Partners for Livable Communities, Institute, Announce Green Plus Chamber Finalists

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Chambers from Cleveland, North Myrtle Beach, St. Louis, Syracuse, and Waco lead by example and connect sustainability to economic development

Partners for Livable Communities (PLC) and the Institute for Sustainable Development have narrowed the field to five finalists for the Green Plus Chamber of Commerce Award. To choose five finalists for the Green Plus Chamber of Commerce Award, Partners for Livable Communities and the Institute took open nominations as well as actively examining two dozen chambers of four criteria:

  • Regional Leadership in sustainability
  • Strong assistance of chamber members in becoming more sustainable
  • Making the economic case for sustainability to the surrounding community
  • Setting an example in internal operations

“Business leadership is critical in the effort to create a stronger economy – one that is not only more competitive, but which complements healthier and more environmentally sound communities,” said Chris Carmody, Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development. “These finalists exemplify what we believe is the best leadership in the chamber of commerce community in advancing a truly sustainable economy,” Carmody concluded.

  • The Greater Cleveland Partnership / Council on Smaller Enterprises has developed an extensive array of educational, technical assistance and incentive programs to help its members become more sustainable, especially in the area of energy efficiency.
  • The Greater St. Louis Chamber of Commerce has led in the creation of the Climate Prosperity Project, a national effort to help chambers around the nation understand how conservation, efficiency and innovation can catalyze job creation
  • The Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce created The Clean Tech Center, a clean energy business incubator, to catalyze economic development in its region
  • The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce built what is believed to be the first LEED Gold certified chamber office building and has developed  green education programs for its business members.

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, fostering a new generation of sustainability leaders, and developing a common understanding of sustainability principles across cultures.

Partners for Livable Communities is a non-profit leadership organization working to improve the livability of communities by promoting quality of life, economic development, and social equity. Since its founding in 1977, Partners has helped communities set a common vision for the future, discover and use new resources for community and economic development, and build public/private coalitions to further their goals. Recently, PLC published its second volume of case studies of best practices among chambers of commerce in sustainability leadership, “The Dollars and Sense of Business: Chambers of Commerce as the New Champions of a Green Economy“.

Below, the Finalists discuss their sustainability initiatives in their own words:

Greater Cleveland Partnership / Council on Smaller Enterprises

1. Regional Leadership

COSE is one of Ohio’s largest small business support organizations, striving to help small businesses grow and maintain their independence. For more than ten years, COSE has been a provider of electricity and natural gas savings options to small and mid-sized businesses.  Participants in the COSE Natural Gas program through Integrys can sign up at no additional cost for Ecovations, a renewable gas option.

COSE has been designated as an Administrator in FirstEnergy’s Energy Efficiency Collaborative which provides a unique position to design and implement a variety of energy efficiency and demand side management initiatives to improve the way small businesses operate going forward.  COSE’s role in the Collaborative translates to extensive experience in small business energy efficiency programs, including energy audits of mercantile customers and a host of energy-saving initiatives for COSE members.

In addition, COSE actively took part in the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit and have since engaged in the Green Building Retrofit Committee.  COSE also co-sponsored the Sustainability Symposium at Baldwin-Wallace College.  COSE expanded its energy portfolio in 2009 to be the first Ohio organization to offer Green Plus.

2. Assisting Members

At the end of June COSE will introduce the COSE Lighting Retrofit Program.  This program will provide members with resources to go undergo an energy audit, secure funding, partner with certified contractors to complete the retrofit, and receive rebates and incentives.  Recently COSE was awarded a grant from the State of Ohio for the COSE Small Business Energy Efficiency Program to provide 150 small businesses throughout Ohio with energy efficiency education, an energy audit at a reduced cost, connection to vendors to conduct upgrades, access to government and utility rebates, and a scholarship to join Green Plus.

3. Making the Case: Regionally and Nationally

COSE has found that members are interested in sustainability, but they are concerned about the upfront cost and the payback period for projects.  Over the next year, COSE will begin the proposal process for appropriations for on-bill financing, revolving loan funds and an energy efficiency loan designed specifically for small businesses.  COSE recently partnered with the Institute for Sustainable Development and the Fowler Center at Case Western Reserve University to produce a research piece on the ROI of energy efficiency for small businesses; it is set to be released in October.

