Member News

WMSBF Annual Meeting to Feature Environmental Justice Forum

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will be hosting a forum on sustainable business and environmental justice as the featured program for its 24th Annual Meeting on Monday, June 18 at the Grand Rapids Kroc Center.

The forum will discuss how businesses and institutions can or should respond to economic and racial inequities of environmental outcomes, highlighting the recent work of the Michigan Environmental Justice Work Group and the Grand Rapids Environmental Justice Collaborative. Among other topics, it will examine how the working group recommendations are driving likely state and local policy changes meaningful to local businesses, as well as what opportunities there are for sustainable business practices to promote positive change.

Panelists include Jeremy DeRoo, Executive Director of LINC Up, Chris Kolb, President of the Michigan Environmental Council, Kaushik Nag, Director of Global Change Management, Talent Acquisition and Employee Engagement for Amway Corp., Guy Williams, President & CEO of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and Anne Marie Hertl, West Michigan Regional Coordinator for Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Chad Rogers of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will be moderating the panel.

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum is a regional network of business, government, non-profits and academia dedicated to promoting business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility.

Its annual meeting includes an update on the organization to its members, stakeholders and other interested parties, as well as the introduction of new board members and recognition of the 2018 President’s Award Winner, which honors professionals for contributions to the organization. This year’s honoree is David Rinard, recently retired Director of Global Environmental Performance for Steelcase Inc. David will be retiring from the WMSBF Board of Directors this month after 16 years of service.

The meeting is presented by The Rapid, Valley City Electronic Recycling, Thomas J. Newhouse Design, Steelcase, Experience Grand Rapids and Mercantile Bank.

Doors open for exhibits at 11 am, with the program beginning at 12:30 pm, ending at 2 pm. Lunch is $18 for members if paid online at, $23 for non-members. All are welcome to attend.
More information available here.
Event Review, Member News

WMSBF Hosts Forum on Building Material Reuse and Talent Retention & Development

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum hosted a luncheon discussion at Davenport University featuring seperate presentations on building material reuse and people focused solutions for talent development and retention for its April education and networking program.

See photos of the event on Facebook here.

Mike Bauer, Founder and CEO of Detroit Audio Lab and Chris Rutherford, Executive Director of Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit, discussed how their organizations are leveraging building deconstruction to forward job creation and circular economy improvements in Detroit.

Milinda Ysasi, Executive Director of The Source shared insights on the need for comprehensive support structures to improve employee performance, retention and address structural inequities in the West Michigan economy.

Presentation available below:

The WMSBF April Forum was presented by Davenport University.

Member News, WMSBF News

WMSBF to Honor Comfort Research with Circular Economy Leadership Award

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will recognize Comfort Research with the inaugural Circular Economy Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 25 at the Grand Rapids Ballet’s Peter M. Wege Theatre.

The Circular Economy Leadership Award honors an organization for successful efforts to promote waste diversion and the development of a circular economy in West Michigan through excellence of internal programs and practices or promotion of diversion within its clients or community. It is one three new awards WMSBF has created as part of its annual Sustainable Business of the Year Awards.

Some of Comfort Research accomplishments include:

  • Becoming zero-waste to landfill.
  • Strategically placed recycling bins with simple, easy to understand labels allows everyone to quickly know what bin their waste can be processed in.
  • Recycling 100% of internally generated production waste
  • Recycling all shipping skids, cardboard, foam, and beans
  • Recycling 97% of all office waste including food, paper, metal and electronics.
  • Developed long lasting UltimaX beans from 80% post-consumer recycled content, UltimaX fiber from recycled soda bottles in our pet bed lines, and use 100% post-consumer shredded polyethene foam in the Fuf seating line – All which are 100% recyclable.
  • 42,000 LBS. of organic compost that is turned into rich fertile soil.
  • 150,000 LITERS of water processed via our water fill stations.
  • 397,916 LBS. of recycled waste. This includes items such as plastics, cardboard, eps and metal. Thats the same weight as over 89,000 Big Joe Dorm chairs.

