ABOVE PHOTO: “The Great Lakes Business Network is corporate advocacy that fits my values—protecting this precious place.”—Jim Lively
Today I’m excited to pay my membership dues and join the Great Lakes Business Network! For most of you, that process might have been a relatively simple addition to your business budget for organization memberships. For me, it represents a big step away from a salaried nonprofit job after 22 years at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and a shift to the private sector as a family small-business owner.
Back in January 2017, in my role at Groundwork as a nonprofit advocate, I was thrilled to help organize a small network of business leaders to join the movement to shut down Line 5. Today, as I leave Groundwork and become a small business owner myself, I especially appreciate the opportunity to join with that network of business leaders—from large companies to solopreneurs—to leverage our power and elevate our voices to protect the Great Lakes region.
“I especially appreciate the opportunity to join with that network of business leaders—from large companies to solopreneurs—to leverage our power and elevate our voices to protect the Great Lakes region.” — Jim Lively
This transition is also an opportunity for me to reflect on how far this network has come in just a few years, and to look ahead at the bright future for GLBN and our region.
What started as 11 bold Michigan business leaders in 2017 has become a group of nearly 200 spanning six Great Lakes states and a Canadian province. The original business leaders told us they were motivated by two concerns: 1. an urgent need to shut down the risky Line 5 pipeline in the Mackinac Straits; and 2. a more general concern that the broad business community was being inappropriately used to oppose and even dismantle environmental protection. Those same motivations have convinced network members to expand the issues they work on to include speeding the transition to clean energy and reducing nutrient pollution that causes harmful algal blooms in our waters.
Many highlights have marked GLBN’S first five years, but I want to call out a few:
• Members of the Great Lakes Business Network have often expressed views in the media through opinion pieces and quotes in major media outlets, including The Hill, Crain’s, Detroit News, Free Press, and television, as well as in our press releases.
• Members have demonstrated an ability to consistently set meetings with top government officials in state and federal government, including governors, U.S. senators, and congress members, and state legislators. Most notably our GLBN co-chair Juliette King McAvoy hosted President Biden at her family farm to discuss climate and other policy issues.
• GLBN positions are now being reflected in policy, most notably Michigan’s governor and attorney general agreed to take legal action to revoke the Line 5 pipeline lease.
• GLBN is beginning to receive consistent financial support from members, as well as from foundation funders who appreciate the importance of businesses supporting environmental protection.
• GLBN has demonstrated a presence and an expertise in engaging our members during in-person events (safely, despite Covid), as well as through online networking.
• Our staff has grown in size and in expertise, providing improved support and social media presence. And the partnership between Groundwork and National Wildlife Federation remains strong and effective.
While it’s heartening to see this progress, I’m even more excited about the commitment for the future. The GLBN staff and Executive Committee are focused on many exciting improvements:
• GLBN created a plan to further grow membership while increasing the diversity of our membership to include more BIPOC-led businesses, as well as expanding the diversity of business size and type.
• Members committed to expanding the geographic reach of our network beyond the Michigan base into more Great Lakes states and provinces;
• The network will also consider carefully adding new priority policy issues based on member interest and a strategic plan for success.
Throughout my career as an advocate, I’ve recognized the value of networks and partnerships. When we’re tackling big, systemic problems like protecting our Great Lakes, we need to pool resources and expertise. I’m proud of the impressive influence this new network of business leaders is already having, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to join as a member.
I’m pleased to already belong to GLBN, a network of businesses with values similar to mine, as I dive into my new adventure—helping two community-based family businesses (a campground and a small farm) near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northwest lower Michigan. Please stop by and say hi if you’re heading our way. Otherwise, I hope to see you at a GLBN Happy Hour event soon!