Nominees were selected by a nominating committee comprised of Hall of Fame honorees, past WMSBF presidents, and lead sponsor representatives, including George Heartwell, Bill Stough, Gabe Wing, Carol Parsaca, Sarah Herbst, Jennifer Wammack and Daniel Schoonmaker. The winner will be selected by a vote of current members. You must vote no later than Monday, October 19. 

Vote Here.

The honor recognizes organizations that:

  • Demonstrate the mission of the WMSBF “To promote business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility through education and collaboration.”
  • Demonstrate a clear, compelling vision and core values that underscore how that vision will be achieved as it relates to ongoing sustainability efforts.
  • Demonstrates policies, procedures and/or initiatives that set high standards for socially responsible and environmentally preferable products, services, business practices, and as members of the communities in which they operate.

Meet the 2015 West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Business of the Year Nominees.


 

Aquinas College

Since Peter Wege launched the first West Michigan College Presidents’ meeting on Economicology in 1999, Aquinas College has been a leader in the integration of sustainability into campus life and academic coursework. Sustainable practices are a part of all of our operations and programming; we are especially proud of our pioneering accomplishment of offering a Sustainable Business undergraduate degree in 2003. This program has placed dozens of dynamic change agents in leading companies across the region. As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Aquinas is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. In 2014, Aquinas launched a green revolving fund to provide funding for campus energy efficiency.

We have been top of the leaderboard in the nationwide Recyclemania competition, and our recent student-led Zero-waste initiative has resulted in an over 70% diversion rate from landfills and incinerators. Several new projects are nearing completion such as the campus Sustainable Food Purchasing Policy and nature app for campus visitors. By collaborating with other institutions and groups such as the Wege Foundation, Community Sustainability Partnership, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, and WMSBF, we maximize our impact. In the past year, we have offered free programing on sustainability through our High School Economicology Day. Explicitly organized to better educate campus and community members, our Economicology Forum has reached over 600 attendees. Engaged service is a hallmark of our Catholic and Dominican traditions; this month over fifty Aquinas volunteers participated in the WMEAC Mayors’ River Cleanup. Students at Aquinas are introduced to sustainability on their first day, and that education continues through innovative programming for the duration of their time at the College. Aquinas is grateful for the nomination of Sustainable Business of the Year and looks forward to building a more sustainable future with our great West Michigan partners.


 

BIFMA

BIFMA launched work on a sixth version of the ANSI/BIFMA Furniture Sustainability Standard this year by hiring a materials expert to assist stakeholders and announcing its intent to more closely align credit language in the standard with the LEED Rating System and other leading programs. The standard has already been a success with 63 manufacturers certifying more than 7,000 product lines through the level® Certification Program. The alignment will connect more manufacturers and products with more project teams and specifiers to make the sustainability performance achieved through the standard more transparent and an easier “fit” with requirements of those programs.

In April, BIFMA brought together leaders of organizations concerned about hazardous chemicals and how to eliminate them from the manufacturing process. It was the second conference the association organized looking at “chemicals of concern” and those forums have resulted in a strategic partnership with the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Collaborative; a pilot project investigating how to get better information on all materials in the supply chain; and a continuation of work with the Green Science Policy Institute that began with a focus on flame retardants.

In September, BIFMA began working with the EPA on a pilot of the agency’s Draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance Standards & Ecolabels for Federal Procurement. As a large purchaser, the U.S. Government needs to know that furnishings they use are meeting sustainability goals. Of the 400-plus programs making environmental claims today, the pilot will establish a common set of criteria for all purchases. BIFMA is doing similar work with the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) so that all institutional purchasers, private sector and government at all levels, can make meaningful decisions when buying products. The SPLC is bringing like-minded organizations together to share best practices and speak with one voice on customer needs and desires.


 

Brewery Vivant

Brewery Vivant is a neighborhood brewery and restaurant founded on being a small, but influential, sustainable business. We measure and report on 15 sustainability goals annually in our “Beer the change…” report. A few highlights of our progress in 2014 include sending less than 1% of our waste to the incinerator, donating 11% of our profits and 233 volunteer hours to local charitable organizations, and reducing our energy intensity by 17%, mostly due to purchasing 100% renewably generated electricity.

We are Grand Rapids’ 4th Certified B Corporation which is a company structure that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This certification is like our building’s LEED Certification, but instead of focusing on one aspect of our business, it focuses on our entire operation. We are also a Certified Bicycle Friendly Business and we promote alternative forms of transportation through biannual rides between Vivant and Rockford Brewing Company, sponsoring Active Commute Week every May and co-hosting a pub run once a month with Gazelle Sports.

This summer we initiated the creation of a sustainability committee through the Michigan Brewer’s Guild. Our goal is to elevate the level of sustainable business and brewing practices throughout the state’s many craft breweries by providing online resources and opportunities to share best practices. We are also actively working on initiatives to decrease our water footprint, realize our commitment to onsite renewable energy, and support urban agriculture & education about food systems with local children.


