Going green is 'flat-out smart business'

On Earth Day 2009 (April 22), the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay took a big step to reaffirm the environmental credentials that earned the school the nickname “Eco U” at its founding 40 years ago.

The Green Innovations 2009 symposium, hosted by the University’s new Environmental Management and Business Institute, showed dozens of area business leaders the value of integrating sustainable business practices at their companies to increase profitability.

“This is not a tree-hugger issue anymore,” keynote speaker and noted sustainability expert Bob Willard said. “This is a financial and investment issue. Investors are interested in ‘green’ companies.”

Companies that take stock in the idea of “being green” can expect to see an improved corporate image, an energized workforce, competitive advantages in the marketplace and an immediate leg up on being well positioned for the future, Willard said. Efficiencies are created, recruiting costs are reduced, energy is saved, waste is reduced or recycled, insurance and borrowing rates are improved, productivity is increased and more income is a result, all by being more sustainable, Willard added.

It is his experience that smaller businesses that practice sustainability techniques can see profits increase more than 66 percent in five years, Willard said. Larger companies (with more than 500 employees) can see profits increase close to 40 percent in that time frame.

“It’s flat-out smart business,” he said.

UW-Green Bay’s launch of the new institute is a major step toward strengthening the University’s leadership position in the promotion of environmental awareness and eco-friendly initiatives. The establishment of EMBI is a step in the evolution of UW-Green Bay’s historic mission of studying environmental issues and developing solutions to problems; solutions that recognize the critical interconnections between science, policy and business, and the social contexts within which they occur.

University officials say EMBI will strive to work with public- and private-sector partners throughout the Northeastern Wisconsin to make the New North region synonymous with sustainability and environmental leadership.

“CEOs in Northeastern Wisconsin don’t see this green movement as a fad,” said keynote speaker Larry Weyers, executive chairman of Integrys Energy Group. “Seventy-eight percent of CEOs think it’s here to stay.”

Helping businesses develop opportunities to reduce their environmental impact while increasing profitability is good for business. Today’s public view has evolved to where “good business” is not only profitable, but is also recognized for good stewardship of the environment.

“EMBI will improve the understanding of these issues and improve the minds of those that will address these issues,” Weyers said. “UW-Green Bay is poised to lead efforts for a sustainable future.”

Click thumbnails to enter slideshow view.
Interim Chancellor David Ward kicks off the EMBI Green Innovations symposium. Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton also helps open the event.EMBI Co-Director Prof. John Stoll. EMBI Co-Director Prof. Kevin Fermanich.A sizeable crowd came out to learn about connecting business to the environment. Attendees learned about the profitability of sustainable business practices.Keynote speaker Bob Willard, an author and expert on the business value of corporate sustainability strategies.Keynote speaker Larry Weyers, executive chairman of Integrys Energy Group. Weyers (front) and Willard answer questions. Luncheon speaker Dennis Winters, chief of the Office of Economic Advisors at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.Chancellor-designee Thomas Harden listens to the keynote speakers. Foth CEO Tim Weyenberg listens in. Foth, a consulting engineering, science and construction services firm, was a leading sponsor of the Green Innovations symposium. Leif Nygaard of Johnson Controls was a breakout session speaker. UW-Green Bay alumna Crystal Ossman, program manager for Downtown Green Bay, Inc., learns about how to keep Green Bay green. Several students came to listen to the expert speakers.Other students participated in breakout sessions.Les Smith, of Tufco Technologies, and Chris Calawerts, of ENCAP, were speakers in a small-group discussion on the transition to sustainability.John Hippensteel, owner of Lake Michigan Wind and Sun; CJ Schmidt, of Fiber MX; and Daniel De Buhr, founder of AgrEnergy, lead a discussion on the profitability of sustainability.Kurt Waldhuetter, regional director of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network, facilitated one of the small group discussions.UW-Green Bay alum and Energy Center of Wisconsin Senior Project Leader Joe Kramer talks about renewable energy sources in the state. An Entrepreneur’s Showcase featured green business practices going on in Northeastern Wisconsin. An Entrepreneur’s Showcase featured green business practices going on in Northeastern Wisconsin. An Entrepreneur’s Showcase featured green business practices going on in Northeastern Wisconsin. An Entrepreneur’s Showcase featured green business practices going on in Northeastern Wisconsin. Just outside the symposium, students in the Public and Environmental Affairs Council at UW-Green Bay promote Earth Day.
Photos by Mike Heine,
Office of Marketing and University Communication