Best and Brightest Sustainable Companies Lead Way in Responsibility

PrintBe kind to the environment.

Today it’s more than a mantra. Increasingly, companies are looking for ways not only to save money through energy initiatives but also by recognizing that their customers (and their shareholders) are raising the bar when it comes to environmental issues.

And those firms that do a good job of minimizing their footprint are quite often bumped up to the top of the list as a supplier of choice.

A good example of the organizations 101 Best and Brightest Companies has centered out for being exemplary in its efforts to embrace sustainability is 3S International, a recycling company with a proprietary system that is one of the first in the nation to make it easy to properly dispose of LCD displays as well as computers, phones and handheld devices.

Triangle Associates accepts the Small Business Elite Award
Triangle Associates accepts the Small Business Elite Award

Another good example of helping others be green is Allied PhotoChemical, which employs its ultraviolet technology to help companies that would otherwise use toxic coatings. The fact that the company exports much of its business is a bonus as far as its management is concerned.

When you divert some 90 percent of your waste from a landfill, as is the case with brewing company Barfly Ventures, that’s a very good thing as well. Barfly’s Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is Michigan’s first USDA-certified organic brewery, designed from the ground up with reducing environmental impact in mind.

The hospitality business is also becoming more sustainable if City Flats Hotel is any indication. Its property earned LEED Gold Certification for its innovative design that takes the environment into account.

In the financial world, Consumers Credit Union is also building a culture where sustainability is introduced to new employees, who are encouraged to do their part to reduce the consumption of resources like paper and electricity.

Herman Miller accepts the Best of the Best Elite Award

Herman Miller, well known for being a world-class designer and manufacturer of office furniture, is staying true to the desire of founder D.J. De Pree whose desire was to be “a good corporate neighbor by being a good steward of the environment.”

That’s also the case at Nichols Paper and Supply, where the company tracks and measures its performance when it comes to sustainability issues.

The businesses and organizations recognized as 101 Best and Brightest Sustainable Companies were honored Sept. 16 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Have we done everything we can? Of course not.

But as we continue to raise the bar when it comes to being sustainable in all we do, the future is looking brighter than ever.

3S International

Mount Pleasant
Every year, millions of tons of electronics are discarded, finding their way into the waste stream, a particularly troublesome issue when you consider that at least some of that contains mercury. 3S International, through its proprietary BLUBOX technology, is helping to ease the impact on the environment by shredding the waste and sorting it into powders in the safest and most environmentally secure way. CEO John VanFossen says the firm is one of the first U.S companies to have the tools required to properly recycle LCD displays, televisions and flat screens, as well as computers, phones and handheld devices. By the time the discarded electronics pass through the BLUBOX system, all data is destroyed and nothing ends up in a landfill or shipped overseas. Each BLUBOX unit can satisfy the e-recycling needs of about 6 million people—handling some 14 million pounds of electronics. The company is collaborating with organizations such as Goodwill to help increase revenue through the recycling program. The company says it is on track to open between six and 10 facilities in the U.S. over the next three years.

Acoustics by Design

Grand Rapids
One key way that Acoustics by Design has incorporated sustainable practices into its culture is by providing training to employees. Indeed, with three of its staff already LEED certified, employees are encouraged to make the right choices when it comes to sustainability practices. “We recommend our clients use sustainable acoustic materials in their designs,” says CEO Kenric Van Wyk. That kind of thinking carries its way throughout the entire business. “The most rewarding aspect is knowing that we are doing business in a way that will positively affect our employees and our clients’ lives as well as our future resources. It is rewarding to know that we are constantly improving, learning and finding new and more efficient ways to be sustainable.”

A-Line Staffing Solutions

Sterling Heights
A-Line Staffing Solutions, a premier staffing company that supplies professionals to the health care, insurance, pharmaceutical, and information technology industries, is paperless when it comes to its application process. It’s also well on the way to doing the same for its on-boarding process. The firm, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, is lead by CEO Ray Lichocki, who says the firm encourages employees to work in an environmentally responsible manner. That includes printing only those documents that are necessary and recycling wherever possible. Even while acknowledging A-Line is a small piece of a much larger environmental picture, Lichocki says the firm is determined to do what it can to make a difference. “The actions that we take at work can positively affect our employees when they go home, and future generations to come.” That includes simply doing the right thing, especially when it comes to treating staff. “We are firm believers that if we do the right thing for our people, and people in general, then benefits will follow.” It’s been said that you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. “We’re happy to be part of the solution toward a healthier planet,” says Lichocki.

Allied PhotoChemical Inc.

Having products inherently green is a natural fit for Allied PhotoChemical to weave sustainable practices into its culture, says CEO Dan Sweetwood. The firm’s products include ultraviolet coatings and inks that are free of volatile organic compounds typical in other coatings used in industry. “Our employees feel good about being sustainable and we enjoy bringing that mentality to our customers,” says Sweetwood. When Allied PhotoChemical makes a sale, it is displacing a “non-green” technology, meaning the company is easily able to measure its impact simply by revenue growth. “Our largest impact is through the products we make,” says Sweetwood. While most of the company’s customers are outside Michigan, that’s OK too. “We are exporting our sustainability throughout the United States.”

BarFly Ventures

Grand Rapids
Barfly Ventures, the parent company of a number of brewing enterprises, takes pride in the fact that more than 90 percent of its total waste is diverted through an extensive composting and recycling program. It also partners with several charities and non-profit organizations to further promote sustainable business practices, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. All of our food waste, spent grain, take-out containers, straws, disposable cups, and paper waste is currently composted, and turned back into new soil for local farmers. Barfly’s Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Michigan’s first USDA-certified organic brewery, was designed from the ground up with reducing environmental impact in mind. In an effort to reduce its carbon emissions, the brewery is powered mostly by city steam instead of fossil-based fuels. Its beer is also part of the organic community as it uses almost 90 percent of Michigan’s organic hops supply. The company is also supporting clean water initiatives in West Michigan, making the point that water is central to its survival.

