New group promotes business sustainability

Melanie George-Smith

A former state legislator turned activist for sustainability from a business perspective has formed the Delaware Sustainable Business Council as a chapter of a national organization.

Melanie George Smith, who founded Sustainable World Strategies after deciding not to seek re-election for her seat in House District 5, says sustainability builds on “the new conscious capitalism” and can be defined as one’s impact on “the environment, the people, and the economy.”

“Sustainability says we want to do everything we can to support businesses so that they can be the vehicle for change in society, so that they can promote diversity, that they can promote health and well-being and eliminate poverty,” she said during a recent Delaware Business Times roundtable about economic growth.

She references studies that show investors “earn a greater rate of return for companies and funds that are sustainable than those that aren’t.

Smith led efforts in the General Assembly to create a Delaware sustainability certification that companies could adopt to signal their commitment to responsible business. Delaware’s Voluntary Sustainable Certification was signed into law in late June 2018, with a post a few weeks later by a Richards Layton and Finger director in the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation saying the act “represents Delaware’s initiative to support sustainability practices by providing Delaware-governed entities a platform for demonstrating their commitment to corporate and social responsibility and sustainability.”

The new Delaware organization will be a chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), a national nonprofit coalition formed and led by Jeffrey Hollender, who was also co-founder and CEO of Seventh Generation, a green cleaning products company. ASBC represents more than 250,000 businesses in a range of industries through its national member network.

Smith argues that sustainability isn’t a partisan issue, blending the interests of both parties and allowing business to “be a vehicle for social change” while also supporting those businesses with minimal government interference.

A lawyer who previously handled pro bono family law cases for Richards Layton and Finger, Smith spent 16 years in the Delaware House where she eventually became co-chair of the powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

She says the Delaware Sustainable Business Council is searching for companies, nonprofits, trade associations, or government agencies that want to lead the effort to support sustainability in Delaware. For more information, contact Melanie George Smith at [email protected]. 

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