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Hall of Fame Nominees: Fred Keller

As the founder and CEO of West Michigan plastics manufacturer Cascade Engineering, Fred Keller has seen his business grow in line with the sustainability movement. From the beginning of his career, Keller has managed Cascade Engineering on the the triple bottom line of building financial, social, and environmental capital. With these principles in mind, Keller has grown Cascade Engineering from a small, six-man injection molding shop into an international company with more than 1,200 employees and fourteen facilities across the globe, continuously striving to find the most innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into daily practice.

Under his leadership, Cascade Engineering became the largest company to be certified as a B Corporation-a status that requires a rigorous assessment and periodic audits of a company’s adherence to a triple bottom line framework.

For Keller, operating Cascade Engineering has not been just about making money.  “In business school, you learn a Milton Friedman approach, where the most important job of a business is to maximize profit,” Keller said in a 2011 interview with Inc. Magazine. “That’s the head talking. The heart says we want to make an impact on this world, do something positive.”

In addition to growing Cascade Engineering as an environmentally-responsible company in a traditionally “dirty” industry, Keller has also worked to ensure that his company has a positive social impact within the local community, and globally as well: Cascade subsidiary Triple Quest currently manufactures the Hydraid BioSand water filter, a low-cost purification system aimed at in-need populations in developing countries.   Additionally, in 2007, Cascade began a renewable energy product line that includes the residential SWIFT wind turbine and residential and commercial solar power solutions.

The company’s commitment to innovation as well as programs for employees have earned it multiple awards, including Chrysler’s Technology Role Model Award, the Ron Brown Award for For Corporate Leadership, and the National Governor’s Association’s Distinguished Service Award. In addition to his work at Cascade Engineering, Keller also lectures on social-capital building at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management and participates in diverse speaking engagements nationwide.