Member News, WMSBF News

Study Finds Recycling Michigan Garbage Potential $399 Million Economic Impact


Food waste and cardboard among top materials sampled from state’s landfills 

  • Study sampled waste from eight sites across Michigan, sorting approximately 10 tons of material
  • Michigan garbage contains an estimated $368 million of recyclable material
  • Capturing this material would have a $399 million economic impact, or an estimated 2,619 jobs
  • West Michigan garbage contains an estimated $52 million of recyclable material
  • In communities with recycling programs, 42% of garbage is “easily recyclable”
  • Food waste accounted for 13.6% of garbage, the largest source of divertible material
  • Corrugated cardboard a “high-volume, high-value opportunity” material at 8.4%, but more prevalent in commercial waste (10.5% commercial to 5.8% residential)

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Event Review, WMSBF News

2016 Conference Review

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West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum hosted more than 140 sustainability practitioners and other professionals at its fourth annual conference earlier this month at Cathedral Square Conference Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

Presentations can be found below:

Flint Recycling Potential:  Presentation Slides (PDF)
Matt Flechter, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Roger Cargill, Schupan Recycling

Moving Flint Forward: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Kristina Johnston, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

Keynote: Pashon Murray, Detroit Dirt Presentation Slides (PDF)

Electronic Recycling in Michigan: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Steve Noble, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Nick Carlson, Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids

The Lowell Energy Anaerobic Digester: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Greg Northrup, Sustainable Partners LLC

Resilient Landscapes Through Agriculture: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Levi Gardner, Urban Roots
Youssef Darwich, Grand Valley State University

Integrating Local Food Into Your Workplace: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Garrett Ziegler, MSU Extension

Keynote: Dar Baas, Kent County Presentation Slides (PDF)

This year’s conference presented by Valley City Electronic Recycling, Herman Miller and Kent County Department of Public Works.

Exhibit sponsors included Advanced Technology Recycling, Clothing MattersFlint & Genesee Chamber of CommerceLiveRoof and LiveWall, West Michigan Environmental Action Council.


Christopher: Embedding Sustainability Successfully

The question of how to get the “biggest bang for the buck” regarding sustainability has been an ongoing discussion among business leaders for quite some time. Today, it is safe to say that sustainability best practices are not considered to be a management fad or flavor of the day. These best practices continue to be implemented by large and small companies and organizations alike, for both short-term efficiencies, as well as long-term value through avoided costs, reduced costs, and improved decision making. However, the most difficult question to answer is how best to effectively and successfully embed applied sustainability best practices into an organization or business to ensure short and long term superior performance for employees, shareholders, and stakeholders.

Recently, SustainAbility completed a report, Sustainability Incorporated – How to Integrate Sustainability into Business!  These sustainability integration best practices were developed from discussions and case studies with many global business leaders from a variety of industry and market sectors including; Unilever, Interface, BASF, Ford Motor, Novartis, Iron Mountain, Timberland, Novelis, Nedbank, Campbell Soup, Axzo Nobel, Sasol, and others. Five pathways for successful integration of applied sustainability best practices were identified. Without a doubt, there is the need for top management leadership, support, and commitment to sustainability as a key business function.  Sustainability cannot act as a “silo” business operation and it must be connected to all business functions and organizational departments.

