Sharing The Wealth: Social and Economic Tools for Building Equity in a Sustainable Economy – RECAP

Written by HubAbbie on June 21, 2011

June 13th, 2011 | La Tourelle Resort and Spa

Success stories, best practices, and easy steps to Share the Wealth were offered by a panel of speakers at The SEEN event on June 13th. Gay Nicholson, moderator and Green Resource Hub board member, commented that the evening’s topic and speakers expanded beyond a typical, commendable, but singular focus on “green.”  She noted that the presentation took a more comprehensive perspective by also addressing the social and economic aspects of sustainability. Put another way, the focus expanded beyond planet to also address people and profits, rounding out all three components of the Triple Bottom Line.

Watch her video here:

Within this framework, Gay introduced the speakers to share their approaches for digging into the equity toolbox.

Joe Marrafino, Cooperative Organizer, Democracy at Work Network, offered a wealth of success stories that spoke to two key questions: why organize as a worker cooperative? and why buy from worker cooperatives as a preferred vendor?

The Democracy at Work Network identifies core values that result from worker cooperatives structures. Organizing as a worker cooperative can result in: productive efficiency, shared responsibility and risk, worker retention, succession, and democracy. Purchasing from worker cooperatives can result in: community wealth building, higher quality, values driven, long-term relationships, and democracy.

A veteran of California worker cooperative start-ups, Joe brings to Ithaca a wealth of success stories and the opportunity to discover how a worker cooperative provides value for your organization.

Watch him here:

Linda Holzbaur, Community Organizer, Tompkins County Workers’ Center, provided a series of best practices for keeping economic justice in the sustainability equation.

Consider the impact a person working full-time can realize when their pay enables them to be self-supporting. This is the philosophy behind the living wage, the index for which is based on what it takes for a single person to cover basic living expenses as well as a modest level of savings and recreation.

At the time of this writing, the living wage in Tompkins County is $11.67/hr if the position includes healthcare; and $12.78/hr if the position does not include health care. In a recent move at Ithaca College, local employees of contractor Sodexho now receive a living wage (read more here).

Linda encouraged employers to ask their employees for suggestions. In one instance, a NYC restaurant faced downsizing. Instead of layoffs, the owner asked employees what if anything could be done. The employee suggestions (including simple efficiencies such as turning off lights) led to savings that not only retained all the employees but also enabled the employer to offer health care!

Watch her here:

Dee Gamble, Green Jobs Coordinator, Tompkins County Cooperative Extension, shared some easy steps to retain employees, put savings into new work, and offer employees a stake in their own work through green collar jobs.  He offered a number of steps in the core areas of energy efficiency for home and business, renewable energy, clean transportation, and agriculture & resource conservation.

For example, we can share our success stories and take advantage of NYSERDA and NYSEG incentives. We can also get on the path to energy savings, by ordering a home or business assessment today, and by weatherize our homes or businesses.

We can also help to create and maintain green jobs by focusing business strategy on local opportunities, and adopting new and innovative approaches to funding and workforce development.

“It’s shocking how easy it is to do something to build equity in a sustainable economy,” Dee remarked.

Watch him here:

As SEEN members, most of us have two key opportunities for building equity in a sustainable economy: (1) discover what your business or organization can do, and (2) discover what you can do as a homeowner. We hope everyone will reach out to the great community resources represented by our panelists, and access some key social and economic tools for realizing sustainability today!

image credit: Green Energy Technologies  http://www.getsmartenergy.com

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