The Michigan Manufacturers Association is continuing a partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Michigan that offers resources and workshops for companies seeking to adopt environmental and clean energy strategies into their operations.
This year’s program launched on Jan. 25 with an informational workshop at Steelcase Inc.’s Grand Rapids headquarters and included roughly 30 participants.
Program leaders say the sessions are geared toward small and medium-sized manufacturers that are considering environmentally friendly investments to remain competitive by obtaining certifications, attracting talent and catering to sustainability minded customers.
“From our perspective, we’re making the point to our members and the public that we can value protecting the environment while maintaining a competitive edge nationally and globally,” said Caroline Liethen, director of environmental and regulatory policy at the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
Madhu Anderson, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, added: “We all want the same thing. We want to be in partnership with industry to protect the natural environment, so we thought (the program) was a good way to start the dialogue.”
This year’s in-person events build off of a series of virtual webinars last year that generated initial interest. A Feb. 23 workshop at Consumers Energy in Jackson will cover energy efficiency opportunities and ways that companies can introduce renewable energy into their operations. The final workshop on April 20 will be hosted by Hemlock Semiconductor near Saginaw and focus on how executives can develop comprehensive sustainability plans.
Liethen said the program targets small and medium-sized manufacturers because they often lack the in-house expertise that large companies can devote toward sustainability.
“One of the bigger obstacles is that small and medium-sized manufacturers don’t necessarily have, or historically had, the resources to dedicate to this work,” she said. “(The program is about) wrapping your head around what it takes to get started, implement it or even choosing the kind of certification that’s right for you. Getting the ball rolling is an obstacle.”
As well, manufacturers can tap a growing list of certification programs that match their needs, such as B Corporation certification, the global Carbon Disclosure Project, and ISO 14001 and ISO 50001.
Another aspect of the program prepares participants for potential state or federal environmental regulations, Liethen said. This includes the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s consideration of new climate disclosure rules for publicly traded companies, as well as industry specific moves such as major automakers requiring more sustainable practices from their supply chain.