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GR Chamber of Commerce claims it will promote sustainability

January 7, 2010

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce held a press conference today to announce their “launch of a major program aimed at helping local companies large and small make sustainability a business priority.”

Roughly 25 members of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce gathered at the offices of Progressive AE to hear about the new initiative. GR Chamber President Jeannie Englehart said the Chamber’s Partnership for a Sustainable Community, “was established to focus the Grand Rapids business community on voluntary solutions that will preserve the environment and promote energy efficiency.”

Also speaking at the press conference were representatives from other businesses and a spokesperson from the City of Grand Rapids who conveyed a message of support from Mayor Heartwell.

The initiative so far seems to be providing tools to area businesses to help them map their own carbon footprint and then use that data to make some decisions on ways to reduce waste and save on energy. However, when it came to details on what businesses could do the only concrete ideas that were shared were for businesses to recycle, not provide bottled water for their employees, consider using mass transit and the benefits of LEED building certification.

Englehart said that the Chamber is also promoting a “30-Day Challenge” to all