The city’s new sustainability plan will carry forward many of the goals that were part of the 2011-15 plan but with a few changes — most significantly the addition of a fourth pillar: governance.
Haris Alibašić, director of the city’s office of energy and sustainability, said adding governance to the pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability is a progressive move by the city.
He said the 2017-21 plan “takes it up a notch.”
Governance will focus on improving the city’s fiscal resiliency, transparency and accessibility.
The six overarching governance goals in the sustainability plan are:
- Provide value to citizens at lowest reasonable cost.
- Policies and tools for effective and efficient management.
- Engaged and informed community.
- Open and inclusive government.
- Effective and efficient service industry.
- Sustainable city workforce.
Alibašić said the governance aspect of the plan will work with the other three pillars to make Grand Rapids a truly sustainable city.
Economic sustainability remains an important element of the plan, as well, and the city will need support from private business partners to achieve these goals, he said.
The plan includes four “target spotlights” in economic sustainability.
The first is to increase the number of certified B Corp businesses in Grand Rapids by creating incentives that encourage businesses to go through the B Lab certification process, which recognizes social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Nine Grand Rapids companies have achieved B Corp certification.
Alibašić said the city will work closely with partners, including Local First, on this goal.
He said businesses need to contribute more than jobs in the regions they call home, and that society is demanding businesses become more socially and environmentally conscious.
“I think it’s really critical,” Alibašić said of getting more companies to register as certified B Corps.
The city also seeks to increase the diversity of neighborhood businesses by “ensuring 20 new businesses are established annually.”
Alibašić said “diversity” in this sense refers to not only the types of businesses, but also the types of jobs and income levels, as well as diversity in ownership — meaning more women and minority-owned businesses.
The city also will work to ensure 80 percent of jobs “created or retained with incentives” annually will be permanent, full-time employment with benefits, and it will work with business partners in the community to increase private business investment by $500 million by June 30, 2021.
“Economic development is a core area of sustainability,” Alibašić said.
Alibašić said a lot of potential tools in the form of incentives could be used to achieve the city’s economic development goals.
The city also is working on increasing its environmental sustainability.
Alibašić said Grand Rapids is committed to relying on 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. The city currently operates on roughly 30 percent renewable energy sources.
Alibašić said the city has done particularly well in energy efficiency already.
“We overperformed in reducing energy costs,” he said.
The city also realized a return on investment to the tune of over $700,000 from DTE and Consumers Energy for its past efforts.
He expects the plan’s environmental goals to continue this progression.
Alibašić said the biggest thing people will notice about the 2017-21 Sustainability Plan is that it is a more condensed version of the previous plan.
He said while several goals were consolidated, most of the 200 targets from the 2010-15 plan remain in some form in the new plan and will be achieved.
Alibašić said the new plan ensures Grand Rapids will remain a standout city across the country for its sustainability practices.
“When someone looks back, they will say ‘that was great the way the city committed to sustainability.’”