In 2000, a group of individuals involved in local business, spiritual organizations and community work were moved by speakers at the “Spirit, Commerce and Sustainability” conference held in Missoula. This group continued to meet: their goal was to create a network of individuals and businesses in the Missoula area dedicated to encouraging more sustainable practices and to encouraging more consumers to support sustainable businesses.
The Sustainable Business Council (SBC) held its initial meeting in February of 2002. Thirty businesses and two individuals joined the SBC that night and also marked the beginning of the bi-monthly Sustainable Lecture series. By 2013, the SBC’s membership has grown to about 200 members via word of mouth and the strength of its programs, which have progressively increased in quantity and quality over the years.
In 2007 the SBC became a 501(c)(3) non-profit. SBC introduced the Missoula community to the Buy Local holiday campaign in 2008 to encourage consumers to support locally owned businesses. That year as well, SBC recognized the first group of local individuals and businesses for their efforts through the now-annual Sustainability Awards. The popular Local Fest, began in 2009. The event, held each June under the tent in Caras Park, gives the public a chance to celebrate and support local food, music, arts, and cooking, and in 2012 premiered the local celebrity chef cook-off. In 2014, the SBC launched a 10% Buy Local Food Pledge campaign instead of Local Fest.
The ongoing Sustainable Lecture series, co-sponsored by The University of Montana’s School of Business Administration, has brought nationally recognized speakers to Missoula audiences. These have included Andy Mangan of the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Sustainability Coordinator Cheri Chastain, and in 2013, Steve Lippman, Sustainability Coordinator of Microsoft. The SBC also hosts a Sustainability Shot Series, which gives local leaders in sustainability initiatives the chance to spotlight their expertise and knowledge on a variety of topics.
The Sustainable Business Council’s board and members continue to work to promote programs that empower local businesses, energize the economy, and engage the Missoula community in promoting sustainable practices and thinking.