34th Annual VBSR Conference: Photos and Recap

The sold-out 34th Annual Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) Conference, “In Our Hands”, was held on May 9, 2024, at Hula, the award-winning lakeside coworking and innovation campus in Burlington. Participants explored the transformative power of nature and technology, agency, and joy.

VBSR business and nonprofit leaders, policymakers, students, and inspired individuals gathered for a full-day event that included a keynote address by Ferene Paris, six timely sessions, two innovation labs focused on the leading edge of social and environmental impact, and ample opportunities for networking and meeting exhibitors.

The conference featured three themes: Bold Restructuring, Redefining Connection, and Joyful Resilience. Conference sessions explored the unique issues and opportunities that each of the themes presented, as well as the points where they intersect.

Storyteller Ferene Paris, this year’s standing-room-only keynote speaker, founder of All Heart Inspirations, brought her courageous truth telling and vulnerable vibes to the Hula stage, starting the day with tears, laughter, and stories worthy of sharing –  and asked attendees “What's yours?!”

She reminded attendees that true impact is "In Our Hands" through the environments we create – at work and beyond:

  • "I want us to remember that we deserve to be in environments that bring out our softness...not just the survival in us.
  • This is the Conference to ask us to do real conversations and reflections. Multiple truths can exist. It is not easy. It is not easy to name all of these things. But if we don't, people's lives are on the line. People's lives are in your hands.
  • The way that you make choices, the way that we hire people, the way that you set up your meetings, the way that you affirm someone, all of these things.
  • It could be one thing here, one thing there, but it's like paper cuts at some point. Your body is just head to toe with them. It hurts.
  • And so I'm asking us to be these individuals. We must be these individuals – because who doesn't want an environment to be softer on them?"

And she urged the audience to embrace the complexity of themselves and others through lived-in stories, as this is the path to possibility:

  • "Let's use stories to have a heartfelt moment. You are so much more than your name. You are so much more than the title on your name tag. We are people. We are multi-layered. There is so much to us.
  • I could talk to you for 24 hours straight and you still wouldn't understand some of the deepest parts of my self – because that is how deep we are. That is how amazing we are as a human collective! Please do not allow the fast pace that society wants us to keep doing to make you do anything but live in your story.
  • I invite us to try to be the light. I invite us to figure out what is it that our gifts are so we can each deposit into this collective effort of change in agency. That's in our hands.
  • When we can empower individuals to see their truths, when we allow people to be a masterpiece and a work in progress, when we can sit in our discomfort in order to have some courageous conversations, you have no idea what's possible."

Thank you to all who attended the 34th Annual VBSR Conference on May 9th. We are so grateful you could join us for this sold-out event – a full day of provocative, engaging conversations with thought leaders from throughout the state and nation.

The 34th Annual VBSR Conference was generously supported by:

Keynote Underwriter: Mascoma Bank

Networking Reception: Encore Renewable Energy

Reef Room Underwriter: Gordon’s Window Decor

Isthmus Room Underwriter: Open Approach

Sunset Room Underwriter: Acrisure

Champion Underwriters: The Alchemist Brewery, Ben & Jerry’s, Casella Waste Systems, Ceres Collaborative, Champlain Investment Partners, Chroma Technology Corp., Dinse, Green Mountain Power, Hula, King Arthur Baking Company, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Mamava, National Life Group, Paul Frank + Collins, Seventh Generation, SunCommon, Union Mutual, VEIC, Vermont Creamery, Vermont Family Farms, and VSECU.

Underwriters: Champlain Housing Trust, Delta Dental, Let’s Grow Kids, Norwich Solar, The Richards Group, SRH Law, United Way of Northwest Vermont, The University of Vermont Health Network, Ursa Major, VermontBiz, VTDigger, Vermont Electric Power Company, Vermont Gas Systems, Vermont Public, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

Following are select scenes from the 34th Annual VBSR Conference at Hula in Burlington, VT, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. All photos are by Jesse Dawson. 

Arrival and Keynote

Exhibitors, Lunch and Connecting

Session Snapshots

Innovation Labs and Sessions

Networking and Connecting