Small Business & Startups and Sustainability

WMSBF recognizes its business of the year

September 12, 2014
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Justin Swan
West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum honored Organicycle, and Justin Swan, as Sustainable Business of the Year. Photo via fb.com

The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum celebrated its 20th anniversary last night with a rollicking party at the Bissell Tree House at John Ball Zoo.

During the first annual Triple Bottom Line Bash WMSBF announced the winners of its new awards program, which included the Sustainable Business of the Year winner and the inaugural Sustainable Business Hall of Fame class.

Sustainable Business of the Year

The Sustainable Business of the Year award went to Organicycle. Other nominees included Amway, Cascade Engineering, Herman Miller and Steelcase.

“This recognition is overwhelming,” said Justin Swan, sales and development manager for Organicycle. “When I learned we were nominated, my jaw hit the floor.

“When a small business is validated by gaining new customers it's a good feeling, but to be honored by our peers is truly overwhelming and special.”

Swan reflected on the company’s success, which included overcoming many obstacles.

“Dan Tietema (Organicycle president) and I set out to challenge a community of businesses and residents to re-calibrate their throw-away habits,” he explained. “We knew it would be tough, and the cards were stacked against us.

“I think our peers recognize the tremendous uphill climb we have been faced with — not just in starting a small business in today's economy, but having to carve out a new industry that requires behavior change before buy-in.”

Swan paid homage to the other nominees saying they’ve paved the way for Organicycle to be successful today.

“This award doesn't exist without the awareness and support these companies have generated over the last 20 years,” he said.

Hall of Fame inductees

Mayor George Heartwell, Sustainable Research Group’s Bill Stough, Cascade Engineering’s Fred Keller, and Paul Murray, formerly of Herman Miller, were inducted into the newly created Sustainable Business Hall of Fame.

Honorees for both the Sustainable Business of the Year and the Sustainable Business Hall of Fame were chosen by a vote of forum members, with finalists nominated by the board of directors.

Founding WMSBF members

The 10 founding members of the WMSBF also were honored during the celebration: Aqua-Tech Consultants, Crystal Flash, Environmental Resources Management Inc., Donnelly Corp., EARTH TECH Inc., Herman Miller Inc., Lorin Industries, Perrigo Co., Varnum Riddering Schmidt and Howlett and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

One of the first organizations of its kind in the world, WMSBF has served as a support network for two generations of triple-bottom-line practitioners, playing a critical role in distinguishing West Michigan as the nation’s unofficial capital of sustainable business, helping to popularize green building, sustainable product design, beyond-compliance practices and savings-driven sustainability.

“Founding the forum took a lot of legwork, and there was some apprehension on many people’s parts, as you might imagine,” said David Rinard, director of global environmental performance for Steelcase Inc. “It took persistence and determination, but today we’re a strong and robust organization. I think that idea that businesses and environmentalists cannot work together has been disproven.”

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