Sustainable Businesses Engage White House on the Economy

Last week I participated in a sustainability summit for 125 business leaders organized by the American Sustainable Business Council and hosted by the White House. More than two dozen administration officials met with us to discuss economy policy and business opportunity. The Council represents more than 150,000 U.S. businesses.   

This community of businesses shares themes, values, and tendencies, but is not monolithic—not by industry, geography, corporate structure, size, nor style. Check it out: Seventh Generation, Stonyfield Farms, New Belgium Brewing Company, Greyston Bakery, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Local First Arizona, Social Venture Network, Naturepedic, American Income Life, Ideal Energy, Integrated Packaging Corporation, Rhiza Labs, Blue Ridge Produce, Sweetriot, Provoc, William James Foundation, Eileen Fisher, Domini Social Investments. And ChangeMatters.

Some of my own notes and highlights:

• ASBC sets a vision and challenge around building a new economy. Yes, and notice how much change and influence sustainable, double- and triple-bottom line companies are having already.

• Treasury is making more financing available to small, local business (Don Graves, Deputy Asst Secy for Small Biz). Important.

• WH blog notes 2 great examples using donation-based crowdfunding sites, e.g. Stockbox Grocers and LuminAid Lab. Admin is less interested in inspiring “the next Facebook” than accelerating “more double and triple-bottom line businesses under the new crowdfunding law” (Doug Rand, Senior Policy Advisor on science and tech). Me, too.

OMG. Obama Admin is comfortable w/fracking?! Senior Advisor to U.S. Dept of Energy mentions opportunity for safe shale oil.

• USDA is going website wild with scheduled integrated info and mapping: Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Initiative. Brilliant!

• Organic is creating jobs at 4% national rate. Local biz employs 2x as many as big biz.

• DOL remains focused on green jobs, job training, small business, and community colleges. Poverty level among U.S. workforce—still not changing.

• The nation’s nonprofits need fresh resources to meet demands—SBA cannot lend by statute, giving is not growing, “so they need to think about earned revenue” (Jonathan Greenblatt, Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation). Reinforces my message about social enterprise in speech tomorrow to local human service execs.

Admin officials open and asking for comments, feedback.

ASBC’s David Levine sets a vision and call to action in ASBC’s letter to the Administration and Congress: We call on government to empower the engines of our economy—businesses—to be agents of recovery and revitalization. By properly managing markets, accounting for full costs, creating incentives, providing support, and creating a level playing field, government can enable restorative, equitable and sustainable economic models to thrive. Let us unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation across all sectors to confront and solve the economic, social and environmental problems we face today.