In the summer of 1994 a group of 10 like-minded companies launched an initiative that would allow local companies, colleges, governments and non-profits to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives promoting sustainable business practices within their organizations and the region. One of the first organizations of its kind in the world, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has served as a support network for two generations of triple-bottom-line practitioners, playing a critical role in distinguishing West Michigan as the nation’s unofficial capital of sustainable business, helping to popularize green building, sustainable product design, beyond-compliance practices and savings-driven sustainability.
“Founding the forum took a lot of legwork, and there was some apprehension on many people’s parts, as you might imagine,” said David Rinard, Director of Global Environmental Performance for Steelcase Inc. “It took persistence and determination, but today we’re a strong robust organization. I think that idea that businesses and environmentalists cannot work together has been disproven.”
The anniversary celebration begins with the regular forum monthly meeting on Monday, September 8 from 12 to 2 pm at the Main Branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library. The retrospective on 20 years of sustainable business in West Michigan offers a high-powered panel of local sustainable business experts including Tom Fehsenfeld, Crystal Flash; Mark Lacroix, The Carbon Neutral Company; David Rinard, Steelcase Inc.; Deb Steketee, Aquinas College; Bill Stough, Sustainable Research Group; and Keith Winn, Catalyst Partners. Grand Valley State University’s Norman Christopher will moderate.
The panel will discuss how leading West Michigan organizations began to invest in sustainability initiatives during the 1990s and the challenges such efforts encountered, the region’s unique role in promoting pollution prevention, sustainable design and green building practices nationally and internationally, and how approaches to sustainable business and the triple-bottom line have evolved over three generations of sustainable business professionals, among other topics.
“West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum was the vanguard of bringing business and environmental issues under one umbrella, and saying that these two aren’t counterproductive to each other, but mutually beneficial to one another,” said Stough, who was the primary organizer for the forum in 1994.
The meeting will also include updates on two initiatives discussed at recent forum meetings: the ArtPrize sustainability project and Michigan community solar. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Learn more and register at wmsbf.org/September.