The Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year Award is presented to leading local independent businesses in Massachusetts that are helping to build economies that are local, green and fair. The awards were presented at the Annual SBN Holiday Gala, held at the Armory for the Arts in Somerville on Thursday, December 14, 2017.
A committee of leaders in the sustainable business movement in Massachusetts chose five winners, based on local, green, and fair values.
Congratulations to the 2017 SBN Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year Winners!
Budding Small Business | Eastern Massachusetts
Bon Me is a food-truck-and-restaurant company run by Boston-bred duo Patrick Lynch and Ali Fong. The business was born in 2010 when the two entered the City of Boston’s Food Truck Contest on a whim and surprised themselves by winning! Once they got the good news, they bought an old delivery truck, gave it a makeover, and started slinging sandwiches on Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
Since then, the company has worked to grow sustainably and make a positive impact in the communities they call home. They minimize their impact on the local and global environment by using compostable packaging, composting all food waste generated on their trucks and at their commissary, providing benefits to employees commuting via public transportation or bike, buying from local vendors, and creating systems for reducing food waste.
Bon Me is also an active business leader in the Fight for 15. As a member of the small business community, they have advocated at the State House for fair wages on the premise that businesses can and should provide employees a living wage, and work to decrease the wage gap in Boston. They believe that businesses can succeed not just in spite of paying living wages, but because of their commitment to their employees. They’ve raised their starting wage to $13/hour and are working towards $15/hour by the end of 2018.
As part of their commitment to make a positive impact on communities, they also work with Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center and the Chinese Progressive Association. Bon Me participates in employment classes to help train and hire underemployed Chinese immigrants and more actively engagethem in their communities.
Working to create equal employment opportunities, Bon Me is proud to have a management team that is more than 50% women. As an early signer of 100% Talent: Boston Women’s Compact, they also pledge to take measurable steps to eliminate gender wage gaps and representation.
Bon Me has grown a lot since their delivery food truck days! They now have colorful restaurants and food trucks all across the Boston-area. As they look to continue to expand their presence, they are committed to continuing their use of sustainable business practices to bring you their bold, fresh, and fun Asian cuisine.
Seasoned Small Business | Eastern Massachusetts
Preserve was born in Massachusetts in 1996 with the mission of reducing the harm caused by the industrial age by demonstrating that consumer products can be both fabulous and lighter on the earth.
Preserve’s Founder, Eric Hudson chose to focus on recycled plastic as a way to reduce the impact of consumer products. Studying the recycling system, as it existed at the time, Eric noticed a missing link. More consumers were recycling, but few manufacturers were putting recycled materials to good use. Low-quality penholders and cheap ashtrays abounded, while thoughtful vision was absent. In 1996, to address this gap, Eric founded Preserve.
Through innovations in recycled materials and sustainable design, Preserve now creates more than 50 recycled and compostable products for households and food service venues, several of them best sellers in their category. All of Preserve’s plastic products are made in the USA using recycled polypropylene or #5 plastic. Preserve works with long term manufacturing partners to produce its products and is proud that more than a third of its supply chain is based in Massachusetts (other manufacturing locations include Michigan and New York.)
In addition to producing products, Preserve also focuses on the takeback of # 5 plastic and runs the Gimme 5 program, a consumer powered recycling program with over 250 collection bins at Whole Foods Market locations nationwide. Since Gimme 5’s founding in 2008, Preserve has partnered with Stonyfield Farm, Brita, Burt’s Bees, Plum Organics, and Keurig Green Mountain among others to help collect and recycle their packaging into products such as the Preserve razor and toothbrush handle. The Gimme 5 program has recycled more than 1.2 million pounds of #5 plastic to date.
Preserve is a B Corporation and is recognized as a leader in the impact business space and generally in the circular economy. It employs 14 people at its Waltham, MA headquarters and roughly 100 people throughout its supply chain, giving back to the community via volunteer days and locally targeted giving. Since its founding, Preserve has sought to use innovation to solve environmental challenges and to empower people to make everyday choices that are better for the earth while offering real solutions without compromise. Preserve products can be found at a wide variety of retailers including grocery and natural food stores. Learn more at preserve.eco.
Mid-Sized Business | Eastern Massachusetts
Equal Exchange is a local Massachusetts company with headquarters in West Bridgewater. The company was founded in 1986 and now employs over 150 people with annual sales of over $70 million. The vision that the three Equal Exchange founders – Jonathan Rosenthal, Michael Rozyne and Rink Dickinson– held in their minds and hearts as they stood together on a metaphorical cliff back in 1986 was to create a company committed to fairness for farmers and a closer connection between farmers and those who benefit from their work.
