Zoo named ‘Sustainable Business of the Year’

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John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D'Arienzo (center) receives the award for West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year. Pictured (from left) in the background are Daniel Schoonmaker, executive director of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum; Paul Isely, WMSBF board vice president and associate dean for undergraduate programs at the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University; and Sarah Chatier, WMSBF board president and senior sustainability project manager at Spectrum Health. Courtesy WMSBF

John Ball Zoo was named the 2020 West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year by the members of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF).

The award was presented at the WMSBF’s seventh annual Triple Bottom Line Bash on Oct. 15 held outdoors at Fulton Street Farmers Market.

The West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year is selected annually by a vote of the forum membership, honoring the local company or institution that best represents the values of the triple-bottom line.  

John Ball Zoo was chosen from six leadership award honorees that also were recognized at the event.  

Earlier in the night, the zoo had accepted the West Michigan Clean Water Leadership Award, which honors an organization for demonstrating a commitment to the proliferation of green stormwater infrastructure and other water quality stewardship practices on its property or among its stakeholders.  

“People’s sustainability journey can happen many ways — whether from a practical standpoint or as part of your core values,” said John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo in his acceptance speech. “It doesn’t really matter, as long as we’re driving change.” 

According to D’Arienzo, the zoo’s recent efforts began on a rainy day when Allmon Forrester, now director of facilities, planning and sustainability, highlighted to the then-new CEO that the zoo was putting nearly one million gallons of city water into its pond each year, and that by utilizing stormwater instead, it would save utility costs and improve the environmental conditions of the facility.  

“It gave us an opportunity to start rethinking our role in sustainability,” D’Arienzo said.  “How do we lead from the front with over 500,000 people (visiting) the zoo from all 50 states?  That is an amazing audience to drive change, to inspire, to inform. That led us down a really exciting path.”

He added conservation is part of the zoo’s mission, and it is lived out through local programs to support wildlife and global efforts to promote economic development and sustainability in regions where biodiversity is at risk, especially in Africa. Only 4% of the world’s mammals live in the wild, part of a mass extinction crisis that threatens wildlife across the planet, he said.

“The John Ball Zoo is extremely honored to be recognized by the WMSBF members for the Sustainable Business of the Year for 2020,” Forrester said. “Having the respect from our peers signifies to us that we are making a positive impact on our environment and community. The impacts we are making in sustainability help drive our efforts in conservation to save wildlife and wild places.” 

The Triple Bottom Line Bash was the forum’s first live event since March. About 100 sustainability leaders gathered safely to celebrate their peers and work.

The forum honored five other companies and institutions at the event: the city of Grand Rapids, Consumers Energy, El Granjero Mexican Grill, Haworth and Mercy Health. More information about those awards is online.

Four individuals also were honored — Denise Van Valkenburg, sustainability manager at Herman Miller;  James Moyer, associate vice president and director of facilities at Grand Valley State University; Bill Gurn, manager of facilities and maintenance and operations at Haworth; and Kareem Scales, administrator of operations/executive director, Greater Grand Rapids NAACP. More details on their awards are available here.

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