NBIS | Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability » Our StoryNBIS. Network for business innovation and sustainability.

Our Story

Co-Directors of NBIS, Karl Ostrom and Mary Rose, are the hub of a unique member community of passionate, pragmatic, innovative professionals exploring new ways of doing business that foster thriving companies, communities and ecosystems. They founded NBIS, the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability, in 2003 with the help of an interdisciplinary group of individuals that shared a vision for a new organization that would bridge the private and public sectors to meet the unprecedented challenges and opportunities we face today.

NBIS members and leadership board are dedicated to helping companies make the transition from old take-make-waste models to new paradigms of resource efficiency and social and environmental responsibility. The path forward requires leadership, collaboration and innovative thinking.

NBIS offers opportunities for people to meet and learn from each other, to collaborate across sectors and industries, to gain training in new practices and approaches, and to benefit from world class expertise that NBIS provides through consultation and coaching. NBIS programs inspire companies to reach beyond the limits of traditional models and to engage in turning the engines of industry toward problem solving and prosperity making for a new local and global economy.

About Us:

Karl OstromKarl Ostrom, PhD, Co-Director
Karl’s background includes organization development and consultation with businesses, municipalities, universities, and non-profit organizations. As founding director of NBIS, he has played an instrumental role in conceptualizing and communicating the opportunities for sustainable business on the global and local scale.

Karl’s background in urban planning and development contributes to the depth of leadership he brings when assisting businesses with finding profitable ways to contribute to the urgent needs of our time through realigning their operations for sustainability and prosperity.

He has served as an adjunct professor in sustainable business at Seattle University and the Leadership Institute of Seattle and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Creative Change at Antioch University Seattle.

Karl’s PhD in Clinical Psychology, completed at the University of North Carolina, has contributed to his understanding of systemic approaches to organizational change and leadership development. His publications include “Is there Hope for the City.”

Mary RoseMary Rose, M.Div., Co-Director
Mary’s professional background is in organizational development, education, public relations and project management. As Co-Director of NBIS, Mary’s leadership focuses on program development, project management and public relations. She has built the NBIS Business Leaders Forum and Green Team Accelerator programs and directs NBIS’ Salmon-Safe Urban Landowner Initiative as well as contributing to other NBIS activities.

For two years, Mary provided staff support for Governor Gregoire’s 2010 Task Force, conducting business development and tourism initiatives to maximize opportunities and address challenges for Washington State in connection with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. This led to opportunities to support the visibility of Washington’s clean technolgoy and sustainable business sectors on the global stage.

Before joining Karl in founding NBIS, Mary held positions in Development and Community Relations at a number of schools and colleges, including Lakeside School, the University of Washington and Columbia University. She received a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she was active in social justice advocacy.


In 2004, we had the privilege of leading an interdisciplinary planning committee to host the first national conference in Seattle on “Profitable Sustainability: The Future of Business.” This brought together over 140 speakers to discuss the foundations and strategies for sustainable business development and helped focus mainstream attention on sustainability as a business opportunity.

Since its launch, NBIS has:

  • Developed the NBIS Business Leaders Forum series to highlight innovative companies and best practices.
  • Provided in depth training programs including the Green Business Boot Camp and Sustainability Using The Natural Step Framework, as well as numerous topical workshops such as sustainable purchasing, renewable energy, waste into profit, and more.
  • Developed the NBIS Eco-Hour for networking and showcasing our company members.
  • Launched new Accelerating Sustainability and Green Team programs of resources and tools for company management teams to become more effective and strategic in their initiatives.
  • Conducted consultative projects drawing on NBIS associates with world class expertise on sustainability implementation.
  • Created the NBIS-Salmon-Safe Urban Landowner initiative in partnership with Salmon-Safe and with support from the Puget Sound Partnership and King Conservation District, leading to the first certifications of urban campuses in Washington State.
  • Helped launched and now manage the By-Product Synergy NW network, a regional initiative bringing companies together to develop material exchanges and synergies that promote reduced waste to landfill, reduced disposal costs and reduced use of raw materials and GHG production.
  • Brought greater visibility and opportunity to our member companies and helped advance careers and professional opportunities for our individual and student members.
  • Collaborated on the development of three conferences focused on Teaching Sustainability for MBA faculty and programs at local and regional universities.
  • Collaborated on regional conferences and programs including Sustainable Cascadia, Seeds of Compassion, and Seattle Green Festival.