The Triple Bottom Line Bash is the signature function for local sustainable business professionals. This year’s sold-out event is presented by Consumers Energy.

Member News, WMSBF News

WMSBF to Honor Cascade Engineering with Social Responsibility Leadership Award

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will recognize Cascade Engineering with the inaugural Social Responsibility Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 25 at the Grand Rapids Ballet’s Peter M. Wege Theatre.

The Social Responsibility Leadership Award honors an organization for successful efforts to promote corporate social responsibility, equity, empowerment and justice within its operations and the communities it serves. It is one three new awards WMSBF has created as part of its annual Sustainable Business of the Year Awards. The selection committee evaluates critera such as leadership and employe engagement, policies and practices, and community collaborations and relationships.

Some of Cascade Engineering’s many program highlights include:

  • Diversity Statement
  • Diversity Calendar produced yearly with letter from CEO to Employees
  • Triple Bottom Line annual reports since 2003 (available online)
  • Leaders’ Forum address an anti-racism component annually
  • Orientation that includes Diversity, Inclusion and the CE Culture
  • Mandatory Diversity Training (Awareness, Diversity Theatre, Institute for Healing Racism)
  • Diversity Coordinating Council
  • Employee Opinion Survey
  • Diversity Perception Survey
  • Voluntary Affirmative Action Plan
  • Strategic goals and tracking for diversity
  • Taste of Cultural Heritage
  • Dialogue Training
  • Internal “Office of the President” award on Social Capital/Diversity
  • Recruitment Policy identifying minority recruiting sources
  • Move the Box and Re-entry Hiring Policy (ex-felony)
  • Welfare to Career Hiring Policy (low income)
  • Career Development for all
  • Tuition Reimbursement and Davenport Match for all
  • Partnership with DHS and The Source (eliminating barriers)
  • Financial Management Class
  • Zero Tolerance Harassment Policy
  • Internal Opportunity for Advancement Before Opening to Public
  • Anti-Racism Events – Free tickets (Jim Crow Traveling Museum, Traces of the Trade Movie, The Help)
  • Monthly Reward and Recognition on Diversity
  • Cascade Community Connections (grants for employee volunteering)
  • Exit Interview Questions relating to inclusion
  • Diversity Pen Pals
  • Young Professionals of Color Annual Conference
  • Supplier Performance Measurements (Scorecard includes diversity component)
    Host Facing Racism 2 day Workshop
Member News, WMSBF News

WMSBF to Honor Holland Board of Public Works with Climate Leadership Award

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will recognize the Holland Board of Public Works with its inaugural Climate Leadership Award on Wednesday, October 25 at the sold-out Triple Bottom Line Bash.

The Climate Leadership Award is one of three new awards WMSBF has created as part of its annual Sustainable Business of the Year Awards. It recognizes an organization that has adopted practices that demonstrate climate leadership locally and within its industry.  The selection committee evaluates critera such as community leadership, creation of a climate action plan, innovation, and a commitmtent to both greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation strategies.

Some of the ways Holland Board of Public Works is responding to climate change include:

  • Development and implementation of the long-range Holland Community Energy Plan (CEP)
  • Largest municipal snowmelt system in North America (utilizing waste heat from power generation)
  • Creation of Holland Energy Fund F
  • First On-Bill Loan Program in Michigan. Initiated the legislation to make that possible. Now available to all utilities with recent energy legislation.
  • Use of a Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI) process for decision making
  • 18 public electric vehicle charging stations installed in Holland in 2011. HBPW does not charge customers for the “fuel” in order to promote conversion to EVs and the advanced battery economic development cluster in Holland
  • Commissioned a pilot demonstration project and study at new West Michigan Regional Airport of locally invented Suntuitive Dynamic Glass by Pleotint. The variable thermal resistance windows showed energy savings of 36% compared to ASHRAE 90.1 standard glass and 12% energy savings compared to fully tinted glass.
  • Participation in Georgetown University Energy Prize as a way to raise awareness and a sense of urgency to the goals of the CEP, resulted in a 6.1% reduction in electric and natural gas consumption by Holland residents, K-12 schools, and municipal buildings and infrastructure in 2015-2016 over baseline of 2013-2014.
  • The new $245 million Holland Energy Park is first power plant to receive the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s “Envision” rating. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions by half. Some $1.3 million is being invested in the Holland Energy Park Visitor Experience Center to increase energy literacy and inspire careers in energy.
  • First utility in the county to offer a bonus incentive to businesses for installing Dark Sky certified light fixtures

The Triple Bottom Line Bash is the signature function for local sustainable business professionals. This year’s sold-out event is presented by Consumers Energy.

