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Case Study > Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network (SSBN)



Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network

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Sustainable green businesses are not imaginary. Local businesses have learned how to help the community, protect the environment, and earn a profit in the process. The Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network is the main driving force behind the “green” business movement in the Lancaster area and the region. SSBN is the only sustainable business network between SBN Philly, established in 2002, and Sustainable Pittsburgh, founded in 1998. SSBN's efforts have made significant strides in the sustainable community. This isn’t a marketing fad or "greenwashing," it’s an authentic mission to think local, buy local, and be local with a sustainable mission.

The Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network (SSBN), a 501c3 membership based non-profit is changing the way business is being done in Lancaster and York counties and the surrounding region. SSBN promotes the support of local businesses along with environmentally friendly practices. The network is dedicated to create a sustainable economy and promote environmentally friendly practices. The members of this organization understand how to be “green” while making green. SSBN has partnered with Community Energy Inc. to spread renewable energy across central PA. For more click here:

community energy

SSBN Solar Tour (Click for video)


SSBN Basics

Triple Bottom Line

SSBN Building Blocks

Helping You Become More Sustainable

SSBN Events


Lancaster and York Local Capital Days are one of SSBN's locally targeted sustinable campaigns.

Green Pages
SSBN spomnsors the Green Pages, an annual publication of environmentally and socially friendly businesses in York and Lancaster County. Essentially, it is the Yellow pages, but aimed toward promoting sustainability. The Green Pages has a list of green businesses with a wide array of environmentally friendly products and services, aimed to help you live a little bit greener. Flip through the pages to find a variety of sustainably menifded businesses, articles, and a farmers market listing. The Green Pages can be downloaded from SSBN’s website. (


SSBN Basics

The SSBN is a group of businesses, non profits and social entrepreneurs who work together to create a local sustainable economy in the region. This means they are trying to make the world a better place, and they’re starting in your backyard. Why not benefit the people that your business relies on most? It almost makes too much sense.

First of all, let’s learn about what all this sustainability stuff means. After all, it is the most important word in SSBN. Sustainability means to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So, don’t deplete resources and don’t damage the Earth. That’s basically the main focus of this business network.

Now if that last statement raised a red flag, don’t be worried. Many of us find it difficult to imagine a business caring about their impact on the Earth. Usually the main focus of a business is profit, and it will use any means necessary to earn that profit, even if that means harming the environment. SSBN businesses have decided to break free from the typical business focus and have chosen to take a different approach through networking, education and advocacy.

Triple Bottom Line

Since a typical business focuses on the bottom line, profit, SSBN businesses decided to focus on the sustainable bottom lines of People, Planet, and Profit. By keeping these three goals in mind, an SSBN business can help improve the community, clean up the environment, and ensure it’s financial stability.

Triple Bottom Line
- People
- Planet
- Profit


People are very important to any business. To most businesses, people are valued for their financial support. For an SSBN business, people are much more than a source of income; they are the life of the sustainability movement. This is why they are first in this list. It is important to show your community you care about them, so why not take an active role in the improvement of your community?

SSBN businesses invest in community projects and organizations. These projects are designed to promote sustainability and increase the quality for the community. Businesses work together to reduce costs for consumers. No one would be willing to be sustainable if it cost an unreasonable amount of money. SSBN businesses work to make the community better. Better communities make happier people, and who doesn’t want to be happy?


Sustainability is all about reducing our impact on the environment. Many businesses create large amounts of pollution and destroy natural resources without even batting an eye. For some businesses, it is simply the way only way they can operate, but others simply have no concern for the environment. This behavior has a negative effect on our environment and SSBN businesses are determined to decrease their impact.

Now don’t go and think they left the community out of this one. A large part of being an SSBN business is helping the community become more environmentally friendly. Providing the community with information on sustainable practices and giving them the means to carry out those practices is an effective way to help improve the Earth. Businesses cannot improve the world on their own; they need the cooperation of the community.


Now let’s be serious, all businesses need profits to exist. I don’t think anyone has heard of a successful business that makes no money. SSBN businesses are no different in this aspect. They believe it is important to improve the community and help the planet, but in order to survive, they must make money. A typical business would have profit at the top of their list, and that’s why SSBN businesses are so special.

Now how does an SSBN business ensure profits? Since they are part of a network, many businesses in the SSBN give discounts or reduce rates for other members of the network. This can help reduce costs. Another way network members ensure profits is by advertising and referring customers to other SSBN members. Why not help out the people that have the same mission as you?


Mixers at member business and attending regional sustainability events to provide information and the Local Green Pages at events are two kinds of activities SSBN is involved with.