  1. “Employ Business Model Thinking” – Sustainability should not be viewed as just a collection of business related activities and programs. Using business model thinking at the outset enables sustainability to be strategically viewed within all business operations. Mapping the entire supply chain for sustainability best practices is a great first step. Conducting an in-depth sustainability assessment, as well as SWOT analysis will help identify organizational capabilities, gaps, issue areas, opportunities, as well as define competencies which can be leveraged for future growth. Recently, Dow Chemical and DuPont announced a proposed merger based on business model thinking. Both companies have strengths in biomaterials, agricultural chemical businesses, as well as new clean disruptive technology platforms. 
  1. “Putting Materiality to Use” – Most companies today are conducting materiality assessments for their supply chain and raw material purchasing requirements. This type of assessment is being implemented to determine if any hazardous or harmful raw materials or products are being consumed or used within business operations. Many times companies are raising the bar on their own, along with other industry partners, rather than waiting for compliance or regulatory policies to be put in place. The furniture industry is a great example of an industry that has worked in conjunction with the EPA and others in determining a list of 55 chemicals of concern not to use during manufacturing or production. Today, the furniture industry is shifting to the use of sustainable and green chemistry and engineering, being promulgated by the American Chemical Society and others. Other industry sectors are also addressing conflict minerals as well in supply chain operations. 
  1. “Applying a Sustainability Lens to Products and Services” – Today, many industry leaders from businesses, cities and municipalities, to colleges and universities are applying the “triple bottom line” (TBL) lens of improved environmental, social, and economic impact for their goods and services used. There are many sustainability processes that can be used to assist in this development including Design Thinking, Design for the Environment (DfE), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Lean Manufacturing. Cascade Engineering, the City of Grand Rapids, higher education, and many others including members of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and Local First are applying the “lens of sustainability” to their business operations.
  1. “Tapping into Culture” – Many times we forget that to fully embed and successfully integrate sustainability, it will be necessary to go beyond just the use of TBL sustainability best practices within an organization or business enterprise. There is a critical 4th leg of sustainability – culture or a sense of place. Drawing upon corporate or organizational culture is most important to achieve leadership and excellence in sustainability. Keys to success include personal engagement, continuous improvement, open innovation, empowerment, and superior communications. Brewery Vivant is one of the most recognized companies that embrace sustainability through their pursuit of Benefit Corporation Certification (B Corp) status. Kris and Jason Spaulding, as owners, have achieved exemplary performance in sustainability and have been well recognized in the community. 
  1. “Leveraging Transparency” – Just like business reporting is important to shareholders, employees, and stakeholders, so is sustaining reporting as well, especially to the community in which organizations operate. Some of the best reports will have key performance indicators that measure economic, environmental, governance, and social impact areas. There are many templates that can be used to track and monitor sustainability performance. Amway issues an annual Corporate Citizenship Report that highlights their corporate responsibility, citizenship, and sustainability efforts on a global basis. Each year Amway has added additional areas to transparently report their global performance. The Kellogg Company also issues an annual Corporate Responsibility Report, highlighting their global initiatives.

These sustainability integration strategies can be applied by any business, organization, or enterprise. The marketplace now has well accepted sustainability best practice tools and processes that can be used to help you integrate sustainability successfully across all business functions to help achieve improved overall performance.

Norman Christopher
Director, Office of Sustainability Practices
Grand Valley State University
Author, Sustainability Demystified


Norman Christopher: Driving More Sustainability Value to the Bottom Line!

Recently, the Babson Social Innovation Lab issued a report entitled Project ROI – Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. The report provides additional supportive documentation that corporate responsibility and sustainability best practices can generate significant financial returns and bottom line benefits.  In their report, corporate responsibility has a broad and inclusive definition. It embraces several terms and concepts including “sustainability;” “environmental, social, and governance;” “corporate responsibility;” and “corporate social responsibility.” In essence, corporate responsibility refers to an organization’s or enterprise’s capabilities to:

  • Reduce its “corporate footprint” through positive economic, social, environmental, and governance impact.
  • Expand its “corporate handprint” through a variety of sustainability best practices that are developed to improve social, environmental, economic, and governance impact in a harmonious unified approach.
  • Improve corporate responsibility performance and reporting through transparent disclosure and accountability with employees, shareholders, and stakeholders.

What then are some key “corporate responsibility” and sustainability best practices that companies and enterprises can pursue and achieve improved performance? Are there potential target values that can be attributed to the use of these best practices?

The Babson Lab reviewed several major corporations and their corporate responsibility best practices, including Pirelli Tire, CVS Health, Lockheed Martin, Unilever, and IBM. These corporations are industry leaders and represent a variety of business and market sectors.

The potential targets for improved financial performance for large publicly traded companies include:

