VBSR is a statewide, nonprofit business association with an enduring mission to leverage the power of business for positive social and environmental impact. Our diverse membership represents all sectors and geographic regions of Vermont – from sole proprietors to the largest employers in the state – and is united by a single vision: a just, thriving, and transformative economy that works for all people and the planet. Individually and collectively, our network of 700 member businesses and organizations advances this vision through shared learning, community building, and collective action.
For over 30 years, VBSR members have been changing the face of business. Our founders were trailblazers, proving that people-first, environmentally-minded, and community-oriented business practices create happier people, healthier communities, and prosperity for all. Now a network of thousands, VBSR members continue to be leaders, innovators, and influencers, with impact reaching far beyond the workplace: our members have shaped the Vermont brand, advanced leading-edge policy, and fueled the global social responsibility movement.
About VBSR’s Board of Directors
The VBSR Board of Directors shapes the direction and future of VBSR by setting the vision, strategic plan, policies, and programs of the organization to best serve our mission.
As leaders of the nation’s largest statewide business organization dedicated to socially responsible business, VBSR board members serve as ambassadors for and representatives of not only VBSR and our 700 members, but the values that are the pillars of our collective vision:
- People-Centered Workplaces
- Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI)
- Environmental Sustainability
- Prosperity for All
- Community Vitality & Strong Local Economies
Our Commitment to Equity
In 2021 VBSR made a formal commitment to center equity within our organization and consulted with Claire Wheeler from REWORK to draft a Strategic Plan that embodies this principle, including our vision for centering equity:
“VBSR has a strong culture that welcomes, includes, and empowers identities historically underrepresented in our organization. Operationally, equity is a primary lens through which we design, implement, and evaluate our work: governance, operations, branding, programming, and policy. Our philosophy and practice of centering equity inspires and influences all VBSR stakeholders. Our internal transformation creates the necessary conditions for VBSR and our partners to contribute to the shared goal of expanded economic opportunity for all, including the redistribution of power, wealth, and access.”
We see delivering on this commitment as an unending journey. We have challenged our community to lean into discomfort, hold ourselves accountable, and support each other in new ways as we learn/unlearn. As one of VBSR’s core values, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are a part of each conversation of VBSR’s board, staff, and committees, and inform each decision we make.
VBSR Board and Committees
While equity has always been part of VBSR’s ethos, prior to 2020 it was on the periphery of our work. To truly CENTER equity we realized that we needed to begin with the self-education of board and staff members and transforming our organizational culture. We read “Me & White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad in book discussion groups and engaged in dialogue about power, privilege, and access as a board, staff, and committees. Out of these conversations, we decided to first focus on revisioning our board and committees: reducing bureaucracy and creating an environment where all board and committee members feel that they are heard, valued, belong, and have meaningful opportunities to contribute.
To support this goal, we have many changes to how our board and committees, including:
- Replaced the traditional nonprofit system of procedural governance, Robert’s Rules, with Roberta’s Rules, Fist to Five, the Circle Way and other governance procedures and facilitation methods that encourage input and participation by all board and committee members, not just the loudest voices.
- Established board and committee term limits to ensure new voices are included in VBSR’s input-gathering, decision-making, and future-shaping.
- Created charters for each of our committees to have clear shared expectations for all involved and “level the playing field” between newer and more experienced committee members.
- Made board service more accessible by reducing the board term from three years to two years and making clear that there are a variety of ways to contribute to VBSR’s financial goals, including in-kind support. We are also exploring compensation for board members.
- Increased our focus on relationship building and the experience of board members as individual people with complex lives, not just as volunteers or even VBSR members.
- Committed to evolve the language we use, both how we talk to each other and how we talk about others as well as the assumptions we make and how we define progress and success.
- Committed to avoid the use of acronyms and references without explanation/context (goal: anyone should be able to walk into a board meeting, understand what has been shared, and fully participate, even if it’s their first meeting).
For the past ten years VBSR has proactively recruited and prioritized leadership on VBSR’s board and committees who identify as women and nonbinary, black, indigenous and people of color, veterans, individuals of all abilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, rural businesses, and other identities and lived experiences traditionally underrepresented in dominant business culture. After 2020 we deepened this commitment and made it more transparent. VBSR’s board now includes 4 people who openly identify as LGBTQ+ and 3 who identify as second-generation American. 50% of board members openly identify as female or trans. In addition, we endeavor to create a culture that welcomes and actively supports those who are struggling with physical and mental health, including addition/recovery, illness, and trauma.
In 2022 we contracted Think Again Training and Consulting to conduct an equity audit of VBSR’s board, staff, and committees to identify where we need to do better and where we should focus next. As part of this process Think Again has interviewed and surveyed VBSR board, staff, and committee members, and facilitated a training for all board and staff members. Their recommendations are expected in late 2022.
VBSR Public Policy
Concurrent with creating this foundation of culture, policies, and practices internally within VBSR, we have been providing our membership with opportunities to engage in education and training focused on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI); and actively working to influence both the public narrative and Vermont legislation. In our policy work we have partnered with the Social Equity Caucus, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, and Vermont Professionals of Color. In our educational programming we have partnered with numerous Vermont leaders and leading organizations to deliver content that aims to shift power dynamics in workplaces, create people-centered workplaces grounded in JEDI; address the inherit relationship between capitalism and racism, and support new ways of thinking. This work endeavors to shape not only policies for our state and our workplaces, but also the perceptions of individuals and communities through public dialogue around race, gender, class, ability, and identity.
To create greater access to VBSR and bring new voices to our movement, we offer free and discounted memberships and event fees for small and rural businesses, individuals who identify as black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) or low-income; BIPOC-led organizations, students, and start-up businesses.
All programming focused on public policy and shaping the public narrative is free and open to the public.
In addition to our educational programming, to support our members in doing more, more effectively, and with deeper impact, VBSR hosts a monthly JEDI Impact Circle open to employees at any level of an organization who are actively involved in their organization’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion journey. VBSR Impact Circles are peer-to-peer networking and discussion groups that provide Vermont business leaders with a forum to connect through shared experiences, grow their network, learn from each other, identify opportunities for potential collaboration, and generate greater impact.