Published January 2014 in Sustainable San Diego, a monthly supplement of the San Diego Business Journal.

By Marion Webb

Last week, representatives from nine handpicked small- to mid-size San Diego organizations met with local experts to learn how they can create sustainability and long-term success by “doing more with less.”

Elliot Hoffman, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based consulting firm True Market Solutions (TMS) which together with San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) created the sustainability circle program to help small- to mid-size businesses inspire changes in the environmental, social and economic aspects, said that the program’s early successes are already visible.

“The goal of the program is to help companies improve their profitability by fully embracing and embedding sustainable business practices,” Hoffman said. “There is a myth that sustainability will cost you a lot of money when in truth, it will make you money.”

TMS persuaded California’s utility companies—SDG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric Companies, Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas—to invest in the concept. SDG&E helps TMS identify local groups that would benefit from the program, and agreed to pay 75 percent of the $7,500 up-front investment each firm makes to become a member of the sustainability circle, Hoffman said. In addition, TMS charges each firm a flat rate of $1,875 for running the program, including hiring the sustainability experts and coaches.

The first San Diego sustainability circle comprised nine local companies, including Ken Blanchard Cos., a developer of leadership training programs for large corporations (350 local employees); the Balboa Park Cultural Consortium, (1500 employees); Carlsbad-based flower grower Mellano & Co., (250 employees); and Santee-based machining business Quality Controlled Manufacturing Inc. (QCMI) (100 employees); MG Properties, (60 employees); Hunter Industries, Irrigation and Control Manufacturer, (900 employees); North County Health Services, (500 employees); Mitchell Industries, (2000 employees); and CDC Small Business, (100 employees). These firms completed the first San Diego-based sustainability circle on Dec. 16, 2013 and came up with a total of 246 initiatives with 75 being gas and electric-specific, Hoffman added.

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