  • Reducing systemic risks by 5% and protecting as much as 10% of the company’s value by ensuring the enterprise’s license to operate in various countries and community locations. Addressing sustainability risks is a key overall strategy including: environmental, social, community, financial, legal, supply chain, and other risk factors. Ensuring sustainability and environmentally preferred purchasing policies are in place also improves risk profiles.
  • Improving customer satisfaction by up to 10%. A key strategy is to engage customers, employees, suppliers, and stakeholders in various corporate responsibility activities wherever possible. Acting as a corporate citizen with other local organizations in addressing systemic community issues is a significant first step.
  • Increasing revenues and price premiums by over 10% and improving corporate responsibility and brand recognition and value by up to 10%. One key sustainability strategy is to ensure that products and services meet sustainability standards and certifications. Another strategy is to use Life Cycle Analysis and Design for the Environment protocols for product development, along with sustainable manufacturing processes. Employing sustainability and green purchasing policies across the supply chain is another key strategy. Open and transparent reporting of sustainability progress and performance helps support brand loyalty.
  • Reducing company staff turnover by over 25%; increasing employee productivity by up to 15%; and increasing employee engagement by up to 10%. Providing sustainability skillset and leadership training is a critical success factor. Having top management directly engaged in corporate responsibility activities provides internal visibility and program support. Tying volunteer and donations to company social responsibility and citizenship roles enables the company to broaden its influence on community development for the areas where they operate.

Even though these opportunities were developed for large publicly traded companies, the same sustainability value opportunities hold true for small to medium size enterprises as well. Those companies in the furniture, automotive, food, and construction industries may have already begun to see these strategies being employed within their sustainable supply chain management programs.


Source: Project ROI – Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Babson Social Innovation Lab

Norman Christopher is Director, Office of Sustainability Practices, Grand Valley State University and Author of Sustainability Demystified


Norman Christopher: Sustainability Risk from the Lens of an Insurance Provider!

Recently, a business report was commissioned concerning the top 5 global sustainability risks and opportunities facing organizations today. The report was developed through surveys and panels conducted among 6,160 management professionals with varying degrees of responsibility within the manufacturing, financial, government, and service sectors. (1) The top identified risks included:

  • Extreme weather and natural disasters that severely affect crops and populations in vulnerable regions
  • Lack of fresh water access that threatens health and food systems, while imposing social impact constraints
  • Unsustainable urbanization as people migrate to larger cities generating additional congestion, health, and economic prosperity issues
  • Non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and cancer that cause significant threats to individual livelihoods while restraining community development
  • Dependency on fossil fuels where reliability on petroleum based fuel sources can inhibit further reduction of GHG emissions and the use of alternative energy technologies

Using this report and risk information concerning the environment as background, how then does the compliance and insurance community view their responsibilities for ensuring that companies and organizations meet compliance, risk, and insurance requirements? Ethical Corporation conducted a benchmarking study of compliance and risk among over 250 executives who work in the compliance and insurance industry in the US and Europe. (2) A few interesting statistics showed that nearly 85% of the respondents indicated that putting customers first was their number one business priority for this year. At the same time, over 55% of the participants indicated that the role of the compliance officer was changing. Furthermore, over 85% of the professionals interviewed felt that creating a risk and compliance culture that satisfies regulatory requirements is tantamount to success and preventing environmental risks and issues from occurring. So what then are the highest priorities for businesses to address both risk and opportunities? The key strategies are:

  • Staying ahead of regulatory change and requirements. Being reactive or just meeting regulatory compliance is not enough for marketplace competitiveness. Leadership requires raising the bar on your own through continuous improvement that will set your company and industry apart from others. A good example is the Sustainable Packaging Coalition ( that provides design guidelines, metrics, and reporting for sustainable packaging initiatives.
  • Ensuring that your organization establishes a culture of compliance and reaches out to shareholders and stakeholders. This strategy tells the good news where recognition can easily be given, as well as the lessons learned and takeaways when an incident or sub-standard performance has taken place. It is important to make compliance and performance a priority and requirement for good corporate conduct and decision making. A whitepaper on a government, compliance, and risk management framework is available at
  • Developing effective compliance programs does not mean that just having a compliance program is satisfactory or good enough. It is not about the compliance process itself that is critical and important, but more about the effectiveness and the results of the compliance program. This strategy may require developing collaborations and partnerships with service providers and customers, as well as employees. Steps to building an effective compliance program for your organization can be accessed at

In order to achieve the desired results, the Insurance Culture Benchmarking Study goes on to report the critical compliance area priorities including: resource spending, changing organizational models, improving technology development, supporting “front line” management, conducting more in-depth and effective risk programs, and ensuring customer care.

Potential sustainability risks can be seen on the horizon in many areas from the threat of weather and natural disasters, to the access of natural resources and materials, as well as health and wellness, and urbanization issues.  The question for business is how to address these concerns moving forward?

As the studies indicate, compliance and risk management is undergoing change, from organizational structure, to function and job responsibility, as well as to the creation of new and more effective compliance programs focused on the customer. To be an effective compliance leader often requires   raising the bar internally first, setting new course changes and directions for your business, and monitoring results and performance along the way with new metrics. Cost savings can be achieved and potential risks avoided, and with improved performance your insurance premiums might even be lowered!

I wish you the best on your sustainability journey!

Norman Christopher is Director of the Office of Sustainability Practices at Grand Valley State University.  He is the author of the book Sustainability Demystified.



Norman Christopher: Furniture Industry Supply Chain Sustainability


The Furniture Industry – Modeling Sustainable Supply Chain Management Best Practices!

Recently, Ethical Corp released a new whitepaper and report on the top sustainable supply chain management trends for 2015-2016. (1) The report was determined from surveys obtained from 415 global supply chain management professionals from around the world. These professionals covered many sectors including B2B and B2C markets. There were several major takeaways from this report that focused on three major areas, including most significant opportunities and issues, as well as the main drivers and change forces.

  • First, industry collaboration and trustful working relationships represented the most significant opportunity with 25% of all respondents, followed by the circular economy with 16% of all respondents. Creating greater customer awareness was the third most significant opportunity, at 11%.
  • The most significant issue was traceability and environmental issues, with nearly 30% of all respondents. Another major concern was eliminating unsustainable raw material purchasing throughout the supply chain.
  • The main driver determined was trying to eliminate or reduce supply chain risks, with over 30% of all respondents, followed by concerns for brand image and reputation, and finding supply chain opportunities.

Let’s briefly look at the furniture industry and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association in West Michigan, and how they are modeling sustainable supply chain management best practices.

  • BIFMA is a not-for-profit organization that was formed in 1973, and is the spokesperson for commercial office furniture. In conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), BIFMA and its members have developed over 20 product safety and performance standards and guidelines, including the well-known ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard that focuses on environmentally preferable furniture. The e3 standard is an open source platform that has been mutually developed in collaboration and partnership with governmental, academic, industry, and not-for-profit organizational sector input. A guidance manual and Excel TRACI spreadsheet is available for the development of individual furniture product credits. To date, 1,024 furniture and accessory products have been level 3 certified, 2,717 products level 2 certified, and 3,229 level 1 certified.

Many of the leading furniture companies including Haworth, Herman Miller, Steelcase and others are now learning more about the Circular Economy through the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A new book by Ken Webster entitled The Circular Economy – A Wealth of Flows, describes the attributes of this economy, including one in which waste is the new source of raw materials.

  • BIFMA and its members continue to work for elimination of chemicals of concern in the manufacturing process. Chemical compounds identified as hazardous materials, endocrine disrupters, and carcinogens by the EPA and other authoritative bodies are targeted for removal from commercial furniture. One of the first BIFMA efforts in this area was to minimize VOC emissions, such as toluene and formaldehyde. Now a standard chemical identity, assessment and protocol has been developed. Some of the current chemicals of concern include PVC, dyes, chromium, phthalate, and flame retardant compounds. All of these efforts speak to the growing demand for sustainable and green chemistry now being developed by the chemical industry.
  • The furniture industry is also focused on reducing risk within the supply chain. The primary concern for environmental risk comes first, which is evidenced by the use and exposure within the supply chain for these hazardous materials and chemicals. Tier 1,2, and 3 suppliers within the furniture industry are all working together to identify the specific use and quantity of these chemicals and materials of concern within the overall industry supply chain of commercial and institutional furniture. Additionally, BIFMA members are developing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that consist of summarized Life Cycle assessment information in specific impact categories, such as global warming. (2)

Overall, BIFMA is a great example of an industry trade association that exemplifies collaborations, partnerships, and trustful working relationships. They have raised the bar regarding standards and certifications, seek continuous improvement within the industry supply chain, and apply sustainable development best practices in their work.

Norman Christopher is Director of the Office of Sustainability Practices at Grand Valley State University.  He is the author of the book Sustainability Demystified.


  • Top Sustainable Supply Chain Management Trends for 2015-2016 – Ethical Corp.
  • EPDs Will Change How We Build – But Slowly, Building Green August 2015
Member News

Zero Waste Day at 5/3 Ballpark


On Wednesday, August 19th Fifth Third Ballpark and GVSU will be putting a special focus on reducing the amount of waste going to the landfill.  Grand Rapids is an area that proudly leads the way with its many green initiatives and, in this spirit, we will be attempting to compost and recycle as much as possible!

