Our History


Innovative Origins: Pioneering Responsible Business

In 1990, VBSR was founded by a group of visionary businesspeople exploring a new approach to business: the multiple bottom line. One that balanced the bottom line with social and environmental responsibilities. They believed that businesses had just as much responsibility to their workers, communities, and the environment as they did to achieving financial success.

Founding Figures of the Movement

VBSR's founders, including Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, Jeffrey Hollender and Alan Newman of Seventh Generation, and Will Raap of Gardener’s Supply Co., were the key initiators of the modern corporate social responsibility and sustainability movement.

Alongside these innovators, other forward-thinking Vermont entrepreneurs and thought leaders recognized the imperative for businesses to utilize their substantial influence and manage their collective impact in a more socially and environmentally responsive manner.


A Journey Towards Independence and Collaboration

Early Days and Regional Networking

Initially, VBSR operated as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, independent but affiliated with NEBSR (New England BSR). This collaboration aimed to bolster state NEBSR chapters and foster regional networking. However, the relationships between NEBSR and other New England states were different and less independent.

Path to Independence

In 1993, the VBSR board decided to end its affiliation with NEBSR in order to fully focus on building VBSR’s organization and programs. Soon after, VBSR became a strong independent organization.

Expansion and National Presence

In 1992, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a national organization, was founded by some of NEBSR’s original founders. In 1994, the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island chapters of NEBSR became chapters of BSR. Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility (MEBSR) and VBSR did not merge, as members of each organization preferred to remain independent.

In June 2001, BSR discontinued the chapter structure, shifting its focus towards larger, multinational companies and no longer engages in public policy.


Embracing Local Economies

In 2003, VBSR joined the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) (now Common Future) a national organization with chapters around the nation. BALLE places an emphasis on supporting local economies and small, locally-owned businesses. In 2006, BALLE’s national conference was hosted by VBSR in Burlington.

To read more about VBSR’s early history, and how some of our members got started with VBSR, check out Stephen Morris’s in-depth article “The Hard Work of Social Responsibility.

VBSR Today

Leading the Responsible Business Ecosystem

Today, with a membership of 700+ encompassing 45+ industries, spanning all 14 Vermont counties, and including 40+ B Corps, we are Vermont’s network of students, entrepreneurs, policymakers, activists, sole proprietors, small businesses, largest employers and inspired individuals.

Our collective goal is to work towards a just, thriving, transformative economy that works for everyone and the planet.

We continue to change what business looks like, how it works, and who benefits. Through leading-edge business education, collective action, business influence, and the cultivation of values-driven business leaders, we continue to drive positive change.

Join Our Community of Change-Makers

By becoming a VBSR member, you become an integral part of this transformative journey. Join us in shaping a brighter future for business and society.

A Testament to Our Impact

For over 30 years, VBSR has provided the critical institutional structure and support to build the nation’s leading responsible business ecosystem.
— Co-Founder and Former CEO, Seventh Generation
The impact of this work is critical for the Vermont economy – but it has also helped shape the national development of a huge number of new responsible and sustainable businesses.
— Co-Founder and CEO, American Sustainable Business Network
Many of the country’s top entrepreneurs have benefited from this support which has led to the development of many of the best business models that inspire new business leaders.
— VBSR Co-Founder