From the beginning, Equal Exchange has challenged the conventional rules of how to do business. From positive relationships with farmer suppliers to their democratic worker coop structure to the role of outside investors, Equal Exchange has sought to inject fairness into a marketplace and to build a business model that can succeed.
Equal Exchange pioneered the concept of fair trade with farmer cooperatives. The risks taken to support farmers is not only to improve living standards but also to help them wrestle political and economic power from the well-connected plantation owners in their countries. These partnerships have in turn enabled Equal Exchange to secure and market extremely high quality coffee, cacao, tea, bananas and other products for consumers in this country.
Equal Exchange is one of the largest worker-owned cooperatives in the nation and this coop is dedicated to giving deep meaning to participation and worker ownership. The Equal Exchange team works every day to nurture and build an enduring and inspiring model of ownership. In addition, Equal Exchange has developed a unique model for raising capital. Over 600 people have invested $14 million-a practice that has stood the test of time while being fair to shareholders yet retaining worker control.
Never resting on its laurels, Equal Exchange is looking forward to the next thirty years, as they work to engage people in this country even more deeply in the local food production and distribution. Equal Exchange looks at those who support them as not simply consumers, but rather as “citizen-consumers” who will collaborate in the difficult work at reforming the entire food system. The newly established Equal Exchange Action Forum is in the early stages of defining and testing this work, and they understand that long-term viability is dependent on their ability to broaden and deepen their engagement with like-minded people and organizations in Massachusetts and across the country.
Small Business | Western Massachusetts
Real Pickles is a small, worker-owned cooperative located in Greenfield, MA, producing fermented pickled products that are raw, vinegar-free, 100% organic, and regionally grown. Real Pickles is committed to promoting human and ecological health by providing people with delicious, nourishing food and by working toward a regional and organic food system, all with the well-being of its employees, the community, and our shared planet at heart!
Operating since 2001, Real Pickles’ fermented vegetables are grown only in the Northeast U.S. and are sold only within the same region. Over 300,000 pounds of organic vegetables are purchased each year from eight family farms in Massachusetts & Southern Vermont. At Real Pickles, they believe that pickles don’t need to have much of a carbon footprint if the vegetables can be grown, processed, and sold in the same region. Working with certified organic farms also promotes best agricultural practices, healthy ecosystems, and the highest quality ingredients.
Serious about reducing environmental impact, Real Pickles strives to ensure that energy usage and waste are minimized. In combination with energy-saving improvements, such as high-efficiency lighting and a walk-in cooler that uses outside air in the winter, a 17-kW solar installation provides 75% of their electricity needs!
The creation of meaningful and living wage jobs is paramount to the crew at Real Pickles, which is why every worker has the opportunity to become an owner of the business! Larger business decisions are made co-operatively, and the worker-owners foster a culture that makes for a creative, supportive, fun, and satisfying place to work. Employees feel empowered to make their jobs work for them.
Real Pickles is a community asset and partner, not just a pickle business. A central part of their mission is to engage with the community to help build a better food system and an economy that supports both people and our planet. Learn more at: www.realpickles.com
PeoplesBank is deeply rooted in the community and has been since 1885. Founded and still headquartered in Holyoke, our commitment has been, and will continue to be, one centered on serving the financial needs of our customers, operating responsibly as a good corporate citizen, creating a great place to work for our people and working hard to improve our environment. At PeoplesBank, we have a passion for what is possible.
As the largest community bank in the Pioneer Valley, we are committed to making this area a healthier place to live. PeoplesBank has proven that we have expertise and the financial strength to make large-scale green initiatives a reality through our lending and business practices. From lending to groups for upgrades to hydroelectric equipment, financing wind farms, to ensuring that we look at our own internal opportunities, the Bank is committed to doing the right thing for our future.
PeoplesBank is a leader in innovation, corporate responsibility, environmental sustainability, and employee engagement. Our three LEED® certified offices are environmentally friendly, and we have financed more than $145 million in wind, hydroelectric and solar energy projects.
As the largest community bank in the market, we have a unique ability to help the communities we serve through volunteer efforts and millions of dollars in donations to charitable and civic causes. Our associates devote an average of 6,000 hours to volunteer work each year, and 48 of the bank’s officers serve on the boards of directors and committees of 115 nonprofit organizations in the area.
As a mutual bank, PeoplesBank is responsible to its depositors, employees and the community. This organizational structure allows us to focus on the long-term viability of the bank and the best interests of our customers.
A look back at the 2016 Winners…