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When will the candidates talk about creating a sustainable economy?

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Posted on September 6, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, it’s political convention season. Delegates from all 50 states have gathered in Tampa and Charlotte with their respective parties to officially nominate their candidate for president. Much of the rhetoric from both campaigns has been focused on how to stimulate the U.S. economy and middle class jobs. But largely absent from the discourse has been any reference to creating sustainable jobs or building a more sustainably focused economy in the United States. It’s not surprising as Greenbiz readers who have read any of the annual State of Green Business reports know, since the sustainability revolution is being led by corporate executives and not by politicians

Set against this political backdrop, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) — whose members include companies such as Timberland, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Stonyfield Farm — hosted the Summit for a Sustainable Economy in Charlotte, North Carolina during the Democratic National Convention and set out to have a meaningful conversation about how to create a more sustainable economy and ultimately create jobs. Billed as a non-partisan council that represents more than 150,000 businesses nationwide and more than 300,000 entrepreneurs, executives and investors, the organization’s mission is to inform and engages policy makers and the public about the need and opportunities for building a vibrant and sustainable economy.

Topics covered at the summit included: “Responsible Capital: Investing in a Prosperous America,” “Building Sustainable Communities,” and “Business Models & Accounting for a sustainable Economy.” I asked Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director, Policy & Engagement for ASBC, why they chose to host an event during the Democratic National Convention. He explained that the organization hoped to “capture the attention of the critical mass of policy makers and political advocates who were in Charlotte for the convention.” This strategy seems to largely be in line with the reason why big corporations spend significant dollars to have a presence at the political conventions. Participating in the summit were representatives from organizations and corporations who shared compelling examples of how some companies are using sustainable business practices as their key source of inspiration and innovation and the positive economic impacts they are having on our economy.

Bringing Local Apparel Jobs Back to North Carolina

Bonny Moellenbrock, Executive Director of the Investor’s Circle, an investment network focused on providing funding for start-up businesses like Zipcar, shared the story of a collegiate apparel company in which it  invested. The company, School House, is sourcing its college sweatshirts and other clothing from local manufacturing facilities throughout North Carolina, bucking the national trend, where 98 percent of clothing purchased in the United States is made overseas. School House founder and U.S. Fulbright Scholar Rachel Weeks got the idea to start her company while she was researching socially responsible apparel manufacturing initiatives in Sri Lanka. School House’s vendors all based in North Carolina are supporting over 2,700 jobs in a state that has seen dramatic job losses in the apparel and textile industry.

Recycling Coffee Grounds to Grow Gourmet Mushrooms

Nikhil Arora, president of Back to the Roots, a company profiled on GreenBiz by Marc Gunther that sells grow-your-own gourmet mushroom kits that use recycled coffee grounds, shared his success story. As an update to Marc’s story, Back to the Roots has expanded its distribution channels and is now sold by Amazon, Fresh Direct and every business traveler’s favorite publication, Skymall. Back to the Roots expects to divert and reuse 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds during 2012. Business must be good for Back to the Roots because, according to its website, it is hiring. (Attention all you recent college graduates who want to make a difference.)

While it’s unlikely that we will see either party officially adopt building a sustainable economy as part of their party’s platform; the more organizations like the American Sustainable Business Council and others can focus and highlight the economic opportunities that are being created, the better. We look forward to a day when Rachel Weeks or Nikhil Arora or one of ASBC’s other members is running for president, and building a sustainable economy is a key plank of their party’s platform.

This post first appeared in Greenbiz.

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