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The 2023 Sustainable Business Network's Annual Meeting took place Thursday, Feb. 2. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
The 2023 Sustainable Business Network's Annual Meeting took place Thursday, Feb. 2. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Sustainable Business Network brings its Annual Meeting in-person for the first time in three years

The organization's celebration of the region's local business community also included the presentation of the first-ever Triple Bottom Champion award.

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It had been nearly three years since the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia held its annual meeting in person.

The 2023 SBN Annual Meeting represented a semblance of normalcy, as dozens gathered at the Center for Architecture and Design — bringing together the region’s business community to celebrate the work being done and discuss plans on how to build a thriving local economy. 

“We are excited to celebrate our local business community in this special way. We're happy for this event and our overall programming to be back in person after our hiatus during the pandemic,” said SBN associate director Jared Lowe, during his opening remarks. 

SBN is the region’s only advocacy and membership organization for businesses committed to improving their environmental and social impact and profitability — a concept otherwise known as the Triple Bottom Line. 

The Annual Meeting celebrates that very mission, and its large membership who bring it to life each and every day. 

Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier served as this year’s keynote speaker. 

Prior to becoming a council member, Gauthier served as executive director of the SBN. It was the first time she had held a leadership role in the nonprofit sector. 

During her remarks, Gauthier highlighted that serving as the keynote for this annual event “is an opportunity to return to my roots, and to spend time with the community that has done so much for me,” she said. 

A large portion of her keynote speech served as a reflection of what was accomplished during her tenure at the helm, and how to build off those efforts heading into the future.

“Throughout my tenure, we created a new strategic vision for SBN — a vision that cemented our movement as one of Philadelphia’s most influential and impactful economic organizations,” said Gauthier. 

Some notable accomplishments included building a policy platform that has strengthened the organization’s advocacy work, creating an initiative to improve the region’s waterways, supporting the local economy, and creating green spaces, giving diverse small businesses the opportunity to grow. 

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Gauthier noted that she has taken all she learned during her time at the helm of SBN to form her agenda as a council member.

“I'm following in your footsteps and championing policies that uplift and empower disadvantaged communities, and the triple bottom line businesses that serve because allowing the type of businesses to come into our neighborhoods that will exploit them will cause irreparable harm to our communities,” she said. 

Her background has given her a unique perspective on the critical needs of local, diverse businesses and the range of social and economic issues facing her constituents. 

This year’s annual meeting marked the official one-year anniversary of SBN executive director, Devi Ramkissoon.

While she reflected on approaching the new role “with a lot of excitement, but also a lot of anxiety,” she noted that the positive experiences during her first year outweigh the challenges, “making this past year a rich and fulfilling journey.”

“The things that get me excited every day continue to be the same as they were on day one,” Ramkissoon added. “A firm belief that our approach to sustainability can affect true and lasting change, the pleasure of working with such a committed and talented team, and a sincere joy in serving all of our members and partners.”

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

As she looks ahead to her second year and beyond, Ramkissoon noted that it is not plausible to return to business as usual of pre-pandemic life. 

“The previous years underscored just how critical local businesses are to our economy and the support that they need to survive and remain sustainable,” she said. 

Given this dynamic, SBN is committed to finding innovative ways to support those small businesses and address the many longstanding challenges. 

During this year’s annual meeting, SBN handed out its first-ever Triple Bottom Champion award, which recognizes a business within SBN’s membership that embodies the triple bottom line approach of being mindful of people, the planet, and profits. 

This year’s winner was Fishtown Seafood. 

Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

As he accepted the inaugural award, Fishtown Seafood owner Bryan Szeliga noted that while the new small business has accomplished a lot during its short time in existence, there are still many more things to do.

“Hopefully this will be a platform moving forward for some of the gaps in our business… for us to be able to achieve and do more,” he said. 

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