Beaumont Health System

Royal Oak
Beaumont, with three acute care hospitals and 54 community based care sites, is committed to reducing its overall impact on the environment. It does so in part by subscribing to all six Healthier Hospital Initiative Challenges as a means to actively seek new and better ways to reduce energy use, minimize waste and pollution through conservation, recycling, reduction and reuse programs. It has also aligned its purchasing practices with environmentally responsible vendors and products with reduced toxins. There are more than 700 certified green officers in the organization who are committed to sustainable practices inside the workplace and in the community. Those initiatives are also paying back in significant dollar savings, including more than $100,000 saved through recycling and avoided disposal costs, energy savings of $1 million, and several other initiatives related to sustainable practices. Beaumont is also involved with the Michigan Hospital Association’s Green Healthcare Committee and shares its successes with other organizations.

Bodman PLC

Bodman, a law firm, has taken what might be called one of the ultimate steps in sustainability by locating its offices in at least part of a reused building — the former J.L. Hudson warehouse, now a part of Ford Field. The firm boasts energy efficiency lighting and many eco-friendly innovations in its office space. Like many of its clients, Bodman has implemented a sustainability plan that incorporates environmental, economic and social sustainability considerations into operations. The plan was developed by a Sustainability Committee composed of legal, administrative, and support staff from all of its offices. While being environmentally conscious is one of the goals of sustainability, it is by far not the only goal. Its comprehensive sustainability policy includes goals and action items relating to the “triple bottom line,” the economic success of the firm, social responsibility and environmental responsibility. Bodman’s business practices already incorporate all of these concepts because it is a logical and responsible way to conduct business. Its mission is to identify all of the things it does as part of normal operations that serve the goal of sustainability and identify areas where it can improve.

Bronson Health

Bronson’s commitment to building a healthier future for all also means taking care of the environment. In doing so, it has set the highest standards for environmental practices in health care with a focus on pollution prevention, energy conservation, green building design, and sustainable food sourcing. The organization makes sustainable green practices a priority. Strong advocacy at the top and awareness on the frontline have helped it successfully reduce its environmental footprint. Bronson has also introduced responsible ways to conserve energy as well as reduce, reuse and recycle materials with help from the Baldrige criteria, lean processes and evidence-based design. Bronson has also adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) design principles and is a strong proponent of sustainable food sourcing. In 2008, its Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo became the first to sign the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge and to implement a recycling program for polystyrene foam food packaging.

Cascade Engineering

Grand Rapids
With its specialty in the plastic injection molding of large parts, Cascade Engineering puts its status as one of the world’s largest in its field to work every day as a proponent of sustainable business practices. CEO Fred Keller says the global manufacturer takes that role seriously through a wide variety of markets, including transportation, environmental services, office furniture, agriculture, plastics, water filtration, RFID and consulting services. With 14 facilities throughout North America and Europe, Cascade has achieved a notable milestone—”zero waste to landfill.” That initiative alone saves the company some $250,000 a year. And while the “Pink Cart” recycling initiative through the American Cancer Society is certainly profitable, it gives the firm an opportunity to help thousands with a visible, curbside demonstration of a worthwhile cause. The company’s efforts are also very much a source of pride, says Keller. “We take great pride in our efforts at sustainability and realize it is a continuous journey that never ends. The rewards from our commitment to sustainability are witnessed in our stability as an organization and the realization that we are doing something good.”

CityFlats Hotel

These days, hotel chains advertising “eco-friendly features” come a dime a dozen. But City Flats Hotel says very few hotels can legitimize these claims with LEED Certification. Even fewer can boast LEED Gold Certification. City Flats Hotel was the first hotel in the Midwest to earn this elite certification. LEED, an internationally recognized green building certification system, provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the measurements of sustainability that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. City Flats Hotel’s LEED Gold Certification can help guest satisfy their eco-conscience without offending their sense of style. The hotel was designed and manufactured with artfully selected green materials, technologies, and practices to reduce negative impacts on the environment. More than 30 percent of the materials used to construct the hotel were acquired from local sources and a majority of all seating and décor items were manufactured locally—at Charter House Innovations in downtown Holland. Eco-features include cork flooring installed with low-VOC adhesives, naturally hypo-allergenic bamboo linens, curtains lined with a black-out fabric to reduce energy use, high-efficiency heating and cooling units with occupancy sensors, and light fixtures with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. There are also low-flow faucets that use 30 percent less water.

Clark Retirement Community

Grand Rapids
Several years ago, Clark Retirement Community made it a point to begin looking for ways to become a more sustainable organization. In doing so, the organization (with more than 107 years of service in the Grand Rapids region), proved that age is not an impediment to the kind of change needed. “As our building aged and new equipment was necessary our team worked very hard to ensure we replaced the equipment needed with Energy Star rated and non-ozone depleting equipment,” notes CEO Brian Pangle. Recently those initiatives have included replacing a chiller system with one that’s more efficient and environmentally friendly as well as an upgrade to an emergency generator that is more energy efficient. But that’s not all. Clark has engaged its residents and staff in a “Green Team” that meets monthly to look for ways to be even more sustainable. The results include widespread recycling efforts, even as people involved learn how they can help create a more sustainable environment—at work and home. “Sustainability efforts have become part of the culture of Clark,” adds Pangle. “By providing staff with a positive work environment and experience, they in turn care for residents in a manner that has kept the organization going for more than a century.”

C-Net Systems Inc.