Member News

WMSBF Selects Mark LaCroix as 2017 West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame Inductee; Sarah Chartier as Future Hall of Fame Award Winner

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will honor Mark LaCroix of Natural Capital Partners and Sarah Chartier of Spectrum Health at the Fourth Annual Triple Bottom Line Bash on Wednesday, October 25 at the Grand Rapids Ballet’s Peter M. Wege Theatre.

Currently Natural Capital Partners Executive Vice President for the Americas, LaCroix has been promoting sustainability locally and nationally for a quarter century. Prior to joining Natural Capital Partners in 2008, LaCroix worked with Interface, and was fortunate enough to be part of Ray Anderson’s sustainability epiphany. As a result, he refocused his career to serve as vice president of Sustainability for Interface’s Fabrics Division.

Team-MLacroix_350_345_70_s_c1_c_t (1)LaCroix today leads Natural Capital Partners work in the Americas, partnering with clients such as Microsoft, UPS, and Bain & Company to drive positive business results through the management of their environmental and carbon impacts using market-based solutions. He is also on the advisory board of The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, on the board of directors of Artists Creating Together, and a past president of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.

He will be the 12th inductee into the West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame. Each year, WMSBF honors the sustainable business practitioners that have made the greatest contribution to sustainable business in West Michigan over the course of their careers. Honorees are selected by a committee of past honorees and WMSBF presidents, this year including Gabe Wing (Herman Miller), Dave Rinard (Steelcase), Jennifer Wammack (IDa Design), Bill Stough (Sustainable Research Group), Alison Sutter (City of Grand Rapids), Gayle DeBruyn (Kendall College of Art & Design), Kris Spaulding (Brewery Vivant), Jason Kehr (Valley City Electronic Recycling) and Thomas J. Newhouse (TJN Design).

The committee also selects each year an emerging professional whose work deserves further recognition.  As the Sustainability Program Manager, Chartier has managed Spectrum Health’s Sustainability Office for over five years. Her efforts are focused on identifying environmental and financial opportunities, reducing waste and mitigating Spectrum Health’s environmental footprint. More recently, she has taken on Spectrum Health’s Supplier Diversity program.

Chartier is a board member of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, Chair of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Green Healthcare Committee, sits on the Environmental Advisory Council of Vizient, District Leadership for the Grand Rapids 2030 District, a LEED GA and born and raised Yooper!  In 2017 she was recognized by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters with the Mayor George Heartwell Emerging Leader Award, with Women of Inspiration Award by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and as a Community Sustainability Champion by Grand Valley State University.

Sarah Chartier

The Triple Bottom Line Bash is the signature function for local sustainable business professionals. This year’s sold-out event is presented by Consumers Energy.

Member News, WMSBF News

WMSBF Launching Food Waste Council

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has received a seed grant from the Michigan Local Food Council Network to promote food recovery among local businesses and institutions through the creation of a new multidisciplinary council of food waste stakeholders.

The Western Michigan Food Recovery Council will serve commercial and industrial markets in West and Southwest Michigan, principally Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Allegan and Berrien counties, with a particular emphasis on large grocery operations and the commercial and institutional food service operations that account for an estimated 48% of food waste landfilled in Michigan, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.  The council will provide access to peer-to-peer education, multidisciplinary networking, technical resources, and opportunities for collaboration.

“There is an enormous economic and environmental value lost to waste within local food systems that could be retained with efforts to promote less-wasteful, money-saving practices among businesses and institutions,” said Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. “We can retain value through reuse options that feed the hungry or animals, through waste minimization, and the creation of marketable compost products and services.”

