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Do Good Summit rides wave of triple bottom line business

Businesses like Takoma's The Big Bad Woof are part of a snowballing movement that promotes "people, planet, and profits"

Paul Saginaw of  Zingerman's Community of Business speaking at last year's Do Good Summit

Visitors to The Big Bad Woof in Takoma, D.C. are familiar with the sight of colorful pet toys overflowing a bathtub by the door and the clack of canine feet in the aisles. They also know the tagline: “Essentials for the socially conscious pet.”
Less obvious is the fact that a Woof franchise was the first certified Sustainable Benefit Corporation in Maryland and the country. Further, its D.C. sibling, which sells sustainable, local dog treats, partners with animal rescue societies to help pets find homes, and supports other local businesses, is part of a snowballing business movement that boosts people and the planet as well as profits.

The nonprofit organization Think Local First D.C. has harnessed that trend, and this week will connect and cultivate such triple-bottom-line businesses with the second annual Do Good Summit, scheduled for May 3rd at the Anacostia Arts Center.
Since the 2012 event, companies like The Big Bad Woof have reached a critical mass in the D.C. business landscape and are poised to gain even more ground. From local, sustainable eateries such as Bread and Brew to community favorites such as Logan Hardware, D.C. is full of businesses that are doing well and good. This year's daylong summit will highlight the growth of this nationwide movement while helping local businesses take the triple-bottom-line trend to the next level.

It's not simply that these local businesses incorporate giving back to the community into their business model. Rather, it's that consumers in our increasingly global, virtual society want to support real local businesses that are invested in their communities. Businesses are tapping into this trend by using technology-based marketing and good old-fashioned community organizing to spread the word.
The Do Good Summit actually expanded its offerings to Do Good Week this year. Opening acts before the headliner included The Good Growth Salon on April 30th, moderated by WAMU’s Rebecca Sheir; Beers and Betas, a brew-lubricated feedback session for startup products, on May 1st; and the Locals Unplugged Social Enterprise Salon on May 2nd. This last event follows the model of monthly Locals Unplugged events educating business owners to increase all three bottom lines.  
The full-day summit will tap speakers of local and national renown, including Philadelphia-based entrepreneur and Urban Outfitters founder Judy Wicks, Our Black Year author Maggie Anderson of Chicago, D.C. Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning, and D.C. real estate developer and Fundrise co-founder Daniel Miller. Think Local First (TLF) Executive Director Stacey Price expects 500 participants including entrepreneurs, advocates and business owners.

The 2013 gathering will grapple with the impacts of the recession on city neighborhoods. “This year we really wanted to weave more discussion about sustaining our neighborhoods and growing our city into [the event],” says Price.
According to Robert Tomasko, Director of the Social Enterprise Program at American University, the District is “in the top tier” of cities incubating ultra-sustainable ventures, an echelon that includes New York and San Francisco. This kind of business appears in all sectors of Washington’s economy, from the Tubman-Meehan art gallery on Benning Road Northeast to tech companies like K Street web developer Provoc to the widespread baked morsels of Goldilocks Goodies.
These ventures strike the three-note chord of sustainability in different ways. Some are housed in energy-efficient green buildings, while others use hybrid vehicles, buy carbon offsets or emphasize local purchasing and hiring. Beneath this broad umbrella, a loose coalition of businesses is flourishing -- and growing.
“It's hard to dispute the appearance of a recent growth wave," says Tomasko, although hard numbers are not available regarding this fast-growing trend.

Sustainable business is a priority at the highest levels. The Sustainable DC Plan, released by the D.C. government in late 2012, set 20-year goals to become “the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States.” Initiatives like the Downtown Business Improvement District’s Smarter Business Challenge have linked the goals to actions, bringing 113 buildings into the greening process.
According to Scott Pomeroy, sustainability manager for DowntownDC BID, Smarter Business Challenge participants are drawn to the idea of achieving LEED and EnergyStar certification. This is significant, Pomeroy explains, because 75 percent of energy use comes from the built environment. Yet this is in part a bait-and-balloon strategy. “Energy allows us to open the door,” says Pomeroy. “But when the door’s open, there’s another number of ways we can engage them.”
The widespread trend shows the influence of the Do Good Summit constituency. “[Small local businesses] may not refer to themselves as such but by nature they tend to hire locals, pay higher wages, and give more to the community,” says Price. Though they inhabit ground-floor storefronts, fourth-story home offices, and rented kitchens, this group is a strong force pushing sustainability from the bottom up.
With the recent recognition of Benefit Corporations in D.C., businesses born with sustainability in their DNA can only increase. A more solid count of such entities will also be possible as they join about a dozen certified B Corps in Virginia and more than 20 in Maryland.
Price calls Do Good Week “the perfect storm for good growth,” a description that could also cover the landscape for triple-bottom-line companies in D.C. “Watch for more independent business collaborations, sector mosaics and social enterprise arms of existing companies,” says Price. The Do Good Week and Do Good Summit are helping to nourish a movement that has already taken root across the city.
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