Royal Oak
One of the most basic things CEO Nick Tobin does for clients of his C-Net Systems is to avoid installing hardware that they might otherwise need if not for the virtual machines the company installs. “Changing our clients over to virtual machines allows them to reduce the number of servers thus reducing hardware and power requirements while saving them money,” notes Tobin. The company is also making it easier to connect with its clients remotely, another saving in resources (time and travel costs). Free electronics recycling is also part of the company’s value proposition. But environment internally is also a big factor, says Tobin. The firm also offers an atmosphere that encourages sustainability and balance, with energy-efficient appliances, the opportunity to work from home, and “green” touches around the office that include compact fluorescent lights and non-disposable silverware. Tobin says putting an emphasis on more than profit is good business all the way around. “Our kids play here, go to school here, grow and learn here. Their well-being is our primary goal and is essential to the sustainability of the metro Detroit economy decades into the future. When companies are responsible with the environment, and children grow up healthy, economic vitality naturally follows.”

Compuware Corp.

Compuware is certainly about software services, but one of the most recognized names in the area is also one that takes seriously its commitment to sustainable practices. Notable on its “to do” list is how it either reduces or reuses the waste it generates. For starters, there’s an onsite recycling program for office paper and cardboard, and specialty recycling of light bulbs, computers, toner cartridges and batteries. The waste that is not recycled is processed through a waste-to-energy facility that produces electricity. Compuware uses “Green Seal Certified” non-petroleum based dispensed cleaning products for most janitorial cleaning functions and its wellness center laundry uses sustainable bio-based detergent products made from soy, corn and coconut oil. The company’s downtown Detroit property has received EPA Energy Star Certification, which translates to lower utility consumption and operating costs than its neighbors. There are a variety of other energy saving properties, including a lighting system that uses high-efficiency electronic ballasts, a fully integrated building automation system, occupancy sensor lighting controls and even automatic flush valve and low-flow toilets in the building. Blinds are lowered during summer months to reduce solar load and system cooling requirements. Among its other sustainable initiatives is Lafayette Greens, an urban garden and park space that is open to all.

Consumers Credit Union

One of the community-chartered, member-owned credit union’s sustainable principles is quite simple: to provide quality, innovative products and services that contribute to the economic and social well-being of its membership. New employees are introduced to the culture of sustainability, a priority that has its place at the executive level and is taken into account during the selection and execution process for various products and infrastructure enhancements. CEO Kit Snyder says economic sustainability is a key measure of Consumers’ success and growth. “We are the trusted stewards of our members’ financial well-being. Extending that care to our environment promotes a big picture, unified ‘mind body’ approach to the health of our members and community.” Seeing employees empowered to make a difference is rewarding to Snyder and his colleagues. “Whether they were already passionate about sustainability or are discovering new awareness through our programs, we take pride in contributing full circle to the health and benefit of our communities.” Snyder adds that Consumers is also embracing sustainable practices from the perspective of reducing the consumption of resources, such as paper and electricity. “Our electronic document signatures initiative alone will save more than 40,000 sheets of paper by the end of the year and we expect at least triple that resource savings next year as the program reaches its full potential.”

CSI Support & Development

One of the most significant initiatives undertaken by this non-profit resident/member controlled organization was the installation of an energy-efficient reflective roof on its office building. It also has heating and cooling systems that are computer controlled by an automated building management system that uses outside air during swing seasons. The organization, being a cooperatively managed mission-driven non-profit, has its major focus in providing quality affordable rental communities for seniors. CEO Nancy Evans says that means creating social equity by improving living conditions through sustainable communities and establishing programs that offer opportunities for residents to age in place. “In many cases, our apartment communities become an anchor within at-risk areas by establishing a stable housing environment.” Cost savings that come from sustainable practices are reinvested into the buildings, resulting in consistent improvements in quality and energy efficiency. “We measure success by the benefits that we provide our residents, including a healthier home with higher air quality, a more comfortable environment, and a smaller carbon footprint with less negative impact on the surrounding community,” adds Evans.

Direct Trade Coffee Club

Grand Rapids
The Direct Trade Coffee Club started with founders and current owners Kirby Watson and Chad Morton craving a higher-quality coffee experience. “From our years in the coffee industry, we discovered the best coffee in the cup starts with great green coffee beans,” says Watson. “Doing our research, we found that the truly great beans were being sourced by roasters who had a relationship with the farmer. This relationship is a critical component to sustainable, high quality coffee.” Watson and Morton began sourcing and distributing direct-trade coffee to consumers in 2009. Since 2013, the Direct Trade Coffee Club roasts coffee to order in Grand Rapids and ships it to consumers all over the U.S.
Partnering with the farmer directly enables the company to obtain a consistent, high-quality supply of green coffee and ensures the farmer is compensated accordingly based on the level of quality they produce, and also allows purchasers to encourage sustainable growing practices on coffee farms. While other sustainable sourcing models like Fair Trade ensure that coffee is being grown and harvested sustainably according to best practices, they do not take coffee quality into consideration. The direct trade model ensures fair treatment and fair compensation for better beans, as well.

Dynamic Edge Inc.

Ann Arbor
Being able to discuss the opportunities that exist for being a more sustainable company is part of what makes Dynamic Edge a sustainable player, even though its core business is helping businesses by eliminating computer problems. Yes, the firm has placed recycling bins located throughout its offices. But it also prides itself on a core value of being “excellent communicators.” CEO Bruce McCully says that thinking allows Dynamic Edge to be constantly aware of what is going right and what needs improvement in the area of sustainability. The company also has systems that promote communication about issues that are of key importance to employees and, by extension, its customers. It’s also reaching out to nonprofit organizations, having donated more than $250,000 worth of technology services since 1999.

Educational Data Systems Inc.

