EDITOR’S NOTE: South King Media Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer serves on the Board of Directors for the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

Facing Sustainability Head On

By Max Gitelman

Sustainable development as we know it was first proposed in 1987 as part of the Brundtland Report, a UN commissioned report on international environment and human development long-term issues. They defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

What we mean by sustainability has changed over the 35 years since that report but referring back to this definition can be grounding. It cuts to the heart of why sustainability is and will never stop being important and why it is not a problem to be solved but a change in perspective and paradigm. Just as we must look out for the needs of future generations, so will they have the responsibility to care for the needs of generations beyond them.

The global reflects the local, however, and large change starts at the small, personal scale.

Washington is a trailblazer in sustainability, going back to when logging was the dominant industry, making good on our nickname as the Evergreen state. Businesses such as Recology, BioLife Plasma, many small businesses, and even the giant Amazon are making strides towards a more sustainable future in various ways and on various scales alongside utilities like PSE and Cascade Water Alliance.

But what does making your business more sustainable look like? Well, there are many ways it can look. It depends a great deal on the industry, scale, resources, and many other factors of a business, so there is no one size fits all solution but here are some ideas to think on building from small and tangible to big and abstract.

1. Increasing your energy efficiency is one of the simplest and most easily understood ways of limiting your environmental impact along with giving savings on your energy bill, which is always enticing. One primary way to do this is to replace older, less efficient devices with more efficient upgrades. Washington electric utilities like Seattle City Light and PSE have many programs and grants to help all sizes of businesses to accomplish this within their price range. Replacements like these can lessen your impact on the environment, save you money, and make your space nicer all at once.

2. Bigger and more difficult is taking a step back and looking at your business, supply chain, and local resources like the Chamber to find both places for increased efficiencies and opportunities for growth and change. This is highly individualized for each business and requires both a bird’s eye view and creative consideration.

3. Finally, at the most abstract level is a change in perspective. It’s scary to consider that many ways of thinking and systems we’ve built our lives around no longer serve us, and it’s tempting to put our heads down and simply not think about things or to reject the idea that any change is needed. Neither of these is productive, and they will at best serve to delay the confrontation with the inevitable. Facing this crisis head-on, ready to listen to others earnestly, and willing to change how we think will allow us to come out the other side stronger together and create a better world for future generations.

Sustainability is a huge, multifaceted topic and I highly recommend you do your own research and learning. I’ve been reading Green Swans by John Elkington which I highly recommend, and Green Giants by E. Freya Williams is an old favorite for being both thought-provoking and compelling. The previously mentioned foreword for the Brundtland Report is also startlingly prescient despite the time since its creation.

For free and confidential consultation on how your business can be more sustainable, contact the Chamber at Staff@SeattleSouthsideChamber.com.


This article was written by Max Gitelman, Executive Assistant of The Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

“A voice for business, a leader in the community.”

Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila since 1988. For more information about the Chamber, including a full list of member benefits and resources, please visit their website at www.SeattleSouthsideChamber.com.