SSBN Building Blocks

In order to create a sustainable local economy, you must have a system or a plan of action. Let’s face it, an economy isn’t going to become sustainable on it’s own. In order to build a sustainable economy, changes must be made to the areas that will produce the most positive results. These are core areas that an economy must have in order to function properly. The SSBN calls these areas the building blocks. There are four building blocks to a sustainable economy.

The 4 Building Blocks

- Retail
- Farming
- Building
- Energy



Retail is the first building block of a sustainable economy. Essentially retail is any business that you buy goods from. You know, where you get your clothes, food, furniture, basically anything and everything. This is a very important part of the local economy. Retail businesses give people jobs and provide the community with the goods they need.

So how does the SSBN work to make retail more sustainable? Well first off, the SSBN promotes local businesses. These are the businesses that are owned and operated by people in the community. These aren’t large corporations or publicly traded businesses. Companies that are owned by people outside the community usually don’t have the community’s best interests in mind. That’s why the SSBN created its Think Local First campaign.

Retail’s Economic Benefits
The Think Local First campaign promotes the support of locally owned businesses. If a person were to spend $100 dollars at a locally owned business, about $68 dollars would stay in the community. If that person spent the same amount at a business that was not locally owned, only $43 dollars would stay in the community.

Why do local businesses contribute more to the community? Local businesses hire local employees. This means more community members are getting paychecks, and possibly higher pay. Chances are, when an individual earns more money, they will spend more money. The money that was earned now can be transferred to another community member’s pockets.

When a business earns money, taxes are taken from those earnings. If a business is local, their tax money will go back to the community. This money will go to local school districts and help fund projects in the surrounding community. Just think, if you spend money at the local store, you could be supporting your neighbor, buying new books for the school district, and fixing the potholes on your street, all in one purchase.

Retail’s Environmental Benefits
By choosing to shop locally, you can help reduce pollution. How is that possible? Well, it’s actually quite simple. By shopping at local retailers, you cut down on travel distance. This reduces the amount of pollution your car would create as you drove to the store. Plus who likes sitting in traffic anyway?

In addition to reducing your emissions, shopping locally reduces transportation emissions. National retailers can transport goods over hundreds of miles to reach their destination. The vehicles that transport the goods emit greenhouse gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. With a local retailer, transportation needs are usually minimal. The business has its products delivered, and they sell them to you. There’s no complex transportation network. All you have to do is simply travel to the retailer. Just think, you could save money on gas, reduce pollution, and smile knowing you don’t have to waste so much time sitting in traffic.

Retail’s Community Benefits
Buying things from local retailers will help my community? That’s right. Investing in local businesses will create more local jobs. That means more people in your community will be employed and contributing to the local economy. With the increase of money, comes an increase in charitable donations. A retailer that has more money will most likely donate to local charities. A charity with more funding can do a whole lot more to help the people that need it most. Why not give back to the community that supports you?


Farming is the second building block of a sustainable local economy. Farming is very important, because it is what gives us our much-needed nourishment. Food is an essential part of life and it is ingrained in our culture. The Susquehanna Valley, which includes Lancaster and York Counties, is renowned for its great farming land. Just take a trip around the area and you are bound to see farms almost everywhere.

Since food is very important part of our lives, and there are so many farms in Lancaster and York Counties, why not make it a building block? So how does the SSBN promote sustainability through farming? The SSBN promotes the support of locally grown food. Just like the Think Local campaign, the SSBN supports the Buy Fresh Buy Local organization. Buy Fresh Buy Local encourages people to buy food from local farms. This supports local farmers and decreases transportation distances.

Farming’s Economic Benefits
So, buying food from local farmers will benefit whom? It will benefit the farmers and their families of course. Just like the benefits of local retail, supporting local farms puts money in the pockets of the farm owner. Farming is a big part of Lancaster and York Counties, so why not support your neighbors? Purchasing local food allows farmers to continue their operations, which in return ensures the availability of food.

Farming’s Environmental Benefits
By supporting local farmers I am helping the environment? When you buy a piece of produce at a large chain grocery store, chances are that piece of food traveled a long distance from where it was grown to where it is sold. Something had to transport that food and it most likely created pollution in the process. So by going down to the local farmer’s produce stand, you probably eliminated hundreds of miles worth of pollution. Not only does transportation use resources and create pollution, the storage of produce sometimes requires refrigeration. This also increases the amount of energy used in the transportation of the food. Just imagine how much energy a refrigerated truck consumes in a cross-country trip.

When a piece of food is transported and stored for a long period of time, it may require chemicals to preserve its freshness. By purchasing local food, you could potentially reduce the amount of chemicals that would have been used to preserve the food. This means fewer chemicals have the chance to be accidentally released into the environment. That decreases the negative impacts that could have affected vegetation and wildlife.