4. Leading By Example

To lead by example, COSE/Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) have taken several efforts to make operations sustainable, as a Green Plus Mover.  The Green Team published the first GCP Sustainability Report which outlines the recycling program to shrink the waste stream.  The offices have high-efficiency lighting, all furniture and furnishings are made of recycled content and staff members use ENERGY STAR certified equipment.  We have switched to recycled and high post-consumer waste paper products, as well as natural cleaning supplies.  GCP/COSE offers all employees a discount on public transportation, and encourages employees to walk, carpool, or telecommute to meetings.  GCP/COSE also provides an Employee Volunteer Day, takes part in the United Way of Greater Cleveland annual campaign, and allows employees to participate in the Farm Share CSA.

Greater St. Louis Chamber of Commerce

1. Regional Leadership

The RCGA leads the St. Louis Climate Prosperity Project which envisions a greenbelt economy through green savings, green opportunities and green talent.  The Project features the Green Business Challenge, the St. Louis Green Economy Profile and the St. Louis Green Talent Strategy. The RCGA initiated the St. Louis Green Business Challenge to encourage members to adopt sustainable business practices. To identify opportunities in the green economy, the RCGA commissioned a study by Collaborative Economics, the nation’s leading green jobs research firm. The St. Louis Green Economy Profile has launched a discussion of the region’s strengths, specialization, and innovation in the core green economy. The Green Talent Strategy is a collaboration of the RCGA and the Workforce Investment Board to engage local employers, educational institutions, and job training providers to align the region’s green workforce.

2. Assisting Members

Sixty-two organizations participate in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge which helps companies improve their sustainability and make St. Louis a greener region.  The Challenge uses a scorecard to assist green teams which develop outreach, energy, indoor environmental quality, waste, water and transportation action plans.  The RCGA partners with the Missouri Botanical Garden to provide technical consulting and site visits.

Launched in January 2010, the Challenge has already achieved reductions in energy usage at participating companies.  The scorecard has stimulated companies to adopt recycling programs, enforce no-idling loading docks, and encouraged transit and carpooling.

The RCGA and U.S. Green Building Council led the High Performance Building Initiative.  The goal is to ‘green every building in St. Louis.’  The seminar series included addresses by U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan, Chair of the Congressional High Performance Building Caucus, a case study on the economic and social value of high performing buildings, and a detailed presentation on financing options of green buildings at the federal, state, and local levels.   Over 300 business leaders, construction firms, and designers participated.  Plans are underway for the next series of these popular seminars.

3. Making the Case: Regionally and Nationally

The RCGA incubated Climate Prosperity, Inc. a civic venture which is chaired by Dick Fleming, President and CEO of the RCGA.  Funded initially by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Climate Prosperity, Inc is a national organization to address climate change and regional competitiveness.  St. Louis is one of only four pilot communities (along with Silicon Valley, Denver, and Portland) who subscribe that innovation, efficiency, and conservation lead to increases in employment, income and competitiveness of a region.   The RCGA has served as fiscal agent and home for the national project, and has recruited a national board and led the successful fund-raising from other national foundations/corporations and recruitment of a fulltime executive director for Climate Prosperity, Inc.

4. Leading By Example

The RCGA is a participant in the Green Business Challenge.  The RCGA has joined with their office building management to eliminate idling and greenhouse gases at the loading dock.   Commerce Magazine, the chamber’s publication reaching 14,000 readers, regularly features sustainability articles.  Examples attached.

Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce

1) Regional Leadership: How has your chamber of commerce been a thought leader in encouraging your region to become sustainable?