One of the areas where EDSI helps its job readiness clients get ready for full employment is through training on how to handle scanning equipment that can archive and recycle large volumes of paper. Those items come from EDSI programs, the community, government agencies and local businesses. For employees of EDSI, the sustainability message begins on their first day on the job. They are told how to save energy, paper and other office supplies, with most communication handled electronically. Indeed, the company has removed some equipment and has electronic faxing systems in place. And it doesn’t store paper. “We strive to achieve a paperless work environment by scanning and saving documents,” says CEO Kevin Schnieders. “Most employees are very concerned about the environment and want to leave the world an even better place for their children and grandchildren. It’s rewarding to work for a company that cares about this and makes an effort every day to conserve resources, while being productive.” EDSI was one of the first private workforce development companies to become ISO certified, another example of its commitment to remain on the cutting edge of quality and sustainability initiatives.

Ghafari Associates LLC

One of Ghafari’s guiding principles is that the use and investment in advanced technology will benefit its clients, work, and the environment. This is best exemplified by its approach to sustainability. For CEO Kouhaila G. Hammer, successful sustainable design occurs with a better grasp on how buildings live and age. Ghafari believes that buildings transcend a stagnate state and are subject to continuous dynamic conditions. It is through the study and understanding of these conditions that the firm’s architects and engineers are able to implement successful strategies. Its sustainable design professionals work closely with scientists, climate engineers and other industry professionals, along with the latest advances in technology, to address these ever changing conditions. And the bottom line is part of the benefit. “Sustainable practices reduce waste and encourages effective use of resources. We see evidence of this in the amount of recycling, as just one example.”

Using the Amazon e-commerce platform, provides unique and high quality “green/healthy” products in support of education, awareness and advocacy. The products, says CEO Donald Sherman, “are essentially tools that allow our shoppers to make ‘green shifts’ in the course of daily living. The company, he says, is unique in that at the core of the business model there is a sharing of proceeds. “That means that every quarter we look forward to giving back to the community in the way of donations of goods or financial support.” Products such as the “Battery Bucket” are a visual reminder of the need to keep things out of the waste stream. Its customers include a park ranger who has set up a battery recycling system for firefighters to the Portland Trail Blazers that is doing the same for its arena. “The entire mission of the company is embedded in the fabric of our team members,” says Sherman. “We are able to obtain near zero waste standards in our home offices and recycle/reuse almost every box of packaging that comes and goes through our doors.” The most rewarding part of the enterprise? “Really it is knowing you’re doing the right thing and trying to encourage others to do the same.”

Detroit highlights companies that can provide green products and services (manufacturing, industrial, commercial and residential), ensuring the region’s global competitiveness. Areas of focus include renewable energies, sustainability, industry standards of reduction of consumption, transportation, logistics, and the health side of greening. For CEO John Carlos, people are the most important part of achieving his objectives. “Through education about the planet and its needs we are able to ensure the profitability and sustainability of our world,” says Carlos. “If we don’t start with the educational and health components of industry, everything suffers.” is an umbrella of information for one of the largest industrial regions in the world and it strives to be one of the best informational portals available. “Doing so means we support the development of an environmentally sound future for a better tomorrow.”

Halpin Solutions

As a versatile supplier of design and engineering services, Sean Halpin of Halpin Solutions takes great pride in his ability to operate in a sustainable mode. “I have joked around for 18 years about being 90 days away from going out of business,” quips Halpin about company that’s been working on design and engineering projects for automotive, aerospace and medical customers since 1995. When the last downturn in the economy killed companies that couldn’t survive without six months’ worth of work, Halpin says he survived by having kept his debt low. “I would never have made it if I did not have an emergency fund for the business set aside.” Halpin’s bottom line is being flexible enough to see a revenue stream go up and down without the panic setting in. “In today’s day and age if an employee isn’t billable, they’re laid off. When my employees are not billable they work on my personal inventions. I am then able to continue to grow my company’s product portfolio while in between purchase orders from my larger customers. My success is measured by my peace of mind and freedom to continue with my vision and dreams.” In the end, Halpin says he’s content whether the firm is 60 employees or just a couple. “Both have their advantages.”

Herman Miller

Enhancing the performance of human habitats worldwide. That’s quite the ultimate objective but Herman Miller, the iconic designer and maker of interior furnishings, seems like it’s up to the task. Even from its very beginning in 1953, founder D.J. De Pree said the company would “be a good corporate neighbor by being a good steward of the environment.” Today, CEO Brian Walker sees sustainability as a current value. “We believe all the parts of sustainability are important, including sharing best practices with stakeholders.” The company does this through its daily business practices and through its Better World Report on its website. Ten years ago, Herman Miller put in place a set of environmental goals, one of which was to have a zero operational footprint. Since then it has sharpened its goals around the smart use of resources, eco-inspired design and becoming community driven. Its next 10-year sustainability strategy—Earthright—begins with three principles: positive transparency, products as living things, and becoming greener together. “By being a sustainable company, Herman Miller is making the best choices possible,” adds Walker.

Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Downtown

Grand Rapids
If you’re wondering just how successful a major hotel can be when it comes to sustainability, look no further than the Holiday Inn Grand Rapids downtown facility, a place to stay that prides itself on bringing sustainability to an entirely new level. As general manager, Heather Emmons points out on the hotel’s website, it takes a lot of little things to bring an overarching sustainability initiative together. Among the hotel’s initiatives are an energy and water conservation strategy (electricity use has gone down by 34 percent per occupied room since 2009), and a decrease in natural gas use by 18 percent over the same period. The hotel has a comprehensive recycling and waste reduction strategy that includes composting of organic waste, newspaper and magazine recycling through an initiative with the local Boy Scouts, and conversion from disposable cups to glass and china in rooms. Donations are a big part of the overall sustainability emphasis, including gifts to the local homeless shelter of opened amenities, sponsorship of recycling containers at local festivals, and participation in the local Grand River Clean-up initiative. The hotel is also offering a “Green Meetings” package that promotes zero waste, reusable glassware, bulk condiments and napkins made from 100 percent recycled content.

