audits and Green Plus or micro loans in conjunction with our partners (COSE in Ohio and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center in North Carolina).
Sustainability Fellows Program: The Institute?s Sustainability Fellowship is a competitive, interdisciplinary program that recruits and trains bright university students to help smaller enterprises in the field. Engaging graduate and undergraduate students from different disciplines from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and other universities in direct service learning with small businesses and nonprofits from their communities enables the Institute to help equip a new generation of leaders in sustainability.
Fostering a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Specifically, the Institute runs a multi-university Fellowship program — bringing together mainly graduate students from different disciplines (MBAs, environment, law, social work and other disciplines), giving them a shared experience and helping them coach businesses in their own communities. Fellows work with the Institute full time over the summer and part time over the following academic year. In addition to business coaching, Fellows also author individual and group research projects based on their field work.
Economic Development and Public Policy Initiatives
The Institute is translating empirical and qualitative learnings from working with businesses and nonprofits into economic development and public policy models. In Cleveland, the Institute is working to connect purchasing incentives to sustainable practices. In North Carolina, the Institute is connecting sustainable efforts to capital (micro-loans).
Research Products and Studies
With its academic and chamber partners, the Institute has undertaken a number of products, case studies, research projects and how to guides.
- A small business energy efficiency guide in conjunction with COSE
- A national undergraduate sustainable case study in conjunction with the AICPA
- A survey of employers on their attitudes about sustainability and stakeholder engagement in partnership with BrownFlynn (coming soon)
The Institute seeks to reach middle and late adopters of sustainable practices and help them and their communities learn across U.S. regions.
Partners & Funders
The Institute partners with business, academic, and community leaders to achieve its mission.
American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE): The Institute partners with the ACCE to make Green Plus available to the ACCE?s 1,300 U.S. and Canadian Chambers of Commerce and their 1.2 million business members.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA): The Institute?s partnership with the AICPA provides U.S. accountants and their clients with business tools to improve their bottom lines through sustainable practices. The AICPA has 350,000 U.S. members.
Academic Partners Include: The Duke Center for International Development; Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke, University; University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill; The Center for Global Initiatives, UNC Chapel Hill; UNC School of Social Work.
BrownFlynn: The Institute partners with Cleveland-based sustainability consulting firm BrownFlynn to collaborate on content for informational webinars for Green Plus participants as well as research studies in topical areas of sustainability.
North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center (NCRC): The Institute has partnered with the NCRC to develop special sustainability tools for rural businesses and entrepreneurs ? to educate individuals about sustainable practices and opportunities for new enterprises in the Green Economy – in order to create new jobs and increase the competitiveness of existing businesses.
Regional Chambers of Commerce: The Institute creates partnerships with chambers of commerce committed sustainable business and community development. Click here to see the full list.
Key Funders Include: The Fenwick Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the Park Foundation; the Redwoods Group Foundation; the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.
The non-profit was founded in the North Carolina Research Triangle in 2007 by a unique partnership of academic, business and philanthropic leaders. Early partners included Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Greater Durham Chambers of Commerce, and the Fenwick Foundation.
Institute founders recognized that while many large companies were integrating sustainability into their operations, saving money and improving their reputations, most Americans were employed by businesses with 50 or fewer people, and these smaller employers had neither the time nor the financial resources to pursue sustainability. In the fall of 2007, the Institute engaged the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC Chapel Hill?s Kenan-Flagler Business School to develop a business plan to address this problem. This plan led to the development of Green Plus, a program that provides training, networking, and recognition for small businesses and non-profits working toward becoming more competitive and sustainable.
A vital part of Green Plus is providing real-life experiences to university students in the area of business and sustainability by connecting the students with real organizations engaged with these issues. The Institute trains interdisciplinary teams of graduate students and professionals to provide practical, affordable tools and assistance to help smaller enterprises and their communities become stronger, healthier, and more competitive. To date, more than 160 small businesses and non-profits in more than twelve U.S. states have benefited from the Green Plus program.