Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

2013 Local First Sustainability Conference

Because I somehow had a free afternoon on Wednesday, I ventured to the 5th annual Local First Sustainability Conference.

Seems right up my alley since it’s all about Grand Rapids, sustainability and it had some speakers who I know personally.

To open the conference, there was a “Real World Experience” segment, which exemplified breweries. The two featured were ones I’m quite familiar with, as I’m sure many others are as well.

Founders Brewing Co. was represented by Communications Manager Sarah Aldrich.

She went through the three pillars of Triple Bottom Line sustainability.

Those are:

  1. People
  2. Planet
  3. Profit

She related it all very nicely bringing a locally sustainable focus to a global scale by starting off with a picture of a Founders bumper sticker in Bruges, Belgium.

Brewery Vivant co-owner Kris Spaulding followed up. She talked more about the how Vivant stays sustainable, in a short manner.

It involves looking at what’s next and what can be done better. Following a growth model that is sustainable for their small goals, publishing their goals and using employee engagement.

Vivant treats its employees incredible, with full health benefits, four hours of paid volunteer service, and profit sharing and staff appreciation days.

Vivant also does a lot of recycling, through the Grand Rapids program and Treehuggers, who Spaulding said helped them increase their recycling by more than 500 percent.

The brewery also strives to be cow neutral, by supporting the cows they end up consuming. Last year, they fed 25 cows and 25.1 were consumed.

“We were a tenth of a cow away,” she said.

The brewery also gives back to the community, giving 10 percent of profits to charity.

Vision

Part of what helps make a business sustainable is its vision for the future. One of the breakout sessions was “Casting the Vision” with Rob McCarty of The Image Shoppe.

He started with a video and quote from Tony Goldman. The real estate “visionary” passed away in September.

“Vision is day dreaming with feet on the ground,” Goldman said.

McCarty said the first step is asking “Where do I want to go?” You can ask this as an individual or as a leader of a company.

To accurately envision, the timespan should be between five and ten years. Any more and it could be too far out. Too short and you might not leave enough time for the vision to be accomplished.

A mission comes next. It will get you to the destination that is the vision. The vision of course, keeps you moving in the right direction.

It was a fun day, and fun event. It’s always nice to learn a little something new, or at least get a different perspective on things. It was also a wonderful networking event.

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