Humantech Inc.

Ann Arbor
As experts in workplace improvement, Humantech is putting its expertise to work for clients—some of whom may not even know they have a problem. Since 1979, the company has been working on a single focus—improving the lives of the working population. “We bring tangible benefits to you and your company at every step,” says CEO M. Franz Schneider. “Whether you need to deploy a global ergonomics initiative or a single risk assessment, we partner with you to achieve your goals. We listen well, work hard, and evaluate ourselves based upon your success.” Humantech clients include many of the most respected Fortune 500 corporations in the world.

Integrated Architecture

Grand Rapids
CEO Paul Dickinson says pushing the boundaries of sustainable design has been going on at Integrated Architecture for nearly two decades. Indeed, two of Integrated Architecture’s professionals were among the first LEED Accredited professionals in Michigan. Every building that IA has created since 1999 has included sustainable design principles. “Our mindset is not to treat sustainability as a capability we can apply if desired, but as an obligation and a responsibility that we integrate into our practice,” says Dickinson, who holds the AIA—American Institute of Architects—designation. “We do that because we know it is the best we can offer our clients and our world.” Even while not every project IA handles will be certified green, it does take the time to educate its clients about the benefits of sustainable design, lifecycle cost and the positive influence of abundant natural light and fresh air. “Not everyone is as passionate about the environment as we are, and it doesn’t matter,” adds Dickinson. “As we design, we educate and we make a difference.” IA’s award-winning sustainable buildings have helped solidify its reputation as architects, engineers and designers who care about designing for people and for the environment. “The bottom line is that sustainable design is good business and good for business,” says Dickinson.

JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids
In addition to being all about luxury, the JW Marriott Grand Rapids is also committed to earth-friendly practices. From an energy consumption standpoint, the hotel is equipped with variable speed motors throughout the building and the lighting uses energy saving T-8 fluorescent bulbs in all offices and back of the house areas. The facility has a building management system that helps monitor air handlers, boilers, chillers and exterior lighting. The building itself uses free cooling in the winter months, which allows the hotel to avoid the use of chillers altogether. Another sustainable practice is the use of a system that uses minimal energy in unoccupied rooms. The hotel has an extensive recycling program, including a glass crusher recycler for non-deposit glass, an aluminum can crusher, plastic crusher, and kitchen deep fry oil recycler. There are also recycling programs for solvents, batteries and mechanical oil and the hotel uses a weep tube irrigation system for exterior landscape areas.

Legal Copy Services Inc.

Grand Rapids
Legal Copy Services makes a direct impact on the environment by giving its clients the tools to go digital. By converting a client’s records to searchable online documents, CEO Bethany Weaver is hoping to lead by example as a company. “In doing so, we can make our employees more aware of the importance and practicality of sustainable practices.” The company has created a forum and gives employees the resources to help contribute ideas and suggestions to further sustainability. “Our practices positively affect our bottom line by reducing wasteful practices,” adds Weaver.

Lowry Solutions

Company CEO Mike Lowry says strength for his clients and his organization come from creating a more sustainable business. “We’re molding the company to incorporate sustainability in all applicable business-related decisions. By implementing these core values, we believe they will not only strengthen the organization, but influence other business peers to do the same.” Lowry demonstrates corporate responsibility to the environment, its employees, customer base and stakeholders by providing award-winning, sustainable technology solutions. “Not only do we encourage our customers to implement sustainable practices, we walk our talk by implementing sustainable business practices into our daily operations,” said Lowry. Several examples of initiatives the company offers its clients include a stock label program, green ribbon offerings, mobility solutions, reducing carbon footprint and paper trail, asset disposal and recycling programs. The organization also supports programs that support the community, including a partnership with Pinckney New Tech High School and support of Jeans for Charity.

Metro Health

The concepts of sustainable practice are foundational for Metro Health, a 208-bed, LEED certified osteopathic teaching hospital. CEO Michael Faas says striving for excellence and sustainability is hardwired into the organization. “There is a natural dedication of our industry to patients, their families, staff and the communities we serve,” says Faas. “We routinely communicate our commitment to sustainability to our staff.” Seeing the degree of dedication and involvement the staff has in supporting and encouraging sustainable practices is rewarding to Faas. “Inviting colleagues, local schools and businesses, and professionals from across the country to visit Metro Health for tours or to participate in webinars or conference calls is a way for us to share what we’ve learned and how our sustainability program has evolved.” Something as basic as recycling hasn’t been overlooked in the overall sustainability program. Last year, Metro Health, which has a waste management program that includes 17 different waste streams, realized a net benefit of nearly $47,000 from its activities in that area.

Midwest SMART Expo

Bloomfield Hills
The Midwest SMART Expo, a series of events designed to educate the community and assist them in making decisions that will increase their quality of life and the lives of their loved ones, has education at its heart. “Our vendors and exhibitors provide education on a variety of topics to assist attendees in understanding their options and benefits and learning more about the latest resources and trends,” says CEO R.J. DuBois. Employees take pride in knowing that the firm is helping the community in a variety of different ways. “When you have pride in your work and your community you naturally want to protect the environment around you,” says DuBois. “Michigan has so many natural resources, it is important to realize how important it is to preserve our environment for future generations. We have a lot of young people and I believe they respect working for a company that wants to give back to both the community and the environment.” DuBois says the framework of the organization includes taking a long-term perspective, including “evaluating the future consequences of decisions we make on a daily basis.”

NeXt I.T.

