Iowa Sustainable Business Forum
Sharing Best Practices B2B
Business View Magazine interviews Adam Hammes, Executive Director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, for our focus on Sustainability in American Cities
The Iowa Sustainable Business Forum (ISBF) is a 501(c)6 non-profit industry association that connects Iowa businesses to continuously improve practices that positively impact people, planet, and profits. ISBF envisions Iowa businesses as innovators and role models for the sustainable and profitable stewardship of natural and human resources. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, the organization is proud to maintain 100 percent sharing best practices with zero lobbying.
As a member-driven association, ISBF listens to Iowa business members and delivers programming relevant to their current needs, including confidential business-to-business sharing, an ever-growing library of proven best practices, notes from all events, and a directory to connect 24/7 with peer professionals across Iowa. Membership is open to all organizations except government or quasi-governmental (Section 115). Member services are targeted to for-profit businesses in Iowa implementing practices within their own operations (e.g. manufacturing, retail, professional services). All members sign a membership application, non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and Code of Conduct. Vendors who sell sustainability services are welcome, and may also be interested in sponsorships opportunities.
The three categories of membership are:
Any size business interested in taking a leadership role in driving the direction of the association, fulfilling the mission and vision of the association, and contributing annual dues of $3,500 or more, in exchange for access to all programming provided by the association, recognition and promotion as a Leadership Member, and a reserved position on the Board of Directors.
Any size business interested in fulfilling the mission and vision of the association, and contributing annual dues defined below based on their employee count in Iowa, in exchange for access to all programming provided by the association, recognition and promotion as a Business Member.
$250 for fewer than 100 employees
$500 for fewer than 1,000 employees
$750 for fewer than 5,000 employees
$1,000 for fewer than 10,000 employees
$2,000 for greater than or equal to 10,000 employees
Any size college, university, or educational institution with faculty or staff focused on sustainability interested in fulfilling the Mission and Vision of the association, and contributing annual dues of $250, in exchange for access to all programming and resources provided by the association, and recognition and promotion as an Academic Member.
Business View Magazine spoke with Adam Hammes, Executive Director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, for details on the organization and insights into sustainability concerns for Iowa businesses. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
BVM: Can you give us some background information on ISBF?
Hammes: “ISBF was formed in 2014, so we’re fairly young, although we do great work. It was originally started by a bunch of companies that were networking and wanted an association to share best practices in the state. We partnered with CIRAS (Center for Industrial Research and Services) at Iowa State University to do a feasibility study; interviewed 39 companies across the state of Iowa that had been recognized for various sustainability performance achievements and asked what they needed in the realm of assistance that an association could provide. Then at the end of the year, ISBF was launched with eight initial members and five founding members who gave a big chunk of money that was matched by CIRAS to launch the association.
“There were a lot of national and international networks that Iowa companies were a part of, but the State of Iowa has its own specific issues and utility costs and regulations, so we found there was a need for having a local state-focused association for sharing best practices and networking with other companies to learn how they’re managing energy, water, waste, transportation, fuels, as well as the social side of sustainability, which could cover recruitment and retention, taking care of people, diversity and inclusion, workspaces, safety, health and wellness, financial literacy, charitable giving. So, we created a broadly focused organization.”
BVM: How do you communicate with membership?
Hammes: “As an association we do a lot of direct marketing to companies that have been recognized for their programs, and other companies find us through word of mouth. My main priority as Executive Director is to ensure that our member businesses can solve sustainability challenges as fast as possible. And I do a lot of events management – we have a set calendar of events (webinars, roundtables, tours, etc.) and the themes change each quarter. It might be environmental topics like energy, water, waste, or a social topic like safety, health and wellness. Our most popular topic is communication – how companies can best communicate about sustainability principles and practices with employees and with customers. Most of my time is spent on event planning and meeting new companies who are interested in membership – I do a lot of presentations around the state and manage the website.
“We’re dabbling now in workforce development, adding that as a fourth event for high value sustainability training for professionals and bringing it to Iowa, where we don’t have it now. We’re leveraging our size and bringing in for example two Certified Energy Manager trainers and certifying 50 new Certified Energy Managers this year. It’s going well, and we’re interested in adding Workforce Development training events to the roster we offer.”
BVM: Why would a company become a member of ISBF?
Hammes: “No companies join our association unless they have a values match and are interested in doing the right thing in their company. They’re looking for how to do it responsibly. There are compliance issues that are always changing for businesses and that value is risk avoidance. If you’re not paying attention to compliance you’re running a huge risk. On top of that, if compliance is doing good you can avoid costs and save money with efficiencies. So we have companies developing really good management programs and metrics so they can do continuous improvement in all these categories.
“Then if they’re doing really interesting creative collaborations, that’s recruitment and retention and they can communicate that effectively to their employees who want to stay because they believe in the values. And last is revenue generation, if they’re doing all the other things well first. It’s like a pyramid. If you’re avoiding risk, you can save money. And then you can improve recruitment and retention by communicating the great sustainability programs you have. And if their brand is strong enough they’re getting new contracts and finding new customers by marketing and leveraging that brand.”
BVM: Are you member companies actively involved in sustainability initiatives?
Hammes: One thing we’re most proud of is that our members are proactive in a lot of environmental and social categories of initiatives. The fact that we are in Iowa makes it more difficult because if you look at utility costs from population and business size, we’re about a tenth of the size of California, and we have about a sixth of the cost of electricity for example. So it’s really easy if you’re in a state that has expensive utilities to do things that look really progressive but it’s purely because the numbers make sense.
“So our members are proactively trying to do these same initiatives with renewable energy, with risk management, with water conservation and stewardship and the reality is it’s not nearly as cost effective, yet they’re still doing everything they can. They’re being more creative, coming up with more innovative ways to approach the same problem, and that’s why they come to a Forum like ours because when things don’t pencil out easily and quickly, you need new ideas from other companies who have done it.”
Iowa Sustainable Business Forum: Member Benefits
ISBF is the only organization with Iowa companies sharing state-specific proven best practices in sustainability—the business case for environmental and social responsibility. We do not prescribe solutions, rather we survey our business members annually about their most pressing issues and theme our quarterly events around those topics.
Webinars—Easy Access – Quarterly, ISBF hosts two free webinars, each featuring two organizations sharing a proven best practice from a different business perspective.
Roundtables—High Value – Semi-annually, ISBF hosts a closed, confidential business roundtable with free lunch, guest speaker, and 2-hour asking for help from peer professionals with your #1 sustainability issue. Non-member guests pay a fee.
Tours—Most Popular – Semi-annually, ISBF hosts a members-only regional tour of sustainable business practices in one metro area. We provide a shuttle to at least three companies providing a presentation and physical site visit. There is always one lunch stop.
Member Library—Largest in Iowa – ISBF boasts the largest online library of corporate sustainability best practices in Iowa: 87 videos and 20 event summaries since 2014. At least 16 videos and 4 event summaries are added every year.
Member Directory—Direct Access to Answers – ISBF boasts Iowa businesses willing to share and learn on pre-competitive environmental and social issues. Name, title, email, and phone number. With 48 business members, we continue to growing quickly.
AT A GLANCE
Iowa Sustainable Business Forum
What: Non-profit industry association for Iowa businesses
Where: Des Moines, Iowa