by Julie Thomases
As part of the socially responsible business movement, the Sustainable Business Network of the Lehigh Valley was founded in 2006. SBNLV supports a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit, considering the needs of all stakeholdersemployees, community, consumers, and the natural environment, as well as stockholders. Performance is measured by social impact, environmental impact, and profit.
We at SBNLV seek to build Living Economies. In living economies, basic needs food, clothing, shelter and energyare produced and traded locally and sustainably in order to build community self-reliance, provide opportunities for ownership and job creation, and keep capital within the community. Products that are not available locally are sourced from community-based businesses and small farms in other regions and countries on a fair trade basis that benefits the communities where these products and resources originate.
As a society, we are taught that economic growth benefits everyone and success is measured by material gain. Yet continual growth often benefits the few at the expense of the many and is destroying the planet, using up more natural resources than can be regenerated.
Instead of growing larger and larger, living economies create economic security by depending upon local, independently-owned businesses that are human-scaled. By keeping economic control local, we create a short distance between business decision makers and those people affected by theirs decisions. Who can better determine the needs of customers and employees, the wage scale, health benefits, hours of operation, specific products, and level of community involvement than local independently-owned businesses and their customers? Certainly not the folks at a national headquarters!
And of course, we all like to shop in places where people know our name. These relationships are a vital part of the health of our community.
Today, as we face the dual challenge of fossil-fuel-induced global warming and peak oil, vibrant local economies are more important than ever. Buying locally limits the amount of transport used for importing products and cuts down our use of diminishing oil resources thus reducing our carbon footprint. Did you know that in the U.S. food travels an average of more than 1,500 miles from farm to plate? So, consider going on the “100 Mile Diet” and get to know the face of your farmer. Again, it’s about relationships.
Because buildings are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency of retail, office, and manufacturing facilities has the greatest impact on counteracting global climate change. Small businesses often lack the knowledge and resources to address the critical concerns of energy efficiency and watershed protection. In keeping with our focus on the triple bottom line, SBNLV has developed a Sustainability Pledge including an energy and watershed impact assessment to help members act on their commitment to our local and global environment. Let us know if you want to take advantage of this opportunity.
We hope you will join us in helping make the Lehigh Valley a living economy a healthy and sustainable place to live, work, and play, knowing that the Lehigh Valley thrives when we support local independently owned businesses.
Julie is a founding member of the Sustainable Business Network Lehigh Valley.
(Published in the 2009 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)