In addition to recycling used computer equipment and empty printer cartridges for local charities, NeXT is taking simple but effective steps toward being a more sustainable company. CEO Eric Ringelberg says the focus on sustainable practices is a personal preference. “I hate to throw things away,” he says. So if it’s broken, fix it. I believe this can be used in every aspect of life. Through continuous improvement, we are finding ways to reduce driving onsite to reduce fuel emissions, reducing paper by doing more online, and providing more proactive services to our clients that minimize down time.” The firm is also able to reduce its environmental footprint by performing more than 90 percent of its client support remotely, a strategy that saves fuel, vehicle wear and tear and other resources.

Nichols Paper and Supply

Norton Shores
Being able to provide products and solutions that meet the sustainability needs of its customers is key to Nichols business, says CEO Michael Olthoff, referring to examples such as green cleaning using safer chemicals or better tools for a healthier indoor air quality. The firm achieved LEED for Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance in 2010 and is preparing to certify in 2015. In the past six years, it has raised its Energy Star score for energy and waste reduction with little capital investment and by 2008 it had reduced its landfill use by more than 90 percent. All newly hired associates go through basic training on sustainability issues and Nichols participates in a number of groups dedicated to the issue. The company, in addition to having a member of senior management dealing with sustainability issues, tracks and measures results, which it shares with employees and customers as well as throughout the community. Employees are encouraged to recycle and bring things to work to recycle if they don’t have the capabilities of doing so at home.

Nucraft Furniture

Comstock Park
As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Nucraft is committed to supporting responsible environmental policies and practices in all that it does. “We strive for sustainability, weighing our business decisions against the costs to the ecological, social and economic systems they affect,” says CEO Bob Bockheim. “Sustainability is closely tied to both our continuous improvement programs and our focus on associate and community support, which is founded on the family principles of Nucraft’s owners.” The company uses a “Design for Environment” process in the development of all new products to ensure that it considers and minimizes the environmental impact of those products. It also buys hardwood veneers grown in U.S. forests managed for sustainable yields and its finishes are formulated for employee safety and low environmental impact. The company meets, and often far exceeds, all government emission standards. “As a manufacturer of high quality wood furniture, we understand the obligation we owe nature for our success,” adds Bockheim. “We acknowledge this debt by striving to be environmentally sensitive in all that we do.”


Grand Rapids
Organicycle provides a composting service to businesses and neighborhoods that are seeking an alternative to the high costs and environmental repercussions of dumping in the landfill. It gives others the ability to include sustainable practices in their culture by introducing multi-stream recycling options. They are also able to isolate odor-causing materials such as food and soiled paper along with single stream recycling. Organicycle is effectively pioneering a new market, one that isolates material from an organization’s waste stream for the purpose of generating a new product. “That’s exciting,” says Justin Swan, Organicycle’s vice president. “Organicycle is helping to drive new industry while increasing the life cycle of waste, all while lowering costs. Being a part of this has been very rewarding.” Just as rewarding is helping other businesses to create, improve and expand their sustainable practices. Organicycle says it is committed to continually working with the state legislature and the governor’s office to promote strong recycling habits that protect natural resources and promote new industry.

Parjana Distribution

Parjana Inc. and Parjana Distribution are working together to help solve the world’s water challenges by delivering solutions to water management. The approach involves detecting the problem, analyzing environment variables and designing a solution that adapts to the need, working with nature on a molecular level. Parjana holds a patent for the Energy-Passive Groundwater Recharge Product, a game-changing water technology capable of being manufactured as a distributable product. Parjana Distribution holds the license for worldwide distribution rights to the innovative water management product. Parjana Green is a separate entity established to interface with companies, non-profit institutions, government and non-government organizations, the focus being to bring its new technology to those interested in learning about and determining how it can make the world healthier, safer and more sustainable. Parjana Green aims to help those without access to quality drinking water and the many throughout the world who suffer from exposure to malaria, cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and other life threatening water borne diseases. The company believes it has a responsibility to address the scarcity of clean drinking water and eradicate water borne diseases, to save lives and enhance the quality of life for those most in need.

Peckham Inc.

As one of the largest vocational community rehabilitation programs in Michigan, Peckham specializes in creating positive change in the lives of people with disabilities or other barriers to employment. Its clients are a diverse group from many partnering agencies. As President Mitchell Tomlinson explains, Peckham seeks to provide a wide range of opportunities to maximize human potential. “We embrace collaboration, effective resource management and innovative approaches to achieve world-class excellence.” Peckham’s success is largely a collection of stories, told by individuals who have overcome obstacles to become more successful. “Our customers speak of exceeded expectations and high-quality performance,” says Tomlinson. “Whether providing vocational programs or globally competitive products, Peckham delivers on potential.” Peckham offers more than 30 different rehabilitation and human services programs from art to career planning, pre-employment screening to facility based training, youth programs to organizational employment and residential services. It is committed to assisting job seekers secure and maintain long-term employment, allowing for job upgrades and career advancement. A wide range of services are offered with a focus on job readiness skills, career exploration, resume development, interviewing, guided job searches, as well as developing interpersonal and coping skills to enhance job retention. The nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1976, honors Ralf A. Peckham, a former state of Michigan director of rehabilitation services.

Priority Health

Grand Rapids
Priority Health may be a nationally recognized health plan, but providing benefits is far from all it does. Problem seeking and problem solving are at the heart of how it serves the communities it serves, says CEO Michael P. Freed. A Michigan-only insurer, Priority works in the state to reduce its carbon footprint by adopting sustainable practices both internally and externally. “We believe that we have a corporate responsibility to continue to reduce waste, innovate and find sustainable practices,” adds Freed. “But we also have the opportunity to allow our most passionate employees to step forward and lead others in their passion for sustainability.” That “green team” leads many of the firm’s sustainable efforts and has grown their leadership skills in the process. Johnson says the most rewarding part of being a sustainable organization “is knowing that our efforts are making a difference in not only our daily work life, but in the community and the environment. Although we realize savings in energy and waste, we recycle and reduce consumption because it’s the right thing to do.” A variety of initiatives are taking those sentiments to the next level, among them the installation of automated lighting and HVAC, paperless human resources processes, energy saving kitchen equipment and an across-the-company emphasis on purchasing decisions that reflect a new ecological mindfulness. Freed says they all count. “These changes support our efforts to cut cost and reduce waste, while making more sustainable decisions for our organization and the environment.”

