Green Chamber of Commerce

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Mara DeFilippis, the founder and CEO of the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce talks about her group’s mission and some changes to the organization.

Ted Simons: The Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce will be getting a new start next week. The group is changing its name and fine-tuning its mission. The chamber's also promoting its founder and CEO Maria DeFilippis to its board of directors. Mara DeFilippis joins us now to talk about the changes. I said your name twice that quickly and didn't mess it up.

Mara DeFilippis: You're doing well.

Ted Simons: We're doing well so far. You're doing well as--talk about your group--let's call it by its new name Green Camber Greater Phoenix. What does the group do?

Mara DeFilippis: We promote -- we've had a change in our mission statement which we're very excited about; we spent about three years really identifying what were the biggest needs in the community, and we took maybe about eight months to fine-tune that and develop it, so we're coming out August 1st with our new name, which is the Green Chamber. We do a lot of things to support that. Really the mission statement redefined is probably the biggest change which drives everything else. That condensed mission statement--because I can't remember the whole long thing--is really about advancing a sustainable and diverse economy.

Ted Simons: How do you do that? Because I saw that, I actually wrote that down: "Advancing a sustainable diverse economy." What does that mean?

Mara DeFilippis: That means that we provide a voice for the community that wants to be heard; we promote businesses; we engage with them; we network with them; we educate the community on some things that are going on that are possible opportunities for advancement for jobs, so they can get involved.

Ted Simons: I notice I was going to go back to the name change--Phoenix Green and now Green Chamber--were there some concerns that folks were getting the wrong idea? Were there territorial spats going on? What was happening here?

Mara DeFilippis: Well, really what was happening was there was a misunderstanding about possible boundaries which we don't have. We serve the greater Phoenix area, and I think that the name change will help to relieve that problem. Really there's no confinement, and we serve Scottsdale, we have members in Tucson, we have -- our membership spans the entire valley as well as we have plenty of guests that attend our events as well from all over the valley.

Ted Simons: The idea of balancing business practices with environmental concerns: talk about that dynamic and how some folks and some businesses that you think should get attention--you should think should be promoted. You're still looking for them--I would imagine--as well, talk about it; how do they do it and it what do we need to know about them?

Mara DeFilippis: We have some very fascinating members. One of the ones that I love to give the best kudos to is the Hyatt in Scottsdale. They have some amazing business practices. They're actually the international hotel that they use to validate all their business practices and also to follow for the financials. So there are things that they do: they put up solar for their hot water heating; next year they'll be putting a green roof on their hotel which is kind of a big deal. These are things that are way at the front run of what's going on out there. And they're testing it, and they're documenting the financial impacts, which I think is the most important part of it to see what's a good idea to be doing for the rest of the Hyatts.

Ted Simons: Indeed, but talk about the challenges in this economic climate. Businesses that want to do kinds of things but may not think it's the best time to do it right now.

Mara DeFilippis: That's a great point and certainly--probably the most argued point. I would say that businesses are looking for either a one or two-year turnaround for a break-even point right now. So with that said, there's plenty of opportunity for these businesses to make some small decisions on where are their resources coming from and how efficient can they be. A lot of times, businesses just running more efficiently can save money. You know, changing--modifying behavior is a great opportunity. And those really don't cost anything besides maybe posting something in the bathroom about turning off your lights, or, you know, implementing a program.

Ted Simons: Indeed. The state as a whole. We can talk about the business community, the valley's business community, but the state as a whole, the whole nine yards, are Arizonans serious about these kinds of issues--about getting green issues at the forefront, about environmental issues in the workplace?

Mara DeFilippis: I think at this point, one of the biggest reasons for the change, Ted, was because we were focused on internal business practices that you were you just asking me about. While those are incredibly important and, we have a program developed to support that and will be using that to educate, the bigger issue--which I think was your previous guest talking about--is the economic condition of Arizona. So for us, we saw that as the one place that really didn't have a voice here in Arizona that was being loud, that was being heard and that was representing businesses that have some credibility and respect in our community. So we thought to come together and provide that forum to do so. So, for example, we're kicking off a mayoral candidate forum for the city of Phoenix on August 3rd. And that will likely be the most heavily attended forum in the history of this year with all the mayoral forums. We have 260 that we have to cap it at, and we've had to cap it already, so people want to hear about what the plans are to attract businesses--to stop losing good people and losing these businesses to other states.

Ted: Well, all right. It's good to hear about it. Congratulations.

Mara DeFilippis: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And best of luck to you. And thank you for joining us.

Mara DeFilippis: Thank you.

Mara DeFilippis: Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce;

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