 

Busy Bea’s

Busy Bea’s was the first janitorial company in West Michigan to embrace the microfiber flat mop system brought here by their supplier from Italy. This system significantly reduces water usage. The microfiber flat mop system also results in a 85% reduction in chemical usage, provides a more germ free environment and eliminates dust mopping.

Busy Bea’s also uses Pro Team back pack vacuums that enhance indoor air quality with its quadruple filtration system. Pro Team has partnered with the American Lung Association to educate the public about indoor air quality. These vacuums are also designed for a 7 year life expectancy which reduces equipment disposal into the landfills.

We use carpet equipment with low water settings, Green Seal 37 chemicals for general cleaning and floor care products that are more environmentally friendly.

We recycle not only at the office but also bring back empty plastic chemical bottles back from our many locations to be recycled and recycle all other containers from plastic bags to water bottles and train all staff to do the same. Each new employee goes through class room training which includes our environmental practices and procedures which they are expected to follow and which are monitored.

We also sell and promote green paper products to our customers and work with them to support recycling and composting.

Busy Bea’s also embraces corporate social responsibility. We strive to provide a livable wage and benefits but go beyond that. We recognize and encourage great performance through verbal & written recognition, awards and gift cards. Although we are not a bank, we support our employees in their life achievements so have loaned money for car repairs, tuition, rent and other temporary help needed. We have a program to pay wages for hours volunteering to encourage employees to give back to the community and volunteer as a company and support non-profits in addition to providing non-profit pricing for services.

We encourage other small businesses to embrace the triple bottom line. You can do the right thing and be profitable.


 

Clothing Matters

Still left out of most sustainability conversations, classrooms and conferences, apparel manufacturing is the world’s 2nd largest polluting industry, and the largest polluter of freshwater after agriculture.

2016 marks two decades of Clothing Matters’ commitment to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources and support social justice, by providing education to individuals and organizations with an incomparable world-class collection of sustainably manufactured apparel serving 5 generations.

Every day, our health is impacted by apparel choices.

* 1/3 pound of insecticide is used to grow cotton for one t-shirt.

* 1800 gallons of water are used to grow cotton for 1 pair of jeans.

1000s of unregulated chemicals are used to produce what we wear. Clothing Matters’ mission is dedicated to preventing use of and exposure to carcinogens and other toxins including formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, perfluorinated compounds, phthalates and other persistent substances known to cause allergies, asthma and cancer as well as immune, neuro-behavioral and reproductive disorders.

In 1996, after two decades of consulting with organizations to integrate sustainability into their mission, Clothing Matters’ Founder Marta Swain read Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce and learned that cotton—known as “the fabric of our lives”–was the most heavily treated crop in the world with carcinogenic chemicals. Her research and investment into providing alternatives commenced immediately and has resulted in providing options for tens of thousands of diverse, discerning clientele from near and far who’ve supported the effort by adding a comfortable layer of sustainability to their lives and those they love.

Clothing Matters has proudly partnered with over 100 local, regional, domestic & international design teams, supporting their investments in practices that improve personal, social and ecological well-being.  

West Michigan may be the most sustainably dressed region in the nation, thanks to Clothing Matters reducing carcinogens in our closets, communities and ecosystems.


 

Direct Trade Coffee Club

The Direct Trade Coffee Club was created to create sustainable economies for all parties in the coffee value chain.

Today we are one of the only coffee companies in the world that sources coffee 100% through farmers we have a direct relationship with.

We offer several programs that enhance our sustainability:

Dirt to Dirt is a program that provides transparency to the coffee supply chain on an level unique in coffee industry.  Dirt to Dirt enables customers to source an individual micro-lot of coffee and meet the farmer.  When the coffee grounds are used, we work with the customer on responsible disposal.

Our new product 7 Cold Brew utilizes Cascara (the fruit of the coffee cherry), which has been historically been a waste product in coffee processing.  Re-purposing the Cascara provides a great Hibiscus flavor profile to 7 Cold Brew and gives our farmers another revenue stream from what has historically been a waste product.


 

Goodwill of Great Grand Rapids

2016 marks the 50th year that Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Inc. has been repurposing stuff and lives in the Grand Rapids area! It is our goal to extract the most value from all the materials we have been entrusted with. To do that we funnel all donations through our unique valuation process. All the money earned from our stores, export sales and recycling program funds our workforce development activities here in the greater Grand Rapids area.

“Recycling” has become an intrinsic part of who we are. That means office organics collection, recycling tours for the community, labor programs with the Kent County’s single stream recycling center, engagement with the DEQ and the Michigan Recycling Coalition as well as managing over 25 million lbs of materials annually. The money we earn from your donated material helps fund job training, placement and retention services in your community!

