Friday, June 8, 2007

"Local Living Economies" and Our "Green" Graduates

By: Karuna Jaggar

I was very energized to participate in the 5th Annual Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Conference last week. BALLE’s vision is to build a sustainable global economy which consists of Local Living Economies, which create long-term prosperity and economic empowerment. The three pillars of this model are
  • local business ownership
  • economic justice
  • environmental stewardship.
The parallels with our work are obvious. At Women’s Initiative we use business ownership as a tool in building economic independence, and in turn social and political empowerment. While environmentally--and socially--responsible businesses have not historically been an integral part of our training model, in fact we find that they are very much part of our clients’ visions.
Clients come to us because they are not thriving in the wage labor market. They also come because they don’t like how traditional business is done and want to do business according to their values. As women who have struggled on the margins of the economy, their values include paying a living wage and creating quality, family-friendly jobs.

Their values also include environmental stewardship, and a majority of clients report making environmentally-friendly choices in their businesses. That is: they go above and beyond simple recycling to make conscious decisions about product and materials sourcing, waste and packaging reduction, pollution, and energy consumption.
Despite clients’ willingness to spend more money on materials, products, etc. in order to uphold their environmental values, they often represent these as individual, personal choices, not as business decisions.

I do think that there can be something overwhelming about identifying one’s business as “green” in some undistinguished way, without acknowledging that the business owner has made headway in some areas and not necessarily in others. But I think we can do more to help clients identify the ways their businesses are already environmentally responsible and think about developing this niche in addition to stretching to become even “greener.”

No comments: