The business model of Sustainable South Bronx

  • Business Model Shifts

The Bronx has the reputation to be one of the toughest neighborhoods of New York City. Just like many other outskirt neighborhoods, the Bronx is stuck in a vicious circle which that seems impossible to escape. Crime chases away customers which forces businesses to close up shops. Businesses closing increases unemployment rates which in-turn pushes up crime rates. Society turns a blind eye to these malnourished neighborhoods and focuses on developing the promising parts of the city. On top of this, South Bronx has borne much of the pollution burden for New York City, from air pollution to commercial waste, and has not received the financial or political attention it needed to flourish. Leaving the community in a seemingly inescapable situation.


Re-imagining a neighborhood

Majora Carter, a Bronx local, saw the lack of development in her neighborhood and decided that something needed to be done. “I believe you shouldn’t have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one”. So Sustainable South Bronx was born; a collective of initiatives to transform the area from a deprived neighborhood to a great and sustainable place to live for the community. Carter advocated for parks and green development in the South Bronx. She did this by creating a collaborative model that on the focused environmental-, economical- and social challenges the area was facing. Through policy change, job training, environmental education, and community greening programs Sustainable South Bronx started the changing the area block-by-block. In 2015 both SSBx became a part of the HOPE Program, scaling the different initiatives further into the city, empowering people with job training and career support.


Business model canvas Sustainable South Bronx



Making green the color of the Bronx

One of the initiatives Carter set-up was the “Green Collar” workforce training program called SSBx. The program educates and empowers locals with practical skills that directly impact the neighborhood. Killing two birds with one stone. Locals became employable and jobs were created that positively impact the neighborhood itself. Parks with luscious green gardens were built, bodies of water were cleaned and playgrounds were put together.

In line with this initiative SSBx designed NYC °CoolRoofs. This program provides 70 local jobseekers with training and work experience installing energy-saving reflective rooftops. The coated rooftops help in managing the temperature of the buildings which leads to reduced use of energy as well as in lowering the average temperature in the area. The program supports the City’s goal to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Once again, residents are employed and the community directly benefits.

Intervine is the social enterprise Sustainable South Bronx launched to offer people an opportunity on the job market. The business focuses on training and employing low-income community members to maintain green infrastructures. The locals are given the opportunity to build both a career as well as a greener community. In 2017 Intervine received $1.8 million in funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to expand their activities.


Teach them young

The Sustainable South Bronx Summer FabLab is another program, empowering high school students to take part in rebuilding the community in a sustainable way. In a 7-week program the scholars are taught different design skills and the basics of entrepreneurship. Leaving the students with higher chances of finding employment and putting their newly acquired skills to use for good.

The FabLab educates the youth on how to build a better future while NYC °CoolRoofs and Intervine focuses on improving the present. This multi-generational solution not only begins to repair and rebuild the damage in the community but also minimizes any future damage. The result is a community that can focus on healing and eventually turn into a vibrant hub that residents are proud to be a part of.


Sustainable South Bronx is a great example of the Stakeholder shift. A business model which takes into account all the stakeholders involved. Even though the organization runs entirely on donations and grants they are able to secure a steady revenue stream because they actually are delivering value to all stakeholders involved.

Students are being educated with relevant knowledge, adults are being employed, the community is being rebuilt, the environment is positively impacted and the city continues to grow sustainably, making the government’s life easier. But more importantly making the neighborhood a better and greener place for its community.


This case is part of the research for our upcoming book Business Model Shifts. If you want to learn more about how to apply the stakeholder shift to your business, be sure to read it.


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