Ranir LLC

Grand Rapids
Making oral and personal health care products may not seem at first the logical choice to look for sustainable innovation, but a deeper look at Ranir would reveal something much more powerful. “It’s our quality products, exceptional value, outstanding innovation and unparalleled customer service that help our customers earn brand loyalty from their consumers,” says CEO Christine Henisee. “And sustainability is making what’s good for a company also good for the planet.” She then takes that definition a step further. “Sustainability is recognizing that a corporation’s long-term interests are intellectually and financially consistent with resource efficiency, proactive health and safety practices, and responsible leadership. We see it when consumers begin to align their purchases with their values.”

RNS Packaging Corp.

CEO Rich Daniels says he expects packaging to become another marketing tool for companies and he’s using RNS as a way to reinvent the industry. “Our company is devoted to reshaping the way companies package and ship their products,” he says. RNS, through its biodegradable packing materials, is disrupting the conventional ideas of what packaging represents to the consumer. “Our packaging will enhance the unboxing experience for every gift and delivery,” says Daniels. As a sustainable company, Daniels says RNS Packaging can see definite cost savings by employing smart, eco-friendly practices. “Logistics is becoming a bigger part of our bottom line, so we look to not only cut shipping costs, but ship more responsibly,” he says. That means looking for partnership opportunities with responsible shipping companies. “We are keeping our costs down by maintaining responsible shipping practices. It makes good business sense and great environmental sense,” he adds.

Rockford Construction

Grand Rapids
When Rockford began searching for a new home that would bring it from the suburbs to the downtown area, reuse of the abandoned Miller Products industrial coating plant at 601 First Street presented an opportunity for the company to make a difference in one of the great old neighborhoods in Grand Rapids and reflect its commitment to sustainability. The project is on a Brownfield site that occupies one square city block. Extensive remediation and clean up was required prior to construction, but the end result is a modern, attractive building that enhances the surrounding neighborhood in addition to meeting its needs. For the first time, Rockford’s construction, trades, development, and property management groups all reside under one roof, and on one floor. The office features an abundance of flexible, collaborative workspaces. Team members can be found working outside in the courtyard or on the roof, plugged into a booth in the Hive break room, or seated comfortably in the large, open Hollow. High-tech conference rooms with video conferencing capabilities support Rockford’s local and national clients. The company utilized an intentional and collaborative design and construction process to meet its goals and objectives related to the Triple Bottom Line. The project is pursuing LEED certification, an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.

Schupan Recycling

As the largest independent processor of used beverage containers in the nation, Schupan Recycling has pretty much “written the book” on what it takes to keep materials such as aluminum, PET plastic and glass in a closed loop system and out of the landfill. It operates recycling facilities on behalf of Michigan’s largest grocers and wholesalers and manages recycling programs for special events, universities and schools throughout the Midwest. Established in 1968, Schupan began as a processor of industrial scrap metal, marketing the material on a regional, national and international level. By 1986, Schupan Recycling was a reality and some 13 years later, the company received ISO-9002 certification. The 1990s were also a decade of rapid expansion, with facilities in Holland, Wixom and Grand Rapids. In 1997 the firm partnered with a Norwegian company to form the largest-volume recycling program in the U.S. and now has a new facility in Howell.

Seco Tools LLC

At Seco Tools, recycling is seen as a great investment in the future of its employees and the environment as well as being a sound business decision. CEO Kurt Nordlund says the initiatives begin by educating employees on the importance of the practice. “Employees get a chance to understand the business benefits of a strong sustainability program and how we support our customers with their carbide recycling needs,” he says. Two years ago, Seco began integrating education on its recycling program into the technical classes it offers to both employees and customers, not only emphasizing how carbide is a limited resource but demonstrating how it is collected to recycle. Customers are given free carbide recycling bins and the firm’s website has numerous videos and other educational materials. “Offering a recycling program and extending it to our business partners and customers encourages others to join us in protecting the environment,” adds Nordlund.

Siemens Industry Building Technologies

As a leading provider of energy and environmental solutions, as well as building controls, electrical distribution equipment, fire safety and security systems, Siemens Industy’s Building Technologies division is helping make buildings safer and more comfortable as well as environmentally friendly. That often means savings as well. The company walks the talk when it comes to environmental sustainability, having implemented a wide range of programs and initiatives that are working to reduce its energy footprint throughout the company. The firm takes a holistic approach to sustainability, making significant investments in the economic aspects of sustainability. That means having the products, services and solutions that provide the greatest impact on helping customers advance sustainability while helping the bottom line. The company measures its performance through established key performance indicators and by tracking its emissions, reporting its progress and issuing regular performance updates. The company says it takes pride in serving the needs of its customers and being a long-term partner as their goals and strategies continue to change.

Spectrum Health Hospital Group

Grand Rapids
Not-for-profit Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, and it takes that responsibility seriously when it comes to promoting sustainable practices among its more than 21,000 employees. “We encourage them to green their homes and communities as well,” says CEO Richard Breon. The sustainability initiative is engrained into Spectrum Health’s culture through a variety of initiatives, including Green Teams, education, systemwide initiatives and incentive-based programs. Through a sustainability program that touches people while providing intrinsic value, Spectrum Health is helping employees do their part in protecting natural resources for future generations. “They truly understand the connection between human and environmental health,” adds Breon. “Our green initiatives are a great way for us to give back and live our mission to improve the community we serve.”


