The Sustainable Systems Story

Joe Gross and James Hurd Nixon founded Sustainable Systems in 1994, with the goal of putting the craft of business in the service of economic, social, and ecological justice.

1995: BUILDING THE SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

As its first projects in 1995, 1996, and 1998, Sustainable Systems co-coordinated three international conferences on the theme of Building the Sustainable Economy (two in New York City and one in Havana, Cuba) that brought together leaders in the sustainable development movement from around the United States and the world.

1998: COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY CLUSTER

In 1998, Sustainable Systems joined with the City of Oakland to launch Oakland’s first tech incubator/accelerator, the Communication Technology Cluster, which produced an enviable record for supporting business led by people of color and women, with a significant proportion of those businesses going on to initial public offerings or acquisitions at a good price.

1999: BAY AREA FAMILY OF FUNDS

In 1999, the Bay Area Council chose Sustainable Systems to be the lead consultant to the Bay Area Council for the Bay Area Family of Funds, a 14 year project that generated a pool of well over $250 million of investment capital organized as a venture fund and two real estate funds, which have been very successful at producing a double bottom line (market rates of financial return and significant economic, social, and environmental returns) by investing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in the Bay Area.

2009: MISSION VERDE

In 2009, Sustainable Systems was selected as the lead consultant to the Mayor’s Office in San Antonio, Texas for Mission Verde, San Antonio’s Sustainable Economic Development Strategy.

2012: EAST BAY BROADBAND CONSORTIUM

Since 2012, Sustainable Systems has served as lead consultant to the East Bay Broadband Consortium, working for Gigabit Broadband in a Smart Region; helping to bridge the digital divide in the East Bay; and encouraging tech companies and tech employees to weigh in on the side of equity in the region.

Based on this work, Sustainable Systems has developed a set of papers over the years, including:

BUILDING THE SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY
A memoir about the process of organizing three international conferences bringing together leaders of the sustainable development movement.

THE VALLEJO PLAZA STORY
A description of one project funded by Bay Area Smart Growth Fund I.

THE DOUBLE BOTTOM LINE HANDBOOK – A Practitioner’s Guide to Regional Double Bottom Line Investment Investment Initiatives and Funds
Supported by the Ford Foundation and co-authored with Erin Flynn, Belden Hull Daniels, and Deborah La Franchia handbook to assist double bottom line initiative and fund builders.

SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – Initiatives, Programs and Strategies for Cities and Regions
A conceptual framework for understanding the intersection of sustainability and economic development.

SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – Strategies for Cities and Regions
Co-authored with John Cleveland – a handbook for assisting cities and regions to design and implement sustainable economic development strategies.

SUSTAINABLE CAPITALISM
A discussion of “true capitalism,” i.e. capitalism that builds economic, social, and natural capital together, not economic capital at the expense of social and environmental capital.