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Sustainable Business at Aquinas College

Sustainable Business: Case Studies

"google" logoGoogle, the multi-billion dollar, publically-traded corporation responsible for connecting the world to a plethora of information via Internet search engines and employing nearly 20,000 employees worldwide practices an unconventional, but effective organizational strategy By allowing engineers to spend one workday per week
on a special project of particular interest to them, Google has realized innovations such as Gmail and Google News. Work facilities are unconventional as well, including such amenities as free meals and snacks, sports facilities, massages, and on-site employee day care, which translate into a happier, more productive workforce.
Google’s world headquarters in Mountain View, California features a photovoltaic system comprised of over 9,000 solar panels on top of eight buildings and two carports, which generates 30% of peak power demand and will pay back the initial investment in 78 months while providing electricity for decades to come. Most Google facilities have abundant natural lighting, energy-management software, and evaporative cooling schemes. A complementary car-sharing program available for all employees who walk, bike or commute via mass transit also highlights Google’s commitment to a more sustainable way of operating.
Marie Catrib's of Grand Rapids
"Marie Catrib's of Grand Rapids" logoMarie Catrib’s restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan is located inside of the East Hills Center of the Universe, a LEED®-CS gold brown field urban in fill project on which was formerly a contaminated gas station site - the result of partnership between the East Hills Neighborhood
Association and Bazzani Associates. The building features passive solar design, net-zero storm water discharge thanks to the vegetated roof and rain gardens, and insulated concrete walls.
Many of the ingredients in used in Marie Catrib’s recipes (produce, cheese, eggs, and meat) come from nearby organic farms. Being a member of the community is integral to doing business at Marie Catrib’s. Marie’s donates food to charity, partners with organizations in the community to teach the importance of eating locally-grown food, teaches its staff members to make homemade green cleaning products, and makes a point to build close relationships with customers, community members, and suppliers. Anyone who has visited Marie Catrib’s can attest to the warm, welcoming atmosphere and genuine friendliness of the staff.
Metro Health Hospital and Village
"MetroHealth Village" sign on rocksMetro Health Village is a 170-acre suburban service center in Wyoming, Michigan (a suburb of Grand Rapids) which houses tenants such as an adult day-care center, a medical fitness center, physician offices, medical suppliers, physician offices, a hotel, and restaurants. A deed restriction requires all buildings within the village to be LEED™ certified.
Metro Health Hospital, a 208-bed osteopathic facility opened in October, 2007 inside of Metro Health Village. Metro Health Hospital is one of only a few LEED™ certified
hospitals in the world and includes some unique innovations such as a one-plus acre green roof visible from most patient rooms, a storm run-off system for the parking lot in which the rain water is filtered by a series of rain gardens, low-flow faucets, motion-sensor interior lighting with adjustable lighting in patient rooms, low-VOC paint and furniture, soothing curved hallways, a healing garden, jogging paths, and a playground. Metro Health Hospital uses Green Seal™ Certified cleaning products, biodegradable plates and utensils, and micro-fiber floor mobs that use 90% fewer cleaning chemicals and save tens of thousands of gallons of water per year.
"Patagonia" logoPatagonia is a high-performance, outdoor clothing and gear producer headquartered in Ventura, California operating under the mission:  “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Despite numerous lucrative offers to sell the business, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has
maintained sole ownership of the company, which allows him to preserve Patagonia’s legacy of solid profitability and contribution to a healthy natural world, and human community.
The company, which currently sees revenues in the $250-300 million range, has implemented a number of sustainable business innovations, including a product-of-service take-back system for worn-out Capilene® garments. When Patagonia became one of the first major cotton garment producers to switch to 100% organically grown cotton, they saw sales of these garments jump 25%. In 2006, Patagonia began to treat its wool products in a patented slow-wash process that eliminates the use of chlorine (a toxin) and replaces the use of silver (a heavy metal pollutant) for anti-microbial odor control with crushed crab and shrimp shells, while maintaining the same product performance quality.