Grand Rapids
Sustainability is one of today’s fundamental business challenges and Steelcase says it’s their inspiration. “Every day our team works to create maximum value from our available assets and be catalysts for good,” the global maker of office furniture says on its website. And it’s just getting started. “We know we are on a journey. Along the way, it is our responsibility to care for our planet and its people. As we continue to study, learn and share insights, our commitments and accountabilities continue to grow in measurable and meaningful ways.” The firm says it is forging an integrated path to deliver value across social, environmental and economic platforms. “We know that the only way to provide the best products in the world is to ensure that they’re the best products for the world,” the company says. “That’s why every step of the way—through design, manufacture, delivery and product lifecycle—we consider the impact of our work on the environment and uncover opportunities to make things better.” By consuming less, polluting less, rethinking systems and investing in communities, Steelcase says it is learning every day that sustainability pays. “The positive implications for our business, our customers, our shareholders and disadvantaged people around the world gain clarity as we continue to explore options and innovate solutions.”

Studio 5 Inc.

At Holly Kaiser’s Studio 5 the sustainability question is an easy one. “We believe that a commitment to sustainable design must be achieved through a combination of disciplines including your choice of materials, methods, energy consumption, landscaping, company image and advertising,” says Kaiser. “This is the basis for Studio5 – all five design disciplines should be in harmony with each other.” The sustainable architecture, interior, graphic, landscape and set design firm takes it from there. “Sustainable design is the backbone of our design philosophy,” she notes. “We strive to provide our clients with environmentally friendly solutions to their projects that do not affect the client’s vision and overall budget.” In the process, Studio 5 has compiled a library focused on materials and products that are environmentally friendly and it holds classes to educate design professionals, business owners and key personnel to the growing knowledge and criteria of “green design.”

Sunblossom Solar Gifts LLC

It may be a small, growing company, but Sunblossom Solar Gifts is out to make a big difference in the way it produces sustainable products and doing so in a sustainable way. The giftware and solar décor it produces, including indoor solar wind chimes, is designed for indoor use with solar power, requiring no batteries, no wind and no power whatsoever. Sunblossom embraces sustainable practices in other ways, including its packing materials that it collects from the recycling center in Ann Arbor. It also collects boxes from local grocery stores. “Recycling as a philosophy and practice provides a certain glue to our company culture, as it is embraced by everyone,” says CEO Bonnie Greenwood, who says the idea is often the first step to something big. Greenwood believes having a focus on operating in a sustainable manner ultimately translates into a better bottom line, which translates into more employment.


SynBella is a full service wellness provider to corporations, while providing virtual preventative wellness training to all. SynBella honors the advancements and treatments of modern medicine, while combining it with holistic approaches that are essential to healing, which result in true well-being. Its expert panel includes a preventative cardiologist, life coach, nutritionist, physical therapist, counselor, fitness expert, ayurvedic practitioner, yoga and meditation instructors. The company says its well-rounded approach to preventative health and natural healing is the “missing link” in today’s current system, and SynBella’s mission is to make this information available to all.

Triangle Associates Inc.

Grand Rapids
With a role as a construction manager, design builder and general contractor in the Grand Rapids area, Triangle Associates is a firm believer in the power of sustainable practices, something CEO Craig S. Datema says the firm continues to implement at all levels of the company. “This cross-company buy-in means that our entire team seeks solutions that keep sustainability in mind. Our business has the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on sustainability as we plan and build facilities for a variety of clients. Helping our clients understand their options and the long-term implications of their selections allows them to make the right choices from a sustainability standpoint.” Triangle’s experience with a variety of solutions is key to making that happen. “That gives our clients the confidence to choose sustainable solutions. The impact of design and construction methods incorporated into large-scale facilities is something that we and our industry partners take very seriously.” Datema says when it comes to ongoing sustainability, “taking care of people best represents our values as an organization. During 95 years of business, treating people fairly, openly, and honestly has not only paid off, but is essential to our ability to the economic and environmental sides of the triple bottom line balance.”


As one of America’s largest privately held construction companies Walbridge takes seriously its commitment to operate in a sustainable manner. One practical way that plays out is its adoption of a program that incorporates sustainable practices into all its projects. Through GreenWISE—Walbridge Intelligent Sustainable and Environmental—the company identifies some 18 onsite environmental practices designed to lower a project’s impact on the environment. That means saving energy, recycling and creating ways to be sustainable on the job. Team members participating in GreenWISE often reflect on deeper sense of accomplishment and purpose it brings to their work. Walbridge has already reached the $1 billion mark in LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project value with the 2013 Gold certification of its Naval Facilities Engineering Command new Navy Exchange in Bethesda, Md. Walbridge is making its contribution to sustainability in other ways, including the donation of well-conditioned used computers to low-income students, families in crisis and various veterans organizations. As CEO John Rakolta Jr. says, building green makes sense. “It’s better for the planet and it saves our clients money in the long run.”

Webasto Roof Systems Inc.

Rochester Hills
As a developer and manufacturer of products for the automotive industry for more than 75 years, Webasto is used to staying current with changing needs. Today its product portfolio includes many solutions that actively protect the environment, notes John W. Bul, commercial and business development manager. One of those is the engine-dependent heating and air conditioning systems that noticeably reduce fuel consumption and emission of pollutants. The company also provides roof solutions that let sunlight into vehicles. “The most rewarding aspect of our initiatives is the realization that as a sustainable organization we have a positive effect on current and future generations,” says Bul. “Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.” On a practical level, Webasto uses natural lighting and high efficiency lights to reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs, also redirecting air compressor and machine heat help reduce its heating bills.