What will the volunteers be doing?

The volunteers’ most important roll will be to positively encourage people to use the trash, recycling, and composting bins correctly.  Signs will be posted at the bins to direct people, but the volunteers will be another critical support.  They will also take part in set-up, take-down and weighing the amount of material that is diverted from the landfill.

Some nice perks!

Volunteers will receive free parking, free entry for a lawn seat, a t-shirt, and a voucher for a hotdog, chips & pop.  There will also be fireworks at the end of this ballgame!


The gates to the ballpark will open at 6:00 pm and the game will start at pm.  There will be two volunteer shifts so you can enjoy the game before or after you volunteer!

The first shift will include helping with set-up and will go from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

The second shift will include help with take-down and will go from 8 pm to 10:30 pm.

 Link to sign-up page

Contact Information:            Zach Bartel   –   –   616-502-4102


Resiliency in Health Care: Disaster Preparedness Seminar at GVSU

Learn what West Michigan Health Providers are doing to prepare for natural disasters

Join a panel of local experts exploring the book “Five Days at Memorial” by Sheri Fink as part of the Community Reading Project.

This free event will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on November 19 at Loosemore Auditorium on the Grand Valley State University campus. It is open to the public.

“Five Days at Memorial” recounts the emergency management planning leading to events at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina. The panel will discuss what is being done in West Michigan to ensure emergency preparedness for local disasters. Author Sheri Fink will be visiting Grand Rapids in March.

The Panel includes:

  • Karla Black – Preparedness Coordinator for the Kent County Health Department
  • Julie Bulson – Spectrum Health’s Director, Emergency Preparedness
  • Todd Chassee – Emergency Care Specialist, Medical Director KCEMS, Assistant Professor MSU
  • Jamie Crouch – Safety and Security Office at Metro Health
  • Mark Iverson – Integrity/Security Director at St. Mary’s Health Care
  • Jack Stewart – Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator, LEPC
  • Mary VanDyke – Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Spectrum Health

To learn more about this event, contact the Brooks College Office of Integrative Learning and Advising at 133 Lake Michigan Hall, or visit

Event Review, WMSBF News

Future Green Leaders and ArtPrize Sustainability at April Monthly Meeting

WMSBF monthly meetings often foster spirited conversation between member representatives. The April Monthly Meeting and Future Green Leaders Competition, however, put table talk at the forefront of the meeting with a sustainability charrette focused on enhancing ArtPrize‘s sustainability efforts.

Sponsored by Odom Re-Use Co, the CarbonNeutral Company, and Busy Bea’s Services, Inc, the luncheon charrette focused on several different subject areas, including health and wellness, climate, food systems, social equity, waste, and transportation. Environmental and area-specific professionals led discussions with WMSBF member representatives and guests providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions to issues highlighted in ArtPrize’s sustainability plans.

Suggestions from each group, presented at the end of the charrette session, were as varied and innovative as the discussion topics. Ideas ranged from using art to promote local food and healthy eating and designing interest-specific ArtPrize maps to utilizing the event to promote eco-tourism and working with local community groups.

Continue reading about WMSBF’s Art Pize Sustainability Charrette results and the Future Green Leaders scholarship recipients here.

Member News

Future Green Leaders Finalists Announced


The Future Green Leaders Scholarship Competition will honor local students that have demonstrated innovative and inspirational approach to promoting sustainability within their organizations, families or peer groups. The three finalists will compete for the title of 2014 West Michigan Sustainable Business Fellow by defending their ideas to a panel of sustainability experts and forum members at the WMSBF Annual Meeting on Monday, April 14.

Each of the finalists will receive a $1,000 scholarship. The winner will receive an additional $3,000 scholarship.


Jamie Sansone
Aquinas College
Major: Sustainable Business

Jamie will share her experiences creating the Aquinas beekeeping club and educating the community about the importance of honey bees and their current vulnerabilities.

Kirk Rasmussen
Grand Valley State University
Majors: Documentary Film Production and Environmental Studies

Kirk will discuss how he intends to use his film production skills to promote sustainability issues.

Youssef Darwich
Grand Valley State University
Major: Natural Resource Management and Plant Biology

Youssef will share his experience creating a nursery as part the GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project, and how sustainable landscapes draw people to sustainability.

Learn more about the WMSBF April Meeting here.