Goodwill is active in the world of Michigan recycling in various ways including; being the 2014 recipient of the Michigan Recycling Coalitions program of the year award, the 2012 2nd place award winner of the Goodwill Industries International Energy Challenge, the first LEED Certified Goodwill in the State of Michigan as well as an involvement with the DEQ on various recycling projects. In all, Goodwill is a leader in our community when it comes to extracting value from stuff and people. We have done it for almost 50 years now and will do it for many more to come.


 

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

Below is a brief summary of our initiatives while providing a home ownership opportunity for applicants in Kent County. The sustainability of our community development program is three-fold, as addressed below.

First the home itself, which is built to be heathy, comfortable, durable, and affordable. Each new home is built to obtain a certification with LEED, Energy Star, and Indoor Air Quality. This includes site integration, a complete thermal enclosure system to deliver comfort and lower utility bills, a high efficiency heating system designed for optimum performance, a comprehensive water management system to protect the structure from moisture damage, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances. In addition to our energy conservation measures, our homes are built to be adaptable for aging in place.

Second, the preparedness of the homebuyers for a successful lifetime of home ownership. At HFHKC we have a success rate of over 94% of our homebuyers – which we have more than 350 at this time. This begins with mandatory education classes, for which we have several. Examples are the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class, living successfully in a high performance home, home maintenance class, landscape class, basics of tools for construction, and understanding mortgage documentation. In addition, we are educating our volunteers – including students from construction programs at GRCC and GRPS School of Innovation/ Academy of Design & Construction.

Thirdly, we addresses critical repairs, weatherization needs, and exterior home and yard clean up within the neighborhoods where we are building. The homeowners need to apply and be accepted into this program, not unlike the homeownership program. They also need to be current on the mortgage (if applicable) and taxes. In this way, we are providing support to the neighborhood in addition to each new home.


 

Herman Miller

We believe the environment is a cause every corporation should put high on its agenda. Renewing our commitment to the environment led us to a new ten-year strategy called “Earthright” launched in 2013. We had learned a great deal since our Perfect Vision goals back in 2004, and this new vantage point allowed us to sharpen our focus. Our revised policy and goals are based upon—and driven by—these following Earthright principles and themes.

Guiding Principles

  • Positively transparent: We will share an unprecedented amount of information about the impacts for which we are responsible and what we are doing about them.
  • Living things: We will create better products and processes to protect everyone’s health and well-being, restore the ecosystem, and give back more than we extract.
  • Greener together: We cannot solve these problems by ourselves, but must engage our entire community.

Themes

  • Resource Smart describes our goals for waste, water, and energy.
  • Waste: We will use better processes to eliminate all waste from our facilities.
  • Water: We will manage our water well, eliminating any unnecessary water use.
  • Energy: We will use only renewable forms of energy and will be as efficient as possible.
  • Eco-inspired Design: We will design products to use materials with safer chemistry, include recycled/bio-based materials, reduce life cycle impacts, and be part of a closed-loop recycling system.
  • Community Driven: We will engage our suppliers and continue to build on our history of employee engagement.

With two years of actual results in place, our cumulative improvements are on-pace with the progress we need in order to achieve our Earthright targets. For details on our goals and results, please visit our Better World Report found on the Herman Miller website.


 

Steelcase

For more than a century, Steelcase has believed in the power of people. Every day, in locations around the globe we work to unlock the human promise and create meaningful lasting change. As we see it, sustainability is about creating and supporting economic, social, and environmental conditions that help people, organizations, and communities thrive.

As you will discover in our 2014 Corporate Sustainability Report, our initiatives are generating real results. For instance, we’ve expanded our renewable energy investments to represent 100% of our global electricity consumption. At the same time, we continue to reduce our direct reliance on fossil fuels for our operations and our products, decreasing our global energy use by 60% since 2001.

We know that the potential of sustainability extends well beyond energy use to our own operations. We continue to drive toward a broad spectrum of positive impacts. Here are a few highlights:

  • We’re partnering with our customers to help them meet their sustainability goals. This past year, we’ve helped divert 50 million pounds of unused furniture from the landfill in the U.S. alone and provided over 250 custom metrics reports so our customers can measure the impact of their decisions.
  • Within our supply chain, we’re continuously driving more innovation and transparency. This enables us to offer more sustainable products to strengthen our leadership position and our business.
  • We continue to invest in our many global communities with a record amount of donations and thousands of employee volunteer hours.
  • Globally, as our workforce continues to become more diverse, we’re investing in our people with programs designed to strengthen collaboration and build cultural awareness.
  • We’ve had an 8% increase in employee retention and a two to three-fold improvement in self-reported scores from our employee wellbeing pilot programs. These results are linked to our commitment to providing great work environments and implementing programs promoting the wellbeing of our people.
  • The Steelcase Innovation Center at our global headquarters in Michigan received LEED Platinum certification. To date, it is the highest rated LEED-Commercial Interiors project certified in the state of Michigan – and worldwide only 29 projects scored higher.