Farming’s Community Benefits
Since Lancaster and York Counties contain a large number of farms, farmers make up a large part of the community. By purchasing local foods, you are giving money back to the community. The money that otherwise would have gone off to a large company in a different state is now helping your local farmer support their business and pay their bills. By supporting local farms, you could be keeping a family’s heritage alive.

Purchasing local food can reduce the amount of preservatives you consume. Since the food does not travel far distances, it does not need chemicals to keep it fresh. You simply buy it fresh. Purchasing foods with little or no preservatives can help improve the health of community members. Just think about it, if you consume fewer unnatural chemicals, it’s probably good for you.



Building is the third building block of a sustainable economy. In order for an economy to survive, construction is needed. Businesses need warehouses and marketplaces to store and sell goods. People need housing. Government and community groups need bases for operation. Roads and other means of transportation are required for the transport of goods and people. Construction is very important to a sustainable economy, but the preservation of natural lands and waterways is just as important as the construction of new buildings and roadways. After all, how could you build and remain sustainable without leaving an impact on the environment?

Building’s Economic Benefits
How can building help the local economy? This should be an easy one to answer. Usually local companies perform construction. It simply isn’t feasible to hire a company based in Seattle to build a pizza place in Lancaster. The travel distance would be too long and the cost would be inflated. By hiring local construction companies, building costs can be reduced. Just like purchasing local agriculture, hiring local builders puts money back into the pockets of the community.

In addition to creating new structures, economic benefits can be experienced from the improvement of preexisting buildings. Revitalizing downtown districts can promote business growth in areas that otherwise would have no economic activity. Historical buildings can be renovated to become more energy efficient. What’s more cost effective and sustainable than using previously existing structures to create new environmentally friendly buildings?

Building’s Environmental Benefits
Building has a huge impact on the environment. Just think about it. If a company wanted to put a supermarket in a rural area, first they would have to destroy trees and other natural vegetation just to create a building site. In addition to the destruction of the land, other resources must be destroyed to create building materials such as wood, concrete, and other items. The SSBN believes it is possible to build and leave a small impact on the environment. This can be done with careful planning and resource management.

When building green, much consideration must be taken to ensure the environment is not damaged. How can this be done? First off, a community can layout development plans to reduce dependence on vehicles. Concentrate businesses and industry in similar areas to reduce the need for travel. This can help reduce pollution. Smarter building practices and careful site design can cut down on the runoff that flows into waterways. One of the most important aspects of green building, especially for Lancaster and York Counties is the preservation of farmland. The second block, faming is dependent heavily on the protection and preservation of the natural landscape.

Building’s Community Benefits
By protecting natural landscapes and waterways, the community will benefit from having a beautiful healthy landscape. This can cause an increase in the aesthetic appeal that can bring more members to the community. These are the type of people that can assist in the sustainable movement.

In addition to beautifying the natural areas surrounding the community, historic structures and old buildings can be renovated. Why not just tear them down? Sometimes it is more cost effective to improve a preexisting structure rather than starting from scratch. Plus renovating downtown districts can increase economic activity, bringing in more jobs and tourism.



Energy is the fourth and final block in the SSBN approach to a sustainable economy. Energy is usually the area that we produce the most negative environmental effects. Energy in the United States in its most popular forms is used for transportation, heating/cooling and electricity. Almost every aspect of our lives involves energy. Even if you are not a member of the SSBN, you can help reduce the negative impacts created by energy consumption.

So how does the SSBN promote sustainability through energy? This is one of the most popular areas in creating a sustainable economy. It seems as if new types of renewable energy are popping up everywhere. The SSBN promotes the conservation of energy. That means they want everyone to cut back just a little on their electricity use. They also promote the use of renewable sources of energy. These are methods used to produce electricity and fuels without depleting natural resources.

Why not make truck fuel from plant matter, rather than fossils? Electricity can be produced from water, sunlight, and wind. Go ahead and choose one that suits you best. Reduce electricity use by changing the lights in your home from standard to compact fluorescent lights. Go out and buy energy saving electronics.

Energy’s Economic Benefits
Since energy is essential for almost every aspect of life, it is important to cut back and conserve. Businesses use electricity to power their operations. Retailers need electricity for lights and computers, food markets need electricity to keep their food cool. Businesses also rely on transport fuels to move their products. Energy is a big part of the local economy.

The SSBN provides its members and the public with information on how to reduce energy consumption. How does this help a community become more sustainable? It can drastically reduce costs. Did you know if you install a solar panel on your home, you could run your electric meter backwards? That’s right. The energy produced from solar panels can offset the cost of the electric company’s power. This can potentially save a single household hundreds in utility costs. That means if you are producing sustainable energy, money is going back into your pocket.

By reducing energy consumption both in electricity and in transportation fuels, a local business can reduce its operating costs greatly. These saved dollars can go toward better pay for employees or reduced prices for consumers. That means you could earn more money, or buy the things you need for less money. Conserving energy and using renewable sources of energy can potentially make everybody’s pockets happier.

