A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Attainable Sustainable:

Social Responsibility Meets Performance
Art at Sustainability Slam

By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

This feature highlights local businesses and their commitment to their employees, customers, the community and the future of the planet.

A trio from W.S. Badger Co. sang the joys of working in a family-friendly environment to the tune of “Ghostbusters.”

A representative of Timberland expounded on the mechanics of the company’s waste management program while three folks pantomimed, donned in sunglasses and head-to-toe white hazmat suits representing trash bags titled “recycle,” “compost” and “waste.”

And thus, social responsibility met performance art at the 2017 Sustainability Slam sponsored by New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility.

“Our mission is to support and inspire stakeholders to make a more sustainable state,” Michelle Veasey, executive director of the group said recently.

Among other things, the nonprofit group organizes social networking events, three-day corporate leadership programs and sustainability roundtables that allow business leaders and community members to discuss challenges and opportunities.

“We have a great network of businesses, large companies like Timberland, Stonyfield and Velcro and small providers, too. It’s a very diverse group that covers almost every industry in the state,” Veasey said.

Of the 200 business and organizations, 10 percent are nonprofits, including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“We offer a way for the nonprofits to network and perhaps team up with some of the companies that encourage their employees to engage in community activities,” Veasey said. “We want to engage and educate businesses. Connecting people and sharing stories and inspiring them is much of what we do.”

The group’s annual Sustainability Slam is its signature event. It is both entertaining and educational.

“We wanted to find a way for members to share their stories that does not involve just sitting and listening, but participating. It’s also a great way to bring our stories to the public,” said Veasey. “We encouraged people to submit their stories, and invited a group of talented people to do a preliminary review, then chose two companies in several categories to deliver presentations.”

The Sustainability Slam is an evening of “dynamic storytelling” during which businesses bring their stories to life through 90-second presentations that rely on humor, sometimes even music, to detail their efforts in recycling, community improvement and other strategies.

It’s a raucous celebration with the audience voting on the winners. Winners of this past November’s third annual slam at LaBelle Winery in Amherst included W.S. Badger Co., a Gilsum organic body care company that provides free lunches for employees, subsidizes child care, donates 10 percent of pre-tax income to local charities and pays its workers to work on community projects; and the Hanover Co-op Food Stores, whose Pennies for Change program allows customers to round up their bills to the nearest dollar with the resulting change donated to local charities.

Badger was the winner in the workplace category. Hanover Co-op won in the community category.
Veasey says social responsibility benefits employers, and employees as well as the community.

“Say there is a company that makes wire belts for machinery, it may be hard to relate to, but if that company is environmentally friendly, does food and toy drives and its employees go into the community and volunteer, it changes the way we feel about the company, and it makes the employees proud,” she said.

“Young people especially want to know that they are working for a purpose. And when you head into a downturn in the economy and the employees know that you value them, they are not going to leave.”