The Syracuse Chamber of Commerce was at the core of organizing a regional innovation cluster that has gained international recognition for its efforts to build a comprehensive and connected infrastructure to support the development of renewable and clean energy companies, and help existing companies advance energy and climate change initiatives to support sustainability.   The Chamber was instrumental in organizing a nearly 200 member ‘green’ consortium of education, industry, government, investor and small business leaders to develop a regional strategy around green innovation, and worked with the New York State Energy Research Development Authority to create The Clean Tech Center at The Tech Garden – a clean energy incubator to accelerate the launch of renewable energy businesses and technologies.  In addition, the Chamber hosts a regular calendar of ‘Green Business Development’ Days for members, in partnership with the NYS Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration.   More than 100 companies have already been served in the first year of the program.  The Chamber hosts an annual Green Business Showcase, which is the largest event of its kind in the northeast, with more than 7,000 annual attendees, and this year also launched a student ‘Green Innovation Exposition’ to engage young entrepreneurs in idea formation around green business concepts.  Finally, the Chamber is an active partner with New York State policy makers and has had a hand in helping to shape some of the most ambitious statewide clean energy programs and sustainability goals in the nation.   The Clean Tech Center’s blog/news site: www.cleantechny.blogspot.com has become one of the most widely consulted central clearinghouses of information on sustainability news and issues in New York State – with readers in more than 60 countries.  The Chamber’s efforts were recently recognized by Sustainable World Capital in the Cleantech Group?s February 2010 report for creating one of the ‘top ten clean tech cluster organizations in the world.’  According to an independent study by the Battelle Group, there are more than 400 clean tech businesses, employing more than 10,000, in the region – evidence of strategic growth in this sector.

2) Member Support: How has your chamber supported your members their members in understanding and improving their triple bottom line?

The Chamber is working closely with its green team partners on the development of a green certification standard – created through a grassroots consensus process – that utilizes best practices and benchmarks, including work by the Onondaga County Community College SBDC and the Chamber of Sustainability, a Syracuse-based organization that has developed an effective self-assessment tool for business to help advance sustainability and improve the triple bottom line.  The Clean Tech Center regularly conducts workshops, seminars and training programs around issues related to the triple bottom line.  These programs are typically developed and delivered through a partnership model, working with the Chamber’s green team collaborators such as the U.S. Green Building Council, local colleges and universities, workforce development agencies, and other regional business and technology development organizations.  The Chamber will be running a ‘green bootcamp’ program for regional businesses, launching later this summer.  The Chamber worked with the Syracuse Post Standard, a large daily newspaper, to launch a regular publication, ‘Green Central New York’  (www.syracuse.com/green) that is published bi-monthly in a four-color tabloid (using sustainable printing practices) and is also on-line to engage the community in a broad-ranging conversation and educational process about sustainability and the triple bottom line.  The publication is the only one of its kind by a daily newspaper in the country.

3) Making the Economic case for Sustainability: What has your chamber done to specifically illustrate how sustainable practices are also good business sense?

The Chamber has a clearly articulated economic development strategy related to green:  a)  Create green collar jobs through collaboration and the research, development, demonstration and deployment of new technologies, processes and systems that lead to sustainability;  b)  Promote case examples of companies that have implemented sustainability strategies with great return on investment, and help the business community better understand the payback economics of sustainability;  c)  Find early adopters in the region, who are willing to be testbeds for new ideas and innovations.  Specifically, the Chamber also recently coordinated a region-wide sustainability competition called ‘The Green of the Crop’ in partnership with the Syracuse Post Standard http://greenofthecrop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/GOTC-News-Release-FINAL-UPDATED.pdf http://blog.syracuse.com/green/2010/05/green_central_new_york_celebra.html The result has been a community-wide infusion of sustainability sensibility, and a competition among businesses to introduce sustainable practices and innovate green products and solutions.

4) Leading by Example: What initiatives has your chamber undertaken to make its own operations more sustainable?

The Chamber has started by looking internally at its own practices, instituting recycling, reuse and other waste stream management techniques.  It has made an effort to look at sourcing green supplies and materials.  It recently completed energy audits, and is working with NYSERDA and National Grid on integrating other smart building / energy efficiency systems practices.  It is working with developers of new technologies to look at using its own Clean Tech Center – Tech Garden facilities as test beds for new technologies, and working with partners such as ‘cuseCar on the development and deployment of electric vehicle charging technology and stations.  Finally, the Chamber just completed the landmark consolidation of several major regional economic development organizations into one new consolidated entity, CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CenterState CEO) of which the Chamber is now a member, and in the process, is now undergoing an organizational-wide self-assessment to find efficiencies that lead to the triple bottom line – infusing social entrepreneurship and green entrepreneurship across every aspect of the culture.  The merger – one of the few of its magnitude in the country – is an example of how organizations can come together to find efficiencies, embrace organizational sustainability, and create a thriving ecosystem for innovation.

