Innovation, perseverance and the future of business | Guest column

By Derek M. Long & Mark Peterson
Sustainable Connections
Courtesy to The Bellingham Business Journal 

The ninth annual Future of Business Conference is coming up on Thursday and Friday, April 25 and 26. It is a premier business educational and networking event in northwest Washington.

Over the years, world class national and local speakers have given inspiring presentations that have helped to transform individuals, businesses and our local economy. This year’s conference will be no exception.

We are a smarter, leaner, greener business community than we were almost a decade ago and the Future of Business Conference has played a role in this transformation. The conference continues to deliver ideas for implementing best business practices, how to achieve a robust triple bottom line (financial, social, environmental) and realize even greater success.

An example of how the conference completes a feedback loop is illustrated by one of Sustainable Connections’ core focuses, the Toward Zero Waste program.

This program was inspired by a presentation by Ryzex founder and former CEO, Rud Browne. His presentation illustrated how businesses can contribute to their triple bottom line by reducing their impact on the environment while also reducing their business refuse charges.

An example of an individual success of this program is the local manufacturer and a Toward Zero Waste participant, Sampson Rope. They have reduced their waste costs by $20,000 per year. Today the Toward Zero Waste program has more than 350 participants who have saved more than $2 million in garbage-collection fees.

Due to the quality feedback received regarding the speakers, as well as the break-out and networking sessions, we have been able to provide high-value content that is most desired and relevant for the business community.

For example, last year’s conference had a heavy focus on both sustainable and traditional practices to help businesses succeed while in the midst of a historic economic downturn. This year, our focus is to provide inspiration, in addition to innovative practices, to those who have weathered the downturn, so they can position their businesses to capitalize on the improving economy while keeping an eye toward sustainability.

The Whatcom County business community has evolved to be more open to and champions for sustainable business practices. A recent report shows how our business community differs from others including those already on the “green” path by the amount of commitment. The report surveyed 301 businesses at random, and it stated, “Businesses in the community clearly value environmental stewardship and suggest leadership in the area is good for business retention and attraction.”

The Future of Business Conference has attracted more than 12,000 different local business professionals over the years, many who have attended the conference multiple times. This event has contributed significantly to business attitudes and behavior, benefitting our community.

This year, our keynote speakers will highlight sustainable practices even further.

Scott Jenkins, the vice president of operations for the Seattle Mariners and Safeco Field, will share how his organization saved nearly $1.2 million dollars over the past several years with changes to their waste and energy management processes.

A-P Hurd, vice president of Touchstone Corporation, will speak to the unique economic drivers, both current and future, for our community.

Our local business leader, Bill Taylor of Taylor Shellfish Farms, will discuss how his business has maintained continued success as a local company competing in an international market.

The breakout sessions of the conference will provide an opportunity to gain real-world knowledge in a number of different topics while engaging in relevant discussions with panelist who are experts in their fields.

Four focus tracks with multiple breakout sessions are available to conference attendees: Achieving Resource and Operation Efficiencies, Increasing Access to Customers, Access to Financial Resources and Better Business Management. Lunch round-table networking topics will allow for lively lunchtime discussions centered around Sustainable Connections five core program areas: Sustainable Business Development, Think Local First, Green Building and Smart Growth, Farm to Food and the Community Energy Challenge.

The Future of Business Conference has been a great forum for businesses to learn about new and innovative ways to conduct business in a sustainable fashion. It is exciting to be hosting the forum in Downtown Bellingham and there is a great line up of speakers and panelists. We can hardly wait and hope to see you there!

Derek M. Long is the executive director for Sustainable Connections. Mark Peterson is the organization’s sustainable business manager. 

The Bellingham Business Journal is a media sponsor for Sustainable Connections’ 2013 Future of Business Conference

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