Energy’s Environmental Benefits
The production of electricity produces a vast amount of airborne pollution. A large percentage of the electricity that is delivered to your house has probably come from the burning of fossil fuels. Chances are, the fuel of choice was coal. I can personally vouch for this. My hometown is within a 5-mile radius of 3 coal burning energy plants. That is quite a bit of pollution for such a small area.

So how can renewable energy benefit the environment? Well first of all, if renewable energy is producing a majority of the electricity, that means dirty forms of energy like coal can be utilized less. This can reduce the amount of pollution released into our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. The chemicals in air pollution can cause acid rain that can damage crops and negatively affect wildlife. The process of burning fossil fuels also contributes to global warming by trapping the Sun’s radiation, increasing the temperature of our planet. This contributes to climate change, which can alter weather patterns and temperatures around the Earth.

There are other benefits to reducing the consumption of energy. By reducing the demand of transport fuels and heating fuels, less fossil fuels will have to be extracted from the Earth. That means there will be less drilling and mining, which leaves a heavy impact on the environment. Extracting fossil fuels requires energy, so some of the fuel is wasted on the process of actually getting the fuel in the first place. It doesn’t make much sense does it? By conserving energy and switching to alternative sources, the quality of the air we breath, the water we drink, and the environment that surrounds us can be greatly increased.

Energy’s Community Benefits
Switching to renewable sources of energy can have a positive impact on our community. Businesses can receive support from the government. That means they can receive money to help with the installation cost of a solar panel system. This can help offset the initial costs associated with switching to renewable energy. The business can then focus its money toward other important improvements. For example, the money saved on energy could go toward improving the employee healthcare plan.

In addition to reducing electricity costs, alternative energy can help reduce the pollution caused by the burning of transportation fuels. Instead of using diesel in their trucks, a company can switch to a much cleaner alternative, biofuel. By using a fuel created from the soybean, rather than fossil fuels, less pollution will be emitted along our streets. This can improve the quality of the air in our cities and allow everyone to breath a little easier.

Helping You Become More Sustainable

Now we know businesses in the SSBN are all about the Triple Bottom Line.

Triple Bottom Line
- People
- Planet
- Profi

We have learned that the SSBN has 4 Building Blocks to build a sustainable local economy.

4 Building Blocks
- Retail
- Farming
- Building
- Energy

It all sounds nice, but how do they expect an ordinary citizen to go out and become sustainable on their own? Thankfully, the SSBN was smart and decided to join up with other organizations to make an abundance of resources available to the public. The SSBN has many links on their website ( that will help you take a proactive stance toward sustainability. Here is a short list of some SSBN partners.

SSBN partners

Community Energy

Lancaster & York Buy Fresh Buy Local
Buy Fresh Buy Local is a movement designed to increase the consumption of locally produced food. Its aim is to support local food and reduce pollution caused by the packaging and shipping of produce. Buy Fresh Buy Local supports the farmers and other food makers in your community. They work hard, and they need your support. Chances are, their food is healthier and tastier than something produced and packaged in a factory. (

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
PASA is an organization that promotes and supports environmentally friendly food production in Pennsylvania. This organization aims to make our farmers more viable. They want to increase the health of our land and our citizens. (

Green Building Association of Central Pennsylvania
The GBACPA promotes environmentally friendly design, construction, and operation of the constructed site. The group consists of architects, contractors, developers, financers, almost anyone and everyone involved in building in Central Pennsylvania. (

SSBN Events

The SSBN is very dedicated to involving the community in the sustainable movement. They want to share their wealth of knowledge, so you can become active in helping your community and environment. After all, sustainability is a community effort. SSBN sponsors events to educate and teach environmentally friendly practices. Here is a brief sample of the events SSBN has supported.

Keystone Solar Tour
The solar tour offered individuals in the community the chance to see a demonstration of wind and solar power. Exhibits were located in various areas in Lancaster and York Counties. Participants were informed of the benefits of green energy and the payouts they could receive.

Green Fest at Eastern Market
Green Fest occurred the last day of Lancaster City’s Eastern Market. The free event included many “do it yourself” workshops. These workshops included square foot gardening, rain barrel workshops, a bicycle maintenance workshop, and seed saving workshops. Recycled arts and crafts, and local movie screenings were also available.

Green Office Tour
SSBN took community members through a newly renovated “green” office. Individuals were educated on what makes an office space “green” and how they can make their office more “green."

Networking Events
SSBN connects members to each other in unique ways for networking opportunities and social events. These opportunities allow members to meet and share ideas and services. Word of mouth is a great way to get the word out about your business and fellow members are eager to share experiences, use each others services, and learn from each other.



This site was created by Jesse Keim

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