Boston BARS project a success

Below is a blog that details the success of the Boston BARS project modeled after the SC BARS project (South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas).

More than 50 Businesses Engaged in Recent BARS Campaign

 August 13, 2014

Jehan Dolbashian

Outreach and Community Building Fellow

In 2013 The American Sustainable Business Council partnered with the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and the Southern Alliance For Clean Energy (SACE) to initiate an educational campaign for SC businesses on sea level rise. South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (SCBARS) aimed to educate and motivate local businesses and their customers on climate change issues, most notably, sea level rise.

Many towns (especially those lying on the coast) of South Carolina rely heavily on tourism to provide security to the local economy. As a result, these towns face the threat from climate change and sea level rise. In order to ensure the success of the local and state economy. ASBC,  SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and SACE connected with local businesses and asked them to post signage explaining the potential threats of sea level rise. This was an extremely successful campaign as about 50% of businesses approached agreed to participate. Businesses were supplied with educational signage to display for their customers as well as pre-drafted letters to be sent to their state representatives urging them to take action on climate change.

The Boston Back Bay Area under a 12 foot sea level rise scenario. Image Courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

As the Businesses Acting on Rising Seas campaign was so well received in South Carolina, the Climate Action Liaison Coalition (CALC) saw an opportunity to initiate the campaign in Boston, MA. As a coalition of local businesses committed to taking action on climate change issues through internal sustainability initiatives, political advocacy, and community building, CALC recognized its’ alignments with the mission of the BARS campaign.

Climate Action Liaison Coalition utilized the model of SCBARS to engage in its’ own campaign, Boston BARS, or Boston Businesses Action on Rising Seas. With the support of the American Sustainable Business Council and the City of Boston, CALC was able to reach out to businesses across Boston and engage business owners and community members in conversations surrounding climate change adaptation and sea level rise.

CALC’s partnership with the City of Boston contributed greatly to the success of this campaign. The Preparing For the Rising Tide Report published by the Boston Harbor Association in February of 2013 provided an abundance of resources for the creation of CALC’s Business Adaptation Guide. In addition, the use of Boston’s Greenovate Platform, provided a space for business leaders to discuss their concerns, ideas, and initiatives for climate change adaptation.

CALC began the Boston BARS campaign with a focus on internal sustainability and resilience; we developed a comprehensive adaptation guide that business owners could use to take steps towards preparing for climate change hazards. The guide included resources like a business impact analysis, which businesses could use to identify their environmental impact and areas in which they could see improvement.

The outreach portion of the campaign began in late June at the BBARS Launch Event was held at District Hall in Boston, MA. This event provided business owners, political stakeholders, community leaders, and other interested parties with information on climate change adaptation for businesses and securing the local economy. Speakers, Brian Swett, Susan Labandibar, and Jim Newman discussed various adaptation strategies and climate change scenarios with which Boston business owner will contend.

Banner for the Boston BARS Campaign.

CALC volunteers initiated the community outreach portion of the campaign by canvassing throughout the city. Volunteers visited businesses in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, East Boston, and Fort Point districts (all areas which would be significantly affected by sea level rise) to educate business owners on the threats of climate change and the BBARS campaign. Businesses were asked to place a branded BBARS decal on their store window at the approximate height of the 100-year flood level. With approximately 200 businesses visited, nearly 70 agreed to participate in the campaign.  It was important to CALC that corporate businesses also be held responsible for the economic security of the area; even though most of these businesses were unable to participate due to corporate policy, volunteers made sure to educate upper management on the threats that their businesses may face.

The BARS campaign also allowed businesses to engage in political activism as they were encouraged to contact their representatives on issues surrounding climate change adaption and push for the adoption of legislation like the Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) Act and Environmental Bonds Bill which designates 60 million dollars for climate adaptation.

The Boston Businesses Acting On Rising Seas campaign was highly successful and was a huge step towards ensuring the economic stability of Boston as climate change hazards progress. CALC looks forward to assisting other states in initiating the BARS program while continuing our efforts here in Boston. We hope to further the CAMP Act in upcoming legislative sessions and will be showing our support for the signing of the Environmental Bonds Bill as the governor signs it into effect this afternoon at the State House.

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