Aquinas College Named Sustainable Business of the Year

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Aquinas College has been recognized as the West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. The award, presented on October 12 at the Triple Bottom Line Bash, recognizes organizations that best represent the values of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. 
Sustainability is integrated into all of Aquinas’s operations and programming, including the Sustainable Business bachelor’s degree, which was the first undergraduate program of its kind in the U.S. in 2003. With six LEED certified buildings by the U.S. Green Building Council, Aquinas has helped to earn Grand Rapids the distinction of "America's Greenest City."
As a signatory of Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, Aquinas is working to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. In 2014 with the assistance of the Wege Foundation, Aquinas launched a Green Revolving Fund to provide funding for campus energy efficiency. The college has also been top of the leaderboard in the nationwide Recyclemania competition. The college’s recent Zero-Waste Initiative has resulted in an over 70% diversion rate from landfills and incinerators.
“Aquinas College has been a leader in the integration of sustainability into campus life and academic coursework,” said Dr. Juan Olivarez, president of Aquinas College. “Sustainable practices are a part of all of our operations and programming.”
Past winners of the West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year include Brewery Vivant and Organicycle. This year’s finalists also included Amway, Catalyst Partners, the City of Grand Rapids, Disher Design & Development, Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller, Kent County Department of Public Works, and Rockford Construction.
Also honored at the event was Deborah M. Steketee, Ph.D., who was inducted into the West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame. Dr. Steketee joined the Sustainable Business program at Aquinas in 2005. As a faculty member, Dr. Steketee helped to shape a new generation of business professionals who are now working to achieve sustainability goals in many organizations which lead their industry in sustainability efforts. Her interest and expertise in innovation, strategy and the social dimensions of sustainability also helped to lay the foundations for Aquinas’ sustainability leadership in her role as Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College from 2006-2013. Dr. Steketee continues to be actively engaged in various community and sustainability-related activities and both on regional and national levels. 
Alumnus Eric Saigeon was honored as the Future Hall of Famer. After graduating from Aquinas in 2012 with a B.S. in Sustainable Business, Saigeon went on to work for Intertek as a sustainability manager, In a new position he helped to create, Saigeon works with companies who are increasingly concerned with environmental sustainability. 
Aquinas College has offered free programing on sustainability for high school students through the Experiencing Economicology Day. Explicitly organized to better educate campus and community members, the Economicology Forum has reached over 900 attendees. Engaged service is a hallmark of our Catholic and Dominican traditions, and hundreds of Aquinas staff, faculty, and students volunteer for programs such as Habitat for Humanity, the WMEAC Mayors’ River Cleanup, and the campus-wide “We All Live Here” service day.
One of the first organizations of its kind in the world, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum 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.