Green Plus™ works with Cleveland, Ohio, & the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center to Connect Sustainability with Economic Opportunity for small business in low wealth urban and rural communities
The Institute for Sustainable Development’s mission is to democratize triple bottom line sustainability — making it accessible to smaller employers and their communities — and to foster a new generation of sustainability leaders. Through its Green Plus™ program, the Institute helps small businesses from across the geographic and economic spectrum – urban, suburban, and rural – improve their bottom lines and their communities.
In 2006, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill commissioned a business plan from Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business to create Green Plus™ — a scalable, affordable process to help smaller enterprises throughout the U.S. understand and benefit from triple bottom line sustainability. The Institute for Sustainable Development’s early partners saw that very large organizations had resources to adopt and benefit from sustainable practices – but that most Americans work for smaller enterprises. The Institute for Sustainable Development partners with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and universities throughout the country to offer smaller enterprises affordable access to sustainable business practice education.
The Institute is working with public and non-profit partners to extend economic opportunities to small businesses committed to sustainability through greater access to markets and capital. The City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership / Council of Smaller Enterprises, and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center are the Institute;s principal partners in this effort.
Connecting Sustainability and Urban Economic Opportunity: The Cleveland Model
Cleveland, Ohio, once a symbol of the Rust Belt, is now a national leader in bringing sustainable principles into action to transform its region’s economy. Cleveland’s Mayor Frank Jackson holds an annual Sustainability Summit, involving all segments of the community in developing a vision for a more sustainable future. The oldest community foundation in the country – the Cleveland Foundation – has pioneered Evergreen Cooperatives – a sustainable, employee-owned business model. Cleveland organization Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) helps regional businesses become more sustainable while GreenCityBlueLake advances the discussion of sustainability at the community and policy levels.
The City of Cleveland’s procurement budget is in excess of $1 billion a year. Like many local governments, it purchases a wide array of goods and services – from construction to burial services.
In March, 2010, the City of Cleveland passed what is to believed to be the first-ever procurement law that economically rewards small businesses for their commitment to triple bottom line sustainability. While many cities and states have created have created purchasing preferences for green products or from local companies, Cleveland’s ordinance is unique in the United States. Businesses completing the first stage of the Green Plus™ program – and thus demonstrating their commitment to good management, social, and environmental practices – receive extra points when bidding on contracts to provide the City with goods or services.
Part of the Institute’s mission is to democratize the triple bottom line – to bring understanding and benefits of sustainability to smaller enterprises and their communities regardless of their economic situation. Working with the Greater Cleveland Partnership / COSE and the City of Cleveland, the Institute seeks to help urban businesses in low wealth communities save money, improve their operations, and receive benefit in the form of advantage in bidding for city work.
The Institute partnered with the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) to bring sustainability education to smaller enterprises throughout Ohio. The Greater Cleveland Partnership / COSE is a national leader in helping small business become energy efficient and more sustainable overall. In May 2010, COSE received a grant from the Ohio Department of Energy to award small businesses $250 rebates against energy audits for small businesses and $150 rebates against participation in the Green Plus™ program participation.
Businesses located in low wealth communities will be able to save money through a discounted energy audit, improve their operations overall through Green Plus participation and be economically rewarded for their efforts through bonus points in the pursuit of City contracts.
North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center Connects Sustainability and Micro lending for Small Businesses
In 2009, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center engaged the Institute to design special Green Business Planning guides based on the Green Plus™ program for rural entrepreneurs and incumbent businesses as part of its Green Microenterprise Project. These workbooks are being shared – free of charge – with businesses in economically challenged rural counties throughout North Carolina. In addition to these workbooks, the NC Rural Center is putting 25 rural businesses through Green Plus™ on scholarship. At the end of the first stage of the Green Plus learning process, the businesses may be eligible for micro loans of up to $25,000.
What would success look like in this approach? A farmer might undertake a new capital investment to save water and also save his business money. An auto mechanic might implement other sustainable business lines that complement her existing business -installing a wind turbine, solar installation, or geothermal pump to save money and sell energy back to the grid – or add biodiesel engine conversion to his or her business mix.
Sustainability is often touted as a means for businesses to ‘do well by doing good’. The Institute, in partnership with public and non-profit institutions, seeks to build bridges beyond good works and savings through efficiency to replicable models to expand revenue, connecting small businesses, sustainable business practices, and economic opportunity. Large companies can realize enormous savings and customer goodwill through sustainable business practices. The Institute for Sustainable Development believes that smaller enterprises – including those in low wealth communities – can play a vital role in the revitalization of the U.S. economy through sustainable practices and economic recognition of their efforts.
About the Institute for Sustainable Development
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, over 160 small businesses and non-profits in 18 U.S. states have benefited from the Green Plus program.
The Institute for Sustainable Development