Other progressive actions by Patagonia include on-site employee day care centers, the elimination of private offices to encourage communication and collaboration, and a shipping and distribution center in Reno, Nevada which uses 1/3 less energy than its conventional counterparts due to efficient design.
 "burgerville" logoA sustainably-minded fast-food chain? Meet Burgerville, a Pacific Northwest company with 39 restaurants and 1,500 employees scattered across the states of Washington and Oregon. All energy consumed at Burgerville restaurants and corporate headquarters is offset by a corresponding amount of wind-power credits from sources located in Washington State. Perhaps Burgerville’s
most impressive accomplishment is its ongoing food-waste composting operation at each of the 39 Burgerville eateries - the compost is returned to nearby farms and gardens, many of which supply the ingredients for Burgerville delicacies. The company is firmly committed to sourcing nearly all of its food products from the states of Washington and Oregon, and is also committed to products that are free of hormones and antibiotics, and products that are ecologically sensitive - for example, Burgerville’s dairy suppliers fence cattle from sensitive riparian corridors to protect salmon habitat.
Any Burgerville employee that works at least 20 hours per week for 6 months is eligible for employer-subsidized health insurance for a mere $15 a month. The annual cost of this subsidy to Burgerville is $3 million; however, the policy has decreased worker turnover by 1/3, lowering significantly new-employee-training costs and building an unusually loyal and productive workforce. Burgerville proudly publishes its sustainable business innovations at each restaurant location. During its recent period of innovation, Burgerville has enjoyed double-digit restaurant sales increases.
East Japan Railway Company
"JR- East East Japan Railway Company" logoEast Japan Railway Company (JR-East) is a major publically-held Japanese transit company serving over 16 million passengers each day. Revenues for 2008 totaled $27billion and the company employs
53,000 people. East Japan Railway Company has been a pioneer in the use of diesel/electric hybrid rail cars and is conducting trials of fuel-cell powered, electric trains. Photovoltaic panels provide a portion of the energy for rail stations in Tokyo and Takaki. By issuing plastic fare cards containing activated magnetic strips to regular users, JR-East has eliminated over 20 million paper tickets annually.
Hundreds of thousands of employee uniforms are made from preprocessed plastic polymer polyethylene terephthalate, providing a second use for this material commonly used to make plastic food and beverage containers. Over 20 vegetative roofs have been installed on various company buildings, collectively covering over 7,000 square meters throughout Japan. Noise levels along selected routes have been reduced by nearly 2/3 by installing sound-deadening walls and continuously welded rails. Company social initiatives include “women-only” cars for late-night and morning rush-hour commuters, working with local communities to establish day-care centers near train stations, and a “Hiking from Stations” program to promote local eco-tourism.
Steelcase, Designtex, and Röhmer Companies
fabricsDesigntex, a subsidiary of Grand Rapids-based office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc., made a decision to produce a different kind of upholstery fabric.  The Swiss textile firm Röhmer, which had been supplying Designtex with a traditional upholstery material, was spending considerable money shipping their textile scraps to Spain for landfill as well as using expensive equipment to release their effluent back into a nearby Swiss river, polluting its water.  Production of the new fabric required only 38 benign chemicals rather than hundreds of toxic compounds that had been used to make the original fabric. 
The new fabric is more durable and aesthetically superior, and its waste scraps are now used for mulch in Swiss gardens.  The first time the Swiss equivalent of our EPA took samples of the new water emissions, officials thought their instruments were broken.  The water coming out of the plant was as clean as the entering water supply.  Röhmer no longer needs the expensive water pollution filtering system and has lower production costs.  Profits have significantly increased, and the mill now only provides industrial products that are positive for Switzerland and the world at large.
Ford Motor Company, River Rogue Plant, Dearborn, Michigan
"ford" logoIn May of 1999 William Ford, Jr. announced that Ford Motor Company’s massive River Rogue plant in Dearborn, MI would undergo a $2 billion renovation that would incorporate many sustainable business principles.  Completed innovations to date include a brilliant storm-water management renovation strategy that saved Ford $25 million.
Please Note: References to the above companies do not necessarily imply endorsements of Aquinas College by said companies.