This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sustainable Quality Awards, representing two decades of partnership between the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, the City of Santa Monica and Sustainable Works. The SQAs grew out of an idea sparked in 1994: that the business community had an opportunity to take the lead in recognizing the importance of adopting environmentally responsible principles on an individual and company level. We believed then as we do today that being that being green is good for the city and good for business.

Dean Kubani, Manager of the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, was there from the beginning. He recalls: “It’s unusual that a Chamber and a City collaborate on sustainability initiatives. Back in 1994, when I joined the City, it was unheard of. The Chamber initiated the idea of promoting sustainability by honoring businesses that incorporate those values into their daily operations. And, of course, we at the City were very supportive of the idea and wanted to work with the Chamber on it. From the start, the City and the Chamber have the same goal for the program, which is to recognize the great things going on in the business community as it relates to sustainability. Over the years, we’ve seen the evolution of that idea into a really fantastic partnership. To win an SQA today is incredibly difficult – it’s a very high bar. The businesses winning the awards now are leading the nation in sustainable business practices.”

Kubani himself has been a visionary force in ensuring that Santa Monica continues to lead the way on environmental issues, which is why we are proud to honor him with this year’s Individual Stewardship Award. The 2015 Grand Prizes will go to three local institutions that have gone above and beyond in their commitment to sustainable practices: the wealth management firm Capital Intelligence Associates, the beloved Promenade restaurant Locanda del Lago, and the LEED Gold-certified Shore Hotel. Ten companies and nonprofit organizations will be named Excellence Award winners. These winners — and those who have come before them over the past two decades — prove that adopting sustainable practices is good for the environment and good for the businesses’ bottom lines. They really do set a high bar for the rest of us – one I know Santa Monica businesses are ready and eager to meet.

Here at the Chamber of Commerce, we are walking the walk in our commitment to sustainability. We are one of the very few Green Certified Chambers of Commerce throughout the entire United States. We have an energetic Environmental Affairs Committee whose work throughout the year focuses on providing networking opportunities for businesses that want to contribute to a sustainable Santa Monica and to incorporate environmentally conscious practices into their operations. The committee also provides education and practical tips so that businesses in Santa Monica understand the environmental context in which they are making decisions. Areas of discussion and education include the drought, energy efficiency and sustainable procurement. The committee’s membership is a mix of businesses and organizations that have consistently been involved over many years, as well as newer members looking to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into their growing businesses. In fact, it’s one of the first committees new members join when they become part of the Chamber. We welcome you to come visit one of their regular meetings as a welcome into the Chamber.

We at the Chamber firmly believe that it is our role to help our businesses understand that sustainability should be an important part of their business model. Building a more sustainable future falls to all of us: individuals, families, businesses and, perhaps most importantly, the city itself. Santa Monica is engaged in a passionate and critical debate about our future, specifically as it relates to the ways in which we plan to balance continued growth, quality of life and economic development. Sustainability is, without question, a value that must guide that decision-making process. The City Council is currently considering an update to the city’s zoning ordinance that will have longstanding implications on our ability to support thriving, dynamic neighborhoods and streets that allow for a smart, efficient transit oriented housing strategy that reduces traffic, improves air quality, enhances pedestrian safety and maintains the quality of life we all enjoy. In 2010 our community codified our vision for a sustainable, vibrant future with the adoption of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of our City’s General Plan, but that vision is now under threat. We laid out our concerns in our March column in the Daily Press, when this same item was reviewed by the Planning Commission. Our Planning Commissioners, recognizing the wisdom of our LUCE, did not recommend that its vision for our Boulevards be amended. Please join us in standing up for sustainability tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council hearings on the zoning ordinance update, and let our Councilmembers know that you support the LUCE’s vision for a sustainable Santa Monica and that the proposed downzoning amendments should be rejected.

And please join us for the 20th Annual Sustainable Quality Awards this Thursday, April 16 at Le Meridien Delfina Hotel. Tickets are almost sold out! Visit www.smsqa.com to get a seat.

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