Business input is vital to sustainability issues


The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, a program that had its start 20 years ago, is presenting a luncheon program March 10, with the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter, on sustainability and resiliency. The featured speaker is Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who has emphasized sustainability issues and programs since his election in 2004 and is widely credited with the city’s rank as one of the most sustainable cities in the country.

Grand Rapids Business Journal reporting has focused on several vital sustainability issues, especially in the past few weeks as business owners’ concerns turn from inventory and transportation issues impacted by blizzards and polar vortexes, to increasing concerns about flooding impacts and load limits related to the deep freeze. Well more than 100 area businesses are members of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, including furniture and automotive parts manufacturers, construction companies, retail and electrical contractor Feyen-Zylstra. Businesses are finding information and preparation particularly useful as a result of this collaborative initiative.

Heartwell knows and understands the issues well. He was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2012 when the group bestowed upon him the Climate Protection Award for Large Cities. He also was appointed to the President’s Council on Climate Preparedness in November 2013. Heartwell has assisted city staff to implement purchase of renewable resource energy, alternative fuels for city vehicles, energy conservation measures and continued efforts on water quality.

The mayor also is soliciting input from the community for the presidential task force with the goal of developing concise recommendations with measurable benefits that can be implemented quickly by federal agencies. Areas of input include energy, transportation and coastal infrastructures. The community input is due by March 14; email Haris Alibasic

Coincidently, the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan is hosting a teleconference at 2 p.m. Monday with Harvard professor David Keith, who was awarded MIT’s prize for excellence in experimental physics, among other international honors. His address focuses on “A Case for Climate Engineering.”

The Grand Rapids business community has emerged from another side of the issues entirely. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the EPA was proposing penalties on manufacturers and air quality initiatives in West Michigan on the basis of air pollution impact measures in the Chicago region. Then-Congressman Vern Ehlers battled for the region on more than one occasion.

The issues being discussed and begging for input are vital to the businesses in the metropolitan area. The opportunity to be part of the discussion with other business owners is unique.

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