A recent WMSBF study found that Michigan disposes of an estimated 1.1 million tons of food waste through its municipal waste stream each year, the single largest source of material disposed in the state’s landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. West Michigan disposes of an estimated 132,000 tons of food waste, while Southwest Michigan disposes of an estimated 106,000 tons of food waste. Nationally, the USDA estimates that as much as 40% of food purchased is waste.   Business and institutions generate a slight majority of food waste, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, and offer the most opportunity for recovery improvement.

The council will be facilitated by WMSBF in partnership with and the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Grand Valley State University.

Founding council members include representatives from SpartanNash, Meijer, Cocoa, Organicycle, Barfly Ventures, Bells Brewery, Gordon Food Service, Mercy Health, Spectrum Health, Creative Dining Services, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent County Department of Public Works, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Secchia Institute at Grand Rapids Community College, Lake Michigan College, and Feeding America West Michigan.

The Michigan Local Food Council Network is a program of the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) at Michigan State University.  It has provided support for a dozen county local food councils across Michigan over the past year.  WMFRC is the first council in the network organized around a specific issue, and will collaborate with other network councils in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.

“Our goal is to strengthen the network of food councils across Michigan, and the WMFRC will fill a unique space in the state’s food council landscape,” said Liz Gensler, co-coordinator of the Michigan Local Food Council Network and Outreach Specialist at CRFS. “We see great potential for WMRFC to impact food recovery innovation both locally as they work alongside councils in West Michigan and across Michigan as they share learnings and the tools they develop through the network.”

Member News, WMSBF News

WMSBF July Features John Ball Zoo and Founders Brewing

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will host a luncheon discussion next week highlighting recent sustainability initiatives at two high-profile local destinations: Founders Brewing and John Ball Zoo.

WMSBF hosts a monthly meeting of approximately 100 local sustainability professionals. This month’s event is Monday, July 17 from 12 to 2 pm at the Bissell Tree House at John Ball Zoo. It is open to the public.

Allmon Forrester, Director of Facilities, Planning and Sustainability at John Ball Zoo and John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo will discuss the zoo’s sustainability success stories, highlight its efforts in waste reduction, energy efficiency and sustainable development, highlighting the connection between animal conservation and sustainability. The meeting will also include an optional behind the scenes tour of the zoo’s exhibits.

John Ball Zoo inspires people to be active participants in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment. John Ball Zoo houses 1,500 animals and serves a diverse audience of over 500,000 visitors annually. It is building a plan aimed to both educate and challenge the organization and its community partners about waste management, in hopes of achieving zero-waste in the years to come. Since launching a water conservation plan in 2002, it has saved 615-million gallons of water and cut usage by over two-thirds. Green roofs have been added on four buildings, several ‘live’ walls have been installed, and over 150 new trees have been planted in the last eight years.

Cody Green, the Environment, Health & Safety Specialist for Founders Brewing Company will share how its efforts to sustainably dispose of wastewater from brewing operations led to a partnership with City of Grand Rapids that will develop a city-operated biodigester.

Lunch is $15 for members, $20 for future members. Learn more and register at

Member News, WMSBF News

2017 President’s Award Winner: Jason Kehr

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will honor Jason Kehr as the 2017 President’s Award winner at its Annual Meeting this Monday.  The President’s Award recognizes a professional for his or her contributions to the growth and development of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.  It is given each year at the WMSBF Annual Meeting.  View past winners here.

Kehr is Managing Partner of Valley City Electronic Recycling. He is a founding member of the WMSBF Solid Waste Task Force and has served on the board of directors since 2015. A tireless advocate for the organization, Kehr is directly responsible for growing WMSBF membership by 5% during his time on the board. He was also a contributor to the Michigan Municipal Solid Waste Economic Valuation Study.

VCER is an R2 Certified electronic recycler and has been serving Grand Rapids and the state of Michigan since 2003.  Jason resides in Eastown with his wife, Marilyn, and their five children.