“Community planning is not the same today as it was even 10 years ago,” writes Melissa Eaton of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission on page 54 of this issue. That’s for sure—and not much else is, either. While discussing the regional planning initiative known as Brilliant.Bright.Community, Eaton defines the concept of a “sustainable community,” and poses a number of questions: First, can you build a path to sustainability, and secondly, are we open to change?
A lot has changed since iBi last focused on this topic back in September of 2008. At the time, the “green” movement was riding high; according to Fortune magazine, “the greening of corporate America [was] unstoppable.” Within weeks of publication, however, the global financial crisis had reared its ugly head, and… you know the rest. Here we are, exactly four years later, still grappling with the effects.
The lingering recession took a major toll on green initiatives, both locally and nationally. You can witness the wreckage in several articles from that 2008 issue: Bauer Power, the Michigan-based renewable energy company, had recently expanded its business into Dunlap; while Firefly Energy had just cut the ribbon on its new world headquarters in Peoria. Today, both companies are long gone from central Illinois.
But even the worst downturn since the Great Depression couldn’t kill the overarching trend toward sustainability—it merely slowed it down. The title of my editorial that month, “Sustainability Is Here to Stay,” rings as true today as it did then. In spite of everything we’ve been through the last four years, sustainability hasn’t gone away—if anything, its concepts have become even more firmly entrenched in both the public and private sectors. We continue to see an increase in sustainable practices, from the growth of the local foods movement to the installation of “green roofs” throughout central Illinois.
Meanwhile, on page 66, consultant Dan Dugal makes the business case for sustainability, with benefits including a more engaged workforce, a more trusted brand, and a lowered risk profile. This aligns with a recent Harvard Business School study, which found that companies that apply sustainable business practices are more profitable than those that don’t. The way that a company handles sustainability has become a competitive advantage.
“Green” may no longer be the hot buzzword it was four years ago, but that merely reflects its maturation. Can you build a path to sustainability? We shall see, but it appears that we’re doing that now. Are we open to change? Taking a look at what’s happening around the community, it appears that we are indeed. iBi