NY County Sets Example for How Governments Can Help Business

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Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 12:17 am

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Westchester County, N.Y., is raising the bar for how local governments can support their area businesses in becoming more environmentally sustainable and economically resilient. Through the Westchester Green Business Challenge program, more than 200 local businesses are now engaged in a friendly competition to save money, become more efficient, and conserve natural resources.

The WGBC is modeled on the Chicago Green Office Challenge, which was co-developed and launched by ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability USA and the city of Chicago in 2009. Westchester County adopted that groundbreaking program and tailored it for its own community. Participants in the program evaluate the "greenness" of their operations using the County's Green Business Scorecard, and receive guidance on how to make progress on up to 82 green strategies that address energy use, transportation, land use, water resources, waste, recycling and green procurement and outreach.

In June, the top 80 participating businesses were recognized in a public ceremony for their achievements. For example, the telecommunications company Steadfast has gone paperless and dropped fuel usage by 50 percent thanks to energy efficiency measures.

"These companies have had the foresight to recognize that doing the right thing for the environment is also the right thing for their bottom line," said Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who also noted the success of the County's program in attracting all types of businesses, from corporations to nonprofits. "Unlike some programs which seem like a good idea at first and fizzle out once they meet the real world, the Westchester Green Business Challenge has taken off."

Westchester County's success can be attributed to two factors:

1. The innovation of the Green Business Challenge program model, which ICLEI is helping to scale up in pilot communities across the country, from Arlington County, Va., and Charleston to Houston and San Diego. The program's "friendly competition" makes going green fun for businesses, and the public recognition provides motivation.

2. The smart strategies developed by the County to increase engagement and provide support to businesses. These including the following:

  • Creating a Green Business Directory to connect participants and community members to local "green" businesses and products.
  • Making local businesses aware of what their area peers were doing to become more sustainable; the County developed 19 green business case studies on local businesses, and invites more to tell their "green business story."
  • Hosting a highly successful educational breakfast series that attracted on average well over 100 attendees, and highlighted some of the most relevant best green business practices. Topics included "how to get started," "engaging your landlord or tenant to make green improvements," and "green strategies for small businesses as well as large corporations."
  • Giving larger businesses such as Con Edison and Perond Ricard the opportunity to sponsor the WGBC and gain valuable recognition.
  • Expanding their WGBC website to provide more resources to participants, including presentations, videos and checklists.

"Westchester County is one of the originators of the Green Business Challenge, and they've taken a great idea to the next level through smart implementation," said Michael Schmitz, interim Executive Director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. "Their efforts are an inspiration to local governments across the country who are seeking ways to help their business communities improve the performance of their operations and become more competitive, while at the same time lessening their environmental impact."

SOURCE: Local Governments for Sustainability USA


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