The following is a speech I gave at the launch of a new solar project that will produce clean, renewable energy at two local schools, and will provide an estimated $300,000 in direct economic benefit to the city of Burlington. This project, located at Burlington High School and C.P. Smith Elementary School, is the largest roof-mounted solar panel array in the state of Vermont, and will produce a total of 228kW of locally generated energy. Learn more at VTDigger.com.
“I’m thrilled to be here today to celebrate the announcement of this project, the wonderful team of people who’ve come together to make it happen, and most importantly, from my perspective, the two amazing social entrepreneurs behind Encore Redevelopment, Chad Farrell and Nick Richardson.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of social entrepreneurs launched a number of Vermont businesses committed to changing the role and impact that the corporation has on community, the environment and our economy.
Their goal was to create a business community that had more than one bottom line – one that was committed to saving our environment and creating a country that epitomized equity and justice.
Those pioneers included:
- Will Raap of Gardener’s Supply
- Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s
- My partner and co-founder at Seventh Generation, Alan Newman
They did significantly impact the way business is done in America and what we’ve expected of companies. They broke new ground and created a movement that today has touched every Fortune 500 company.
Corporate responsibility is today an essential part of the business landscape and will play a critical role in which companies succeed and which fail.
Yet, while we raised the bar on business and sparked others to follow our lead, we face today deeper and more complex challenges than any of us could have imagined at the end of the 1980s:
- Profits at American companies are higher then they have ever been in 60 years
- Yet, corporate tax receipts as a share of profits are at their lowest level in at least 40 years
- Just 1% of Americans own 40 -50% of the wealth
- Inequality in America is worse than Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen
- 1 out of every 7 Americans now rely on food stamps
- 25 million children are homeless
- Global climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet
- Fresh water & top soil are disappearing at alarming rates
We face huge challenges to our economy, our society and to our planet.
And in the face of today’s celebration, let me voice a note of caution: In most respects we are still loosing ground against saving our planet and building a just and equitable society.
And while we must build upon and scale today’s success, many challenges and obstacles lie ahead, specifically in the field of alternative energy.
We have a visionary energy policy in the State of Vermont, and we must make sure that we fight for and protect the progress it calls for. There is simply too much at stake. We owe it to our children. And we must do our best to clean up the mess we’ve made of our world.
To face this challenge, we’ll need a new generation of entrepreneurs working in collaboration with public agencies and non-for-profit organizations.
Encore Redevelopment and their partners in this project are both an example of the leadership that is essential and positive vision of the type of future we must leave to our children.
The Burlington City Schools project represents a holistic and systemic approach to the challenges we face. It shows that, once again, Vermont represents a positive vision for our nation’s future. And it highlights the amazing sustainable innovation that emanates from our small state. The Burlington City Schools project represents the next generation of business and collaboration, beyond what my generation of entrepreneurs envisioned or believed possible.
This project is unique because it touches upon and strengthens the entire system that our world depends upon.
- It strengthens our local community
- Represents a new approach to economic development
- It supports education, most importantly about renewable energy
- It improves our environment
- It strengthens our economy
- It creates jobs
- It builds resilience
- It models cooperation through a public-private partnership
- It represents a collaboration between a number of Vermont Businesses
- And highlights the values that must guide us as we move into the future
There is much to celebrate about this project.
And I want to express my thanks and appreciation to Chad, Nick, Encore and all of their terrific partners.”