HomeWhat is the impact economy, and how do I know if I’m part of it?

SBN and Best for PHL’s Minority Enterprise Development Week Panel

As part of Philadelphia’s Minority Enterprise Development Week programming, SBN gathered three local women, minority, and disadvantaged business enterprise (WMDBE) business owners to discuss what the triple bottom line means to them and their business. The event, “What is the Impact Economy and How Do I Know if I’m Part of It?”, created a platform to share insights from three different sectors, showcasing how companies can go beyond only considering the conventional bottom line.

SBN was proud to welcome Liz Brown (Webjunto), Lou Rodriguez (Rodriguez Consulting) and Aasit Nanvati (WeGardn)to present on this panel.

Diversity, inclusion, and the triple bottom line have always been important aspects of Liz Brown’s business plan:

“What drove me to start the business, was knowing that I could use it to make a difference.”

By providing programming aimed at teaching students coding as well as promoting technology access in schools, Liz and her team are positively impacting the next generation of workers in Philadelphia’s growing tech community. She is also enthusiastic about civic hacking, a meetup of designers and developers who think collectively and creatively to solve pressing social issues. We have civic hacking to thank for new developments such as OneBusAway, a real-time locator for accurate public transportation schedules. The app was created by a civic hacking meetup of programmers and developers and has now expanded to multiple cities nationwide while still being run as an open source project.

When starting his company in 2007, Lou Rodriguez’s first hire was a female land surveyor from Poland who was unable to find a job here in the United States despite earning extensive education beyond what is required in the US. Realizing that there are many more highly skilled, yet under-served workers struggling to find employment, Lou decided to create a company culture that highlighted diversity. Today, with a team of international engineers and surveyors, Lou has been able to welcome employees from an expansive mix of backgrounds, experience, and ideas to address any challenges the team is faced with.

Aasit Nanvati is also no stranger to the impact economy. After extensive experience working in underserved communities internationally, Nanvati realized the importance of developing holistic partnerships between business, government, and educational institutions to address social needs. After returning to Philadelphia, he used his findings to get right to work developing a new online marketplace aimed to provide access to fresh, high quality, local foods. WeGardn brings diversity to the market by allowing small local farmers to reach a more widespread audience to sustain their business. Additionally, the online retailer provides a means for diverse consumers to access fresh nutritious foods, which is particularly a challenge for urban residents who don’t have local farm markets.

These three businesses demonstrate what it means to be part of the impact economy. Clearly these businesses are making a difference in Philadelphia, but in order to determine whether or not a business’s impact will have any effect on who is awarded city contracts we welcomed Trevor Day to the panel. As Procurement Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia, he shared how he has incorporated a “Best Value” policy for the department. This policy allows the city to consider impact when selecting vendors. His team not only compares prices but also quality, sustainability, and social impact. This policy makes it possible for smaller businesses to land government contracts, even if they are unable to provide the lowest costs.

It has been shown that money spent at local businesses will circulate through the economy three more times than if spent at a corporation or non-local business.

By opting to use local businesses, the city is impacting our communities on a broad scale and ensuring that money spent in Philadelphia, stays in Philadelphia.

In addition to enacting their new “Best Value” policy, local government is has doing what they can to encourage a more localized approach to institutional procurement. This starts with listening to the local business community. Over the past several months, SBN has gathered feedback from business owners about local procurement and we will use this information to make policy recommendations aimed at simplifying the procurement process. After hearing about these three businesses’ impact model and their commitment to diversity and inclusion, we look forward to the future of local procurement as one way to build a more resilient local economy.

To learn more about the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, click here.

Are you part of the impact economy? Want to learn more? Click here to take the Best for PHL workshop.