New business group aims at sustainable economy 

A new Missoula group thinks that sustainability and profitability go hand in hand.

The Sustainable Business Council –Missoula Area, a coalition of small business owners and others interested in environmentally and socially conscious business practices, holds its inaugural meeting Thursday night.

“The notion is we’ll help the bottom line as well as the environmental and social arena,” says Susan M. Anderson, one of the founders of the group. Anderson, an adjunct business instructor at the University of Montana and a small business owner, formed the group with several other people who all participated in a sustainability conference in Missoula in late 2000.

“The Council’s purpose is to promote the economic benefits of a clean and healthful environment, to educate businesses, organizations, and individuals about efficient resource use, and to facilitate the adoption of economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable business practices,” the group’s mission statement reads.

The council plans to do this by providing a forum for environmentally and socially conscious businesspeople to meet each other and discuss issues, and through consulting and advising teach businesses how they can be more efficient as well.

The key areas the Council will focus on include waste reduction, energy conservation, and education to support new technology.

Although most of the Council’s plans are educational, their list of goals does hint at some political involvement. One goal is “issue advocacy in the belief that clean air and water and environmental quality is the foundation of Montana’s economy and that the Council’s work will make western Montana more attractive to expanding businesses.”

Anderson also hopes that one day the group could grow into a liaison between the business world and all manner of nonprofit groups, from environmental organizations to economic justice groups.

Although conserving waste and energy are hardly radical notions, the language of “sustainability” is not heard often in the business world. Anderson thinks it is only a matter of time, though, and that the Council’s goals are in line with those of established business groups like the Chamber of Commerce.

“In the long run we’re talking about the same thing and that’s making businesses successful,” Anderson says. Sustainability, she says, “is going to be part of the mainstream discussion and hopefully we will be there to facilitate that discussion.”

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