One Percent for the Planet, a global non-profit that networks businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet with environment and sustainability-focused non-profits, recently moved its headquarters in Burlington from Waitsfield, VT. Its offices are a block from Lake Champlain and the Burlington Rec Path, and close to plenty of world-class outdoor recreation in the nearby mountains and forests of northwest Vermont.
“We landed in Vermont by chance,” says Kate Williams, the organization’s new executive director—she took the helm in the summer of 2015. “But we stayed here by choice. There is so much progressive business happening in Vermont, both by national and international standards. Being here puts us the mix.”
One Percent is a global organization, but they’re actively involved in the Burlington non-profit community, making connections between businesses with an environmental ethos and local non-profits. With the help of One Percent, King Arthur Flour is now supporting the Northeastern Organic Farming Association of Vermont, NOFA VT, and the Vermont Fresh Network. Skinny Pancake has established a multi-year partnership with the Intervale Center, where most of Burlington’s local produce is grown. And Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush Ski Resort has provided support to the Vermont Land Trust, among other groups.
They’re also making connections with the Burlington community through special events. They’ve hosted Green Drinks with One Percent member The Skinny Pancake, and a stop on the RootsRated national tour with Outdoor Gear Exchange. Plus, they collaborated with the local Patagonia store and Zero Gravity Craft Brewery on the launch of Patagonia’s low impact denim. “People submitted art projects made from blue jeans,” said Williams. The art was so well received, instead of taking it down after the event it remained on the walls of the bike-themed Maglianero Café for the next two weeks, (which happens to be located one floor above the One Percent office space).
“Being in Burlington, we’re developing a greater understanding of what it means to be part of the network and community here, and we’re adapting our programs to focus on providing advice around strategic giving so local businesses can align their giving with their brand,” said Williams. She noted that there is a strong commitment to environmental issues in Burlington already, and that “as much as One Percent is contributing, we are also benefiting from the creative environmentally oriented projects already happening here.”
“We feel that we can be every bit the global organization we want and need to be from Burlington,” says Williams.
Williams landed in Vermont 15 years ago while she was working for Trust for Public Land. She stayed in Vermont when she transitioned to Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. She and her husband Rob were both committed to raising their kids in Vermont.
Their kids, now 13 and 16, have taken advantage of all the outdoor opportunities the state has to offer. Williams’ son is on the Alpine and Nordic ski teams at his school, and her daughter is a runner. Rob, who is a teacher, keeps his paddleboard on top of his truck and slips out on the lake between classes, and they often paddle together as a family.
“We have single twenty-somethings living two blocks from the office and walking to work. We have families living in town. Burlington supports a high quality of life in a lot of different ways,” says Williams. “Most of the professionals here could go find a big job somewhere else, but they’re here by choice. It’s a place where lifestyle matters.”
One Percent’s office is in the Karma Birdhouse—a building where small business entrepreneurs and creatives land, work, network, and launch ideas. It housed Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry’s in their early years.
That those businesses, and many others, started and grew in Burlington, illustrates William’s point that Burlington has a start up culture and great business energy that will help to cultivate and grow One Percent. “The work and lifestyle combo can be hard to dial in,” she says. “There are few places in this world with an inspiring business community, with the opportunity to recreate so close. In Burlington, you can do your job, climb a beautiful mountain, and come back into city for a great meal easily in a day. The proximity of outdoor experiences is unique. In Burlington, you really can do it all.”