People, planet and profits: Next year’s triple bottom line agenda for Maine Business for Sustainability

There are a lot of different definitions for what it means to be sustainable business- green practices, sticking around for the long haul, sourcing wholesome supplies and more. As the practice of sustainable business matures its top practitioners today agree it also encompasses sound fiscal management/ governance, positive employee relations, environmental considerations and some kind of community engagement.

These are the four core categories that the members of Maine Businesses for Sustainability are using to rate corporate performance and encourage more companies to follow suit. Why? For a stronger and healthier Maine workplace poised to compete for the long term. Members include a who’s who of Maine companies: Bangor Savings Bank, Verrill Dana, Duratherm and First Wind, among many others.

The President of the Board of Maine Businesses for Sustainability Dave Widener holds a Sustainable MBA. He recently took a few minutes from of his day-job as Director of Information Technology and Project Management for Dead River Company to share more about the member organization’s hopes and agenda for 2013. Here is an edited version of what he said:

Q.   Several years ago the association was called Maine Business for Social Responsibility and it’s since been renamed “for Sustainability.”  What’s the difference?

A. We want Maine Businesses for Sustainability to become a clearing house for all things sustainability. Sustainability is a broader term that’s easier to understand than corporate social responsibility. The two can be interchangeable.

Sustainability addresses both bottom line and top line benefits. It is becoming more and more important in a changing marketplace for companies to have a sustainability strategy in order to compete. At Maine Business for Sustainability we want to connect big businesses with small businesses and help them do that.

Q. How so?

Sustainability is not an exclusive club. Everyone has a role. At your company begin with bottom line benefits.  For instance, by making operations more efficient you’re reducing cost, and reducing waste which is better for the planet.  Build on that.

Last year we released a benchmark tool developed with help from our partners at Manomet Center for Conservation Services that not only scores a company’s performance on all these different criteria, but also helps provide a roadmap of where it makes sense to make improvements. Some companies are using it for a check in, asking, are we on track? Are we moving forward? For smaller organizations it’s the beginning of a strategy, asking, are we performing well? Where can we improve? It polls everything from competitive wages and staff diversity to gray water discharge and office composting.

Q. Who are Maine’s leaders setting the example?

A. Idexx is a great example. And L.L. Bean is doing it right, along with Hannaford and also here at Dead River. These companies do the best job working with the corner office to make the effort authentic so that the organization is not just mining for gold every year, but for the long term rewards of sustainability.

Q. What’s on your agenda 2013?

Our best days are ahead. We plan more adoption of the benchmarking tool plus more networking and connection among members. Large or small, member companies share similar problems and opportunities. There is a preponderance of small businesses in Maine, companies with fewer than 40 employees that share the same needs but don’t have the same resources as the larger businesses. That, plus geography can isolate our perspectives. We need to take the blinders off and realize that we are part of this larger movement too. Participating in the association will help.


About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.