Before he became involved with sustainability efforts, Mark LaCroix considered himself a run-of-the-mill sales guy at Interface Fabrics. However, when Ray Anderson, founder and CEO of Interface, discovered the concepts of sustainable business, it set LaCroix and Interface on a different path.
As a member of the Interface Sustainability Council that engaged with notable experts in the field such as Paul Hawken, Jeanine Benyus, and Amory Lovins, LaCroix found himself discovering new concepts that would lead to his involvement with West Michigan Sustainable Business forum.
“This was not just a professional transformation, it was a personal transformation as well,” said LaCroix. “It’s kind of like one of those sayings that a lot of sustainability people say: ‘When ignorance ends, negligence begins.’ My time of ignorance about what had been going on had ended, so I felt like I needed to engage.”
LaCroix discovered the forum after participating in an early meeting where Ray Anderson was presenting. From that point on, he found himself very involved, serving on the board of the forum for a decade. It was during this time that WMSBF developed the My Healthy Green Home program, designed to re-think affordable housing to make it more efficient and healthy for its residents.
Now Executive Vice President, Business Development (U.S.) for The CarbonNeutral Company, LaCroix believes the programming put on by the forum in its early years, both in monthly meetings and larger conferences, was very influential. “We had one conference at Grand Rapids Community College that was especially meaningful for me because we got Ray Anderson to be the keynote speaker…I got to introduce him.”
While the organization itself has grown in the last 20 years, the forum’s legacy also continues in the new generations of sustainability-focused business professionals joining the workforce in recent years.
“[At the beginning], we were still in what I would say was first generation of corporate sustainability,” he said. “I was a first generation corporate sustainability practitioner with no formal training, but a lot of passion and took it on myself to self-educate.”
“It evolved into the second generation of people who really built their careers around sustainability. You had people coming into the movement who had a business background who were specifically trained in life cycle thinking and whole-systems thinking, so you had this second wave of properly-educated sustainability professionals,” he continued.
With new developments in business, and a continued focus on sustainability in the West Michigan community, LaCroix feels the Forum will remain relevant in the future. “One of the things we have to be proud of in West Michigan is that we were a real pioneer in initiating this dialogue between traditional environmentalists and the business community,” he said. “That wasn’t very common.”
“It creates stronger ties, provides a way to show commitment to protect environment and provide return to investors,” he said. “I think that [the forum] has been a very good platform for those discussions to happen and to continue to evolve in our community.”