Lots of indicators of water quality and habitat show that progress is slowly being made to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Ultimately, we would probably all agree that it will take commitment from all segments of society and a broad base of participation to be successful in reaching our goals in the long term and sustaining the restoration effort.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is focused on the spirit of collaboration and local stewardship in all we do, working with a diverse array of communities, businesses, watershed and conservation groups, universities, farmers, landowners, and local governments to expand the work of restoration throughout the watershed. Because of their unique role as employer and deliverer of goods and services on which we all depend, the business community has unique potential to influence public action.

The Alliance kicked-off the new Businesses for the Bay Membership Association (B4B) in 2016 and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. B4B’s mission is to encourage businesses to take voluntary, innovative, and measurable actions that improve water quality and the health of Chesapeake lands, rivers, and streams, and to increase understanding of the valuable role business members play in environmental restoration.

B4B provides a forum where businesses can make their voices heard, share best practices, facilitate volunteer opportunities for employees, save money, reach sustainability and social goals, and be more visible in their environmental efforts with associates, customers, and their communities. The 2016 B4B Annual Report is available at: businesses.allianceforthebay.org/2017/03/10/2016-b4b-annual-report

From innovation and problem solving, product development and marketing, technical and management experience, financial investment, and a motivated and engaged workforce, businesses can bring critical power to the Bay restoration effort.

B4B members of all sizes and from all sectors are learning more about Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and having a positive impact through their own actions. B4B members carry messages about the Chesapeake restoration effort to their communities, and as momentum grows, the positive outcomes of our members serve as leadership models for others, having a lasting impact.

B4B also encourages businesses to tie their broader environmental and social responsibility goals to local and regional goals– all business members commit to at least one action important to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement’s 5 themes (Clean Water, Fisheries and Habitats, Conserved Lands, Climate Change Resiliency, and Engaged Communities). You can learn about all of our members’ actions by visiting our online member directory: businesses.allianceforthebay.org/members/directory.

For example, the Luck Companies – Corporate Campus team in Virginia captures all stormwater runoff (4,449,506 gallons in 2016!) from impervious surfaces and uses the captured stormwater to irrigate the campus’ outdoor lawns and gardens. They have installed and maintain 5,350 square feet of pervious pavers. In addition, Luck Companies has instituted a wide range of office sustainability measures from energy efficiency to eliminating the use of disposable water bottles.

The Lockheed Martin – Manassas team in Virginia is creating native habitats and monitoring their use. They have installed 6 bee blocks and 16 songbird nest boxes for native cavity-nesting birds and maintain a 3,700 square foot native meadow on the site, now in its 3rd growing season.

The small business, Dancing Grass Designs LLC in Maryland, is conserving land by planting and maintaining native trees on their property. Their objective is to connect fragmented forests, creating important wildlife corridors between their office site and a nearby Forest Conservation area.

Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, Inc. in Pennsylvania has made their land more resilient to climate change not only by growing trees for sale but also by planting native shade trees next to their streams to cool the water.

Fareva Richmond, Inc. in Virginia maintains a walking trail on their property that employees can use to exercise and also learn about native plants. They also celebrate Earth Day each year through a sunflower give-away, encouraging the planting for birds and other native wildlife.

Through B4B, the Alliance has also formed a strong network of 34 diverse governmental and non-profit Networking Partners that participate in B4B events and share information. Successful partnerships include the Chesapeake Bay Program, Choose Clean Water Coalition, Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, Maryland Green Registry, Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Virginia and Lancaster, PA Chambers of Commerce, Virginia Environmental Excellence Program, and Virginia Turfgrass Council.

For example, working with the Virginia Turfgrass Council (VTC), we are interested in enriching the dialogue about watershed-wide topics and initiatives within the turfgrass industry. Through this networking partnership, Dr. Jorge Ribas of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is helping the VTC translate important pesticide and fertilizer information and providing training to Spanish-speaking VTC members and other landscape professionals. We will continue to cultivate and grow this relationship with VTC in 2017. Engaging and helping to inform the business community is at the heart of B4B.

Bringing businesses together to learn about and create concrete solutions to local environmental issues is the purpose of a series of Chesapeake Business Forums. The Alliance and B4B will host a Forum in Smithfield, Virginia on June 21, 2017. This Forum, “Linking Communities, Businesses, and Waterway Protection” will provide a space for business leaders, local governments, and watershed, conservation, and community groups to come together in a day of discussion surrounding the issue of sea level rise and coastal resiliency in the region. The Forum will offer examples of ways that businesses, watershed organizations, and landowners can work together and adapt to coming changes. The Forum promotes collaboration, innovation, and commitment to a clean and healthy watershed, and will provide a space for networking, sharing resources, and brainstorming. Learn more at: http://businesses.allianceforthebay.org/event/6-21-2017-va-forum

If you would like to be a part of B4B or join our mailing list, please contact Corinne Stephens at B4B@allianceforthebay.org, visit businesses.allianceforthebay.org, or join our B4B LinkedIn group www.linkedin.com/groups/8433450.