The Chesapeake Bay’s health is inextricably linked to our own, and our collective impact on the land and streams of the Bay’s watershed has been tremendous.

We can try to point our fingers at one segment of society or another but the difficult truth is, if we live and do business here, we are likely part of the problem in some way. The good news is we can all also make a difference in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Al Todd, our director at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, is fond of saying, “No one can do everything but everyone can do something.”

A healthier watershed should be a priority for us all. This heightened awareness creates a powerful opportunity for businesses to address their own environmental footprints as well as play a greater role in influencing how we think and act as consumers.

While often viewed only for their potential impacts on the environment, more and more, businesses are playing a critical role in protecting and restoring the Chesapeake and its watershed. Businesses for the Bay, a new program of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, is a membership-based, business partnership. This association gives the Chesapeake business community an opportunity to go beyond compliance and to network, be recognized and motivate employees.

B4B is “By Business, For Business” and a business-based Steering Committee has worked closely with the Alliance to develop the program, which was officially launched in February.

B4B is designed to meet contemporary corporate sustainability goals, encourage businesses to take voluntary and measurable actions that improve the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams, and help the public understand the role of the business community in the environment. This program facilitates environmental-stewardship volunteer opportunities for employees, brings together businesses in a forum where they can learn and share best practices, make their voices heard and promote environmental efforts that are important to business, their customers and their communities.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed by the federal and state leadership in 2014, set goals that will advance the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025. The agreement contains five themes intended to focus and align efforts to achieve the goals. The themes are clean water, abundant life (fisheries and habitats), conserved lands, climate change resiliency, and engaged communities. The agreement provides a regional context and metrics that help to communicate and showcase business accomplishments and link business sustainability to Bay goals. The measurable Actions B4B members will commit to align with these five themes.

B4B, a great way for businesses, government, and nongovernmental organizations to work together, welcomes new members, sponsors and networking partners. Membership offers businesses opportunities to connect with other businesses, share success stories and sustainability challenges, positively impact their business and local communities, and reach sustainability goals. Every B4B member commits to at least one action that is tied to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and is measured by the Alliance annually. Actions are compiled to showcase program results.

Members also pledge to actively participate, go above and beyond regulatory requirements and encourage employees to volunteer. Membership levels are commitment-based and tiered — the more actions a business commits to, the higher its level and benefits will be. The Alliance works with businesses of all sizes and from all sectors and encourages others throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed to join and work toward a common goal.

Already, 20 founding members are working on more than 80 measurable actions tied to the watershed agreement or other environmental themes.

For example, the AKRF, Inc. Maryland Office plans to install amphibian coverboards and volunteer to remove nonnative, invasive plants in the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area; Dancing Grass Designs plants and maintains native plants with the overall goals of facilitating wildlife movement, creating wildlife habitat and reducing stormwater runoff at their office site. InClime Solutions is decreasing the use of plastic and has stopped using disposable cups at the office. Lockheed Martin’s Manassas site has formed a “Go Green” team to provide environmental education for employees and tips for implementing conservation at home, including providing tree seedlings annually. Louis Berger is organizing a Project Clean Stream cleanup this spring. Luck Companies’ Corporate Campus captures all stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces and directs the water to a pond, which is used to irrigate the campus. Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, Inc. created their own local water quality improvement facility on their nursery property. Science Systems and Applications, Inc. will conduct science outreach to schools. Stormwater Maintenance & Consulting plans to install bat boxes, control nonnative, invasive plant species on the property they lease and increase the number of environmentally friendly automobiles in their company fleet. Meet and learn about all of our B4B members at businesses.allianceforthebay.org/members/directory.

B4B sponsors support the program through generous donations used to host Chesapeake Business Forums, further develop the B4B program and build and support the network of businesses involved through outreach, recruitment, partnership building, promotion and marketing.

Our governmental and nonprofit networking partners are especially important for spreading the word about B4B events, helping us raise awareness and expanding our network in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Alliance is excited to be designing the business track at this year’s Choose Clean Water Coalition Conference on May 24–25, in Annapolis. B4B will be featured on the first day of the conference. We are also planning additional Chesapeake Business Forums this summer and fall, so stay tuned.

To learn about Businesses for the Bay or get on its mailing list, contact me at B4B@allianceforthebay.org, visit businesses.allianceforthebay.org or join our Businesses for the Bay LinkedIn group at linkedin.com/groups/8433450.