Helping Business Become More Sustainable

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Seattle has a mission to become more sustainable, and we cannot attain that goal unless we work with our business community.  Fortunately, much of that community is in harmony with Seattle’s sustainability values, and we have forged many good partnerships.  We offer so many great services to help businesses, in fact, that it has become difficult to identify them and figure out how to use them.  And when you apply for a permit, you are not likely to be told much about them.

To make these work better, in 2010 my office authored a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI), which was adopted unanimously by the City Council, asking departments to identify opportunities to coordinate, integrate, and improve access to the City’s array of environmental sustainability services.  We’ve now received the report, and have charged the Departments with taking action steps to:

  • Improve effectiveness by developing a simple, high-functioning web-based portal, cross-training program staff in the different Departments, establishing common metrics for program tracking and evaluation, and addressing any logistical or legal issues that are potential obstacles to interdepartmental cooperation;
  • Improve efficiency by integrating and coordinating outreach, beginning with a pilot outreach project to business sectors targeted by multiple programs.
  • Ensure the best economic development benefits by doing coordinated market research to identify gaps in service and unmet needs.

By taking these actions, we can simultaneously advance our environmental goals and our economic development goals – the new paradigm that requires both of these to be met in order to become a more sustainable City.

The research found that six different City entities (Planning and Development, Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment, City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and Transportation) offered 25 different services to businesses, aimed at:

  • Improving conservation and energy efficiency;
  • Achieving better recycling/waste reduction, water conservation, and stormwater management;
  • Promoting Green Building; and
  • Improving transportation through services like Commute Trip Reduction.

These programs provide technical assistance, assistance complying with regulations, incentives and rebates, information, and recognition for achievements.  While many of them are available to any business, some are targeted to specific types of businesses.

Interviews with business representatives found that rebates and one-on-one assistance was most valuable; that recognition services worked only if there was associated marketing; and that businesses longed for a centralized website that was well-organized and up-do-date.  Business people stated that they had a hard time finding services, but were eager to participate where possible.

The recommendations lay out a path for addressing issues.  The Council will monitor the results of the continued work.  We are confident that Departments can and will do better, and that businesses, the City, our workforce, and the environment will all benefit.