The Legacy of the American Sustainable Business Network


It’s been 35 years since a raucous group of forward-thinking misfits first got together to talk about a new approach to business. Impatient with an economic model that valued profit and growth above all else, they sought to understand how their ventures would support communities, rather than dividing and dismantling them, regenerate landscapes, rather than devastating them, and create equitable prosperity for all, rather than concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

Those early luminaries built businesses that showed how social purpose and financial success reinforce one another. They worked across sectors—in business, government, academia, and charities—to create a powerful network that shares a vision of a new inclusive, equitable economic model. The network is strong and still growing, and now a global community of investors, entrepreneurs, and their allies are changing the way the world does business.

Established in 1987, Social Venture Network (SVN) was one of the nation’s first and most influential peer organizations dedicated to demonstrating the ‘triple bottom line’ potential of valuing people, planet, and profit. Through yearly gatherings, peer circles, and structured mentoring, SVN provided inspiration for new ventures and helped incubate other key contributors to the social venture community including BSR, B Lab, Common Future, and Net Impact.

Created in 1992, incubated by SVN, Investors’ Circle (IC) was the nation’s first and most active early stage impact investing network. Over the past 30 years, IC has facilitated over $265m in investments in 300+ social ventures, addressing environmental, health, education, economic development, and other societal challenges. IC has cultivated community among individual angel investors, family offices, funds, and foundations; attracted and vetted early stage impact entrepreneurs; and facilitated investment through national and local convenings with a growing focus on building and connecting regional impact investing communities.

Formed in 2009, with roots in SVN, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) was created to educate, empower, and mobilize business leaders to advocate for market and public policy change in support of a triple bottom line and a sustainable and just economy. ASBN has grown and today with its organizational members it collectively represents over 250,000 companies. The foundational idea for ASBC was that for too long traditional business organizations had been promoting a shareholder focused, short-term-profit economic model while making the business case against responsible, just, and sustainable solutions and policies. With the incredible growth of business organizations and companies that were advancing sustainable solutions, ASBC saw an opportunity to bring them together to aggregate their voice and power and to advocate for issues and public policies that would build a just and sustainable economy.

On January 1, 2018, SVN and IC merged forces to better equip entrepreneurs, impact investors, and capacity-builders with the resources they need to galvanize business as a force for good. With their combined experience, extensive networks, and shared vision, they merged to form Social Venture Circle to lead the way into the next economy: one that is regenerative, equitable, and prosperous for all.

On September 16, 2020, SVC and ASBC entered into a strategic alliance to assess how the combination of organizations would benefit the values-aligned entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors of responsible companies with the ability to be key policy influencers in their own communities as well as at the federal, state and local levels.

On November 17, 2021, SVC and ASBC announced publicly that the organizations agreed to formally merge to form the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN). Simultaneously, Investors Circle would relaunch as a core program within ASBN.

On January 1, 2022, the merger of SVC and ASBC became effective and ASBN was formally created. American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) is a movement builder in partnership with the business and investor community. ASBN develops and advocates solutions for policymakers, business leaders, and investors that support an equitable, regenerative, and just economy that benefits all⁠—people and planet. As a multi-issue, membership organization advocating on behalf of every business sector, size, and geography, ASBN and its association members collectively represent over 250,000 businesses across our networks.