In short, the Chamber and CenterState CEO are the center of a vibrant green hub that encompasses public policy, technology development, business development and community education, with an ambitious goal of becoming one of the best green clusters in the country, and a model for other regions.

Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce

1. Regional Leadership

In 2005, the Greater Waco Chamber embarked on constructing a new headquarters building in downtown Waco. The Chamber pursued ‘green’ construction and received LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council. It is the first green Chamber building in America.

The Greater Waco Chamber headquarters is also the first green new construction project in the Waco area. Subsequently, 12 other projects have been constructed in the community to LEED standards. Most notably, McLennan Community College built three new LEED buildings, Baylor University has built two facilities and achieved LEED™ Existing Building designation for another. Greater Waco also has seen LEED projects built in the commercial sector by Caterpillar and Wells Fargo.

Additionally, the new Greater Waco Chamber headquarters is situated in the heart of downtown and has been a catalyst for new development. Urban development is a strategic focus for the Chamber – utilizing existing infrastructure and enhancing the assets of the Brazos River, Interstate 35, Baylor University and a vibrant business community. Since 2006, Waco has experienced the construction and renovation of 42 projects in the urban core of the city attracting more than $270 million of public and private investment. The Chamber headquarters is adjacent to Heritage Square, an urban park used for community gatherings. The first phase of Austin Avenue Flats was constructed on the same block as the Chamber providing residential, commercial and hospitality space.

2) Member Support

Greater Waco Chamber developed the Waco Green Business Network, a program to highlight the green efforts of local business. It is one of the first local efforts in the country to educate, identify, recognize and promote businesses that engage in sustainable practices. We want Greater Waco to be recognized as Texas’ Green, Livable City.

Business Sustainability Checklist was developed to help companies get started. Businesses may consider incorporating 78 activities into their day-to-day activities. The majority are both good for the environment and cost-saving measures.

A Green Business Survey tells the Chamber how Greater Waco businesses are engaged in sustainability. It follows the checklist in areas of waste prevention, recycling, purchasing, energy and water conservation, involving stakeholders, transportation and operations.

The Greater Waco Chamber recognizes companies that participate in the Waco Green Business Network and demonstrate green efforts in all categories. Businesses in the network are highlighted in Chamber publications (print and online) and in articles placed locally and out of market. A window sticker and electronic logo for the Waco Green Business Network is provided to each company.

Companies in the Waco Green Business Network are invited to participate in a group on the social networking site LinkedIn. It is a great way for business owners and sustainability coordinators to discuss “How did you do that in Waco?”

Companies in Waco Green Business Network are listed on Gen Green Life national online directory. Customers are looking for green businesses. The directory provides awareness for companies in the Waco Green Business Network.

Learning Green Luncheons is a program held every other month to educate local businesses about sustainability issues and to highlight green practices and programs in Greater Waco. The opportunities and progress surrounding sustainability is quite dynamic. We acknowledge that every business comes at it from varying levels of awareness, and we all need to ‘Learn Green.’ Topics have included ‘ABC’s and 123’s of Sustainability,’ ‘Establishing an Employee Sustainability Committee,’ ‘Waste to Energy Programs at the City of Waco’ and ‘Water Quality and the Waco Wetlands’.

3) Making the Economic Case for Sustainability

Waco, Texas is fortunate to have a number of companies that have active sustainability programs. Some have won awards for their efforts, including Mars Inc., which won an EPA award for a methane gas line extended from the City of Waco landfill to the plant.  The project will use methane gas to power two furnaces that create steam for the plant’s candy-making operations.

The Greater Waco Chamber uses this and other examples throughout the community as examples for other businesses. The Chamber employs its communications vehicles of a weekly newsletter, quarterly magazine,WacoChamber.com website, Learning Green Luncheons and external public relations efforts to highlight important accomplishments. We focus the topic on the benefits to the companies for undertaking the ‘green’ projects.

