Friday, August 21, 2009

Meaningful Green Certification for Small/Medium Businesses

Granted, we're pretty excited about just about everything we do at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. We get to work behind the scenes every single day to positively impact businesses and people, and that's pretty cool!

However, it's been a long time since we've seen anything quite as exciting as the Green Plus program come along. Our enthusiasm is obvious in the accelerated timeline we used in implementing this program - we learned about it on July 31 via the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (our national professional association representing thousands of chambers throughout the U.S.), and we will be announcing the program at a press conference on August 24! You're probably going to share our excitement on this one.

We've looked for several years for a meaningful "green" initiative for our members: a program that was not just warm, fuzzy lip service about saving the world - a program that would have teeth to it and legs beneath it, and that would mean something to our member businesses. We found it in Green Plus, an initiative of the Institute for Sustainable Development in Chapel Hill, NC. The Green Plus program is the result of two years of research at Duke University and UNC, and provides an actual green certification for businesses.

Our favorite part is the focus of Green Plus on a well-rounded business through their theme of People. Planet. Performance. In other words, recycling and using CFLs is great, but is your business thriving? Do you have a marketing plan? Are your people engaged in the community? The idea is that you can't save the world if your business is failing. The self-guided audit process (with spot checks and plenty of accountability to ensure the integrity of the certification) allows businesses to systematically work toward Green Plus certification with dedicated assistance from experts and connections to local resources.

In the past, there was no true checklist or system for a business to indicate its commitment to responsibility, sustainability and green practices. The Green Plus certification is reminiscent of LEED certification for buildings and construction projects, but tailored to small and medium businesses. We think this will be a program to watch on a national and international scale, so it was a no-brainer to jump in as early adopters. In fact, Arkansas will be just the third state to adopt the program, although dozens of communities throughout the U.S. are making plans to participate. Cleveland will launch the program in October, and the chambers representing the communities that Princeton, Case Western Reserve and Ohio State call home are interested.

The Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce wasted no time vetting this program with key stakeholders and taking a leadership role in bringing it to Northwest Arkansas businesses. Members of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce will be able to enroll in the certification process at a deeply discounted rate ($350 for the first 16 months of enrollment, and $75 for sole proprietorships with fewer than three employees). Businesses obtaining the Green Plus certification will be listed in a global directory and receive marketing collateral to share their achievement with potential customers.

Interested? Join us for a press conference on Monday, August 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the Arkansas World Trade Center announcing the program. Our guest will be Chris Carmody, director of Green Plus and the Institute for Sustainable Development, from Chapel Hill, NC. You can also find more information at, and can follow Green Plus on Twitter: @GreenPlus.

The Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce will hold information sessions for interested member businesses on Wednesday, August 26 from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. (in person with Chris Carmody) and via teleconference on Thursday, September 3 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. For additional information on this innovative program or to enroll your business, contact Beth Stephens at 479-619-3192 or

Let us know what you think!

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