Bringing sustainability to small business

A panel of industry experts recently gathered at the Master Builders Association University in Bellevue to share innovative ways to integrate ‘Green’ practices into small business. The guest speakers were part of a Breakfast for Champions Workshop presented by Sustainable September, a local non-profit organization focused on promoting sustainable practices throughout the Eastside.

The networking breakfast was an opportunity for local business owners to learn ways sustainability can be good for the bottom line while increasing profitability and vitality to a business.

Carolyn Hope, a past president for the Sustainable Development Task Force of Snohomish County, gave a definition of what being ‘Green’ in business means. She defined sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

“In retrospect, this is the third time the sustainable movement has been pushed through the market place,” she said. “But this time around, it’s here to stay.”

Panel guests Brenda Nunes, a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor and Cheryl Isen, the president of Isen and Company both agreed.

So what makes this time around different?

Hope, Nunes and Isen all point to issues of climate change, environmental impact, economic shift and regulatory changes implemented by local government. At the state level, legislators are looking closely at stormwater management regulations, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, construction-waste reduction and public buildings built using green practices, Nunes explained. Alternative and renewable energy also are high on the list of important issues, she added.

“On the regulation front, energy is a hot topic right now,” Nunes explained. “Frankly it’s the hottest topic out there. Public awareness is at an all time high. These are issues that people are no longer going to ignore and they expect the business industry to step up and do their part.”

According to Hope, incorporating sustainability into a corporate business plan benefits the company in more ways than one.

“By empowering your organization and focusing on something substantial, your employees will feel involved and will gain enthusiasm to stand behind their work,” Hope explained.

Sustainable September began in 2006 with an overall mission to promote Eastside businesses and organizations that are committed to growing the local economy and practicing environmental stewardship. The organization was created to provide an open forum to further explore and develop a relationship between local businesses, educators and community leaders.

Sustainable September now hosts professional meetings and workshops year-round to promote East King County as a leader in the promotion and implementation of “Green” business objectives, programs and resources.

“Integrating sustainable practices into your business is such a broad topic, there’s not one person who is an expert on every aspect,” Nunes said. “It’s important to learn from one another to discover new ways to use green practices to achieve all-around success.”

As president of a strategic planning and marketing firm, Isen spoke first-hand on the importance of not only implementing sustainable practices, but also promoting them as well.

Local businesses are feeling the pressure to create a distinctive brand due to the recession, she said. It’s prompting the industry to be more proactive and innovative in the ways they do business.

Isen recently won the bid for Build Green for Eastern Washington. She will now embark on launching a major marketing effort to bring the “Green” building message to Central Washington.

“Being ‘Green’ matters,” she explained, pointing to large companies who utilize “Green” such as Starbucks, McDonalds and Nike. “It’s not the time to be a dinosaur. It’s time to be ahead of the curve and be innovative with green practices.”

For more information on Sustainable September visit

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