Sustainable Business: does it make cents?

Sustainable Business: does it make cents?. This shot of Georgian Bay will decorate the cover of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve membership Charter. Thom Morrissey photo

Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve wants to find out. As part of its non-profit work to build a healthy environment and a healthy economy, the Biosphere is launching a Charter of values for its members.
“Our membership program is open to anyone – individuals, families, students, seniors, municipalities, as well as businesses and organizations,” says Becky Pollock of the GBBR. “In the past month, we have had dozens of inquiries and applications for membership which is a great sign of community support.”
The Biosphere Charter membership program targets businesses and organizations to give them free marketing, promote their location in a UNESCO world biosphere reserve, and offer training workshops by industry leaders on how to boost bottom lines, by using best practices. Participants will be showcased by the GBBR in media, conferences, regionally and on their web site.
“There is a need to become greener,” explains GBBR Marketing coordinator Brittany Mahnke, “but many people are unaware of how to do so, or where to begin.” The Biosphere Charter program gives businesses a head start. Lis McWalter, REDAC Member, Chair of the REDAC Technology Sub-Committee and Chair of the Downtown Business Association says: “Being designated as a Biosphere Reserve is meaningful for our local economy. We are lucky to live, work and play in such a distinct area. Local businesses should be seeing the Charter as a business opportunity, and using it to their advantage.”
The Charter itself is a beautiful landscape photograph by Thom Morrissey, with a set of values printed on one side, and the member’s name highlighted on the other. “This way, residents and visitors will see biosphere value statements throughout the community, and know that they are part of something special,” says Mahnke.

The Biosphere Charter principles are as follows:
• Protect the Natural Resources of the Region
• Develop the Economy in a Sustainable Way
• Support and Preserve Cultural Heritage
• Minimize Impacts on the Environment
• Contribute to a Healthy Community
• Educate and Raise Awareness about the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve
Guest Speaker
At the Biosphere Charter launch, guest speaker, Michele Rich from the Environment Network in Collingwood, will talk about what “sustainability” really means for a community and how it can be used in business to boost bottom line.
The Environment Network has helped local companies join an Eco-Enterprise program. “Some of the benefits to businesses include: reducing risks, increasing revenues, cutting expenses and avoiding unforeseen costs, enhancing reputation and employee loyalty, and lowering insurance and borrowing costs,” Rich says. “More than that, these businesses are often becoming leaders in their community.”
Rich says that her work with both the public and private sectors has provided her with a variety of experiences working with people to create Sustainable Community Plans.
Over her 16 years with the Environment Network, Rich has encouraged environmental improvement through community action with projects such as EcoENERGY, Well Aware, Active and Safe Routes to School, habitat creation and restoration, stream rehabilitation, pesticide reduction, and active transportation through the creation and promotion of trails.

Official Charter Launch
The Biosphere Charter has attracted strong partners and sponsors: the Regional Economic Development Advisory Committee was the first to step forward. The business community also endorses the program, including the DBA, the Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce, Georgian Bay Country, and the Parry Sound Area Community Business Development Corporation. Moose FM has provided corporate support.
“We invite any resident or visitor to our community to become members,” says Pollock. “As a small organization working on environmental education and community development, we welcome the support from membership fees, larger donations, or legacy gifts. People often don’t realize that a little can go such a long way.”
The Biosphere Charter launch is scheduled for March 1 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Parry Sound Stockey Centre. It will open with a slide show of impressions of Georgian Bay from photographer Thom Morrissey. Greg Mason will explain “What is a Biosphere Reserve?” and highlight major programs and opportunities. Andrew Spring, founder of the Bay of Fundy Biosphere Reserve’s Charter program, will outline their success story, and then the Biosphere Charter will be unveiled. Door prizes include a year’s free membership to the Biosphere, and tickets to a Stockey performance. Time to sign up as Charter members and taste signature appetizers from local restaurants will follow. The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to [email protected]