2015 WMSBF Address Part 2: Why We Support Sustainable Business


Remarks from Daniel Schoonmaker, Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, at Triple Bottom Line Bash on November 5.  

Part 1: State of WMSBF.

Part 2: Why WMSBF Exists (Below).

My first time speaking before this group, I had won an essay contest the forum sponsored several years ago. I was an environmental activist at the time and one of the things I mentioned was how I thought I was unique in working to protect the interests of future generations when I didn’t particularly like children. As many of you know, this past year I had a baby, and now I like at least one.

That has helped put the next 80 years into context. That’s the root of sustainability: making things better for future generations.

We don’t talk about that quite as much as we used to, but it’s an important distinction. We’re talking about an ROI that’s measured in generations.  Not an easy pitch to make to your boss.  Forget quarters, even years, we’re talking generations.

And it explains a bit why the forum exists. We might seem like a charity for a constituency (businesses) that doesn’t need charity.  But we don’t serve the business community, per se.

We serve a lonely element of the business community challenged to continuously to defend its existence in a way that no other practice is. And while it’s easy to think about sustainability in terms of grand ideas. Most people that work in sustainable business aren’t say, putting the rapids back in the Grand River.

Their accomplishments are more subtle…with exceptions, and those, of course, are the people we give awards.

Mostly, sustainable business is about saving gallons, kilowatts, trees and dollars, maybe some fingers or toes.  It’s finding new ways to do things a little better, and sometimes a lot better.  It’s slowly getting rid of the bad, the toxic, and making business better.

A better chair, better beer, better food, better vacuums, better working conditions, better soap, better buildings…and that gives us better homes, better air, better water, better communities, better lives…a better world for that next generation.

That’s Auggie.  Cliché I know.  I couldn’t resist.

Thank you for supporting sustainable business in West Michigan.