4) Leading by Example

  • Copy machines are set to default to double-sided copies.
  • Cleaning products, including with janitorial service, are environmentally sensitive.
  • Preferred parking is provided to staff and visitors with electric vehicles.
  • Recycling containers are provided at each desk and includes paper, plastic, cardboard and metals.
  • Styrofoam has been reduced from caterers and is being eliminated.
  • Washable china and glass dishes are available for meetings. Dishwashers are located in the kitchen.
  • Solar panels are installed on the roof of the Chamber headquarters building.
  • Dual flush toilets and waterless urinals are installed in the restrooms to lower water consumption.
  • Living roof (‘green roof’) comprised of low water-consuming plants is installed.
  • Rainwater catchment system is in place with a cistern and solar-powered pump to send water to a tank on the roof. Water from that tank is used in a drip-irrigation system for the plants on the living roof.
  • Greater Waco Chamber purchases electricity from 100% renewable sources.

North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce

1) Regional Leadership: How has your chamber of commerce been a thought leader in encouraging your region to become sustainable?

 

ECO the Starfish says Go GreenOur continuing record of supporting sustainable issues such as beach renourishment, protection of our estuaries and initiatives for alternative energy have received favorable review and been examples of regional leadership in sustainable development.

Beach renourishment:  As a coastal community we play a lead role in working with local, state and federal officials to protect our beaches, particularly through beach renourishment.

Protection of our estuaries:  Since 2001 our Chamber of Commerce has supported the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef Project through two annual fishing tournaments, the Dixie Chicken Fishing Funament and the Flounder Frenzie.  There are currently 45 reefs in South Carolina, which contribute over $83 million to the State’s economic impact and employ over 1,000 individuals.  In 2003, when the Reef project began, the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef was the least visited in the State of South Carolina, since 2007 to date this is the largest and most visited artificial reef in the entire state of South Carolina.

Alternative Energy:  As a partner in the North Strand Coastal Wind Team we have received national recognition by receiving a $176,000 grant for beach access wind energy.  Partners in the team include the City of North Myrtle Beach, Coastal Carolina University, Savannah River National Laboratory, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Authority and the SC Energy Office.

In addition we have been given approval by Coastal Carolina University, which will serve as the primary sponsor, to host and initiate a Regional Sustainability Conference in September 2010 (in conjunction with Ford Foundation Fellowship for Sustainable Development).

2) Member Support: How has your chamber supported your members in understanding and improving their triple bottom line?

Although we’ve focused on sustainable development through many of our programs and initiatives in 2009-2010, it was not until we adopted the Green Plus program were we able to really make clear the case for understanding and improving our members triple bottom line and the principal that it makes good business sense to support People, Planet, and Performance.

3) Making the Economic case for Sustainability: What has your chamber done to specifically illustrate how sustainable practices are also good business sense?

In promoting Green Plus we have emphasized the need to differentiate one’s business from their competitors.  We have also created and advertised our mascot, ‘Eco’ the Starfish to specifically illustrate the program.  By becoming Green Plus certifies you are differentiating yourself from the competition.  The American consumer is looking for ways to sustain their communities and Green Plus can be shown to make the economic case for sustainability.

4) Leading by Example: What initiatives has your chamber undertaken to make its own operations more sustainable?

We have taken numerous initiatives to become more sustainable.  We have discontinued the printing of our monthly ‘Chamber Connection’ Newsletter.  This makes a significant savings on materials (paper, ink, printing costs, etc.) Our members receive this valuable information via email and can also access it on the Members Only section of our website.  We have initiated major recycling efforts in our administrative offices including recycling paper, plastic, aluminum, printer cartridges, and newspapers.  Inside our Visitors Center we serve as a recycling drop off location for batteries, eye glasses, cell phones and phonebooks.  Santee Cooper, our electric company, completed an energy assessment, which we have initiated.  As a combined Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau we distribute over 20,000 hospitality bags annually.  In the past these bags were made of plastic, now we use bags made of bio-degradable materials.  One of our newest initiatives is adopting the ‘Start! Fit Friendly’ Company Program through the American Heart Association to build staff awareness and promote a healthier lifestyle.  In August of 2009 we received 4-Star Accreditation from the US Chamber of Commerce.  Accreditation with the US Chamber is the only program of its kind that defines excellence in chamber planning and recognizes chambers for outstanding contributions toward positive change in their communities.

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