Businesses Unite for Change, Cheer

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Tompkins Weekly 11-24-14

By Bob Rossi

Our work culture is shifting. The small business sector has been growing rapidly and, according to the US Small Business Administration, small businesses now provide over 50% of domestic jobs and account for over 50% of all domestic sales.  They deserve the majority voice. People often work from their homes, at coworking spaces, in coffee shops, or on the road, visiting clients. They lack the space and staff to organize and celebrate the traditional office holiday party.

Enter the SEEN. The Sustainable Enterprise & Entrepreneur Network (SEEN) is a growing community of businesses, organizations, and individuals who recognize that a strong economy depends on the health of our people and environment. Members strive to adopt what is called a “triple bottom line” approach to business — making decisions based on people, planet, and profit rather than based simply on a financial bottom line.

For 3 years now, the SEEN has been reviving the holiday office party in a way that strengthens connections across the business community. On Thursday December 11th from 5pm to 9pm, the SEEN will host its 3rd annual Holiday Banquet downtown at the Space at GreenStar. Guests will enjoy a delicious dinner catered by Dancing Turtle and GreenStar, desserts and wine pairing led by Laura Winter Falk of Experience! The Finger Lakes, juggling performance by Nate Marshall, live music, silent auction, book signing, and more festivities detailed at

This Holiday Banquet is open to everyone and is a great way to get a taste of this lively community. The event is held at a SEEN member location, emceed by a SEEN member, catered by SEEN members, and features healthy food grown locally by SEEN members. Like many office parties, it is a time to celebrate accomplishments in 2014, set intentions for 2015, build camaraderie, and have fun.

As a network, the SEEN has much to celebrate in 2014. Most recently, the SEEN launched a policy action initiative designed to give its members a stronger voice in local, state, and national policy. Essential to this policy initiative is the SEEN’s connection with the New York State Sustainable Business Council (NYSSBC), an alliance of business organizations and businesses committed to advancing a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy in New York State. At the SEEN’s October event, Take a Stand, NYSSBC coordinator Laura Ornstein shared that “designing a system that supports sustainable business is all within reach if business leaders join together to make their practices and vision more visible to policymakers and the media at the state and federal levels. A collective business voice is needed to challenge the dominant narrative that we must chose between jobs and clean water or profitability and a living wage.” Take a Stand attendees then self-selected into general policy areas and drafted stances on specific policy issues. The 5 general policy areas chosen were Climate & Energy, Food Access, Social Justice, Transportation, and Sustainable Development.

“The goal for these group conversations is to continue not only amongst the members but to connect with parallel efforts in the community — creating a policy synergy that makes all of our voices stronger,” explains Maribeth Rubenstein, board president of the Green Resource Hub, the local parent non-profit organization of the SEEN. “In addition, we can share the most pressing issues in our business community with the NYSSBC and relate relevant policy opportunities from the NYSSBC back to our community.” To learn more or to connect with a SEEN policy group, email

The SEEN is growing and each new member strengthens our voice for policies that will encourage the kinds of business practices that enliven our community and protect our natural environment. To learn more about how you can be part of this movement, visit or join us for the Holiday Banquet.

Bob Rossi is program director for the SEEN and founder of the CommonSpot a social enterprise incubator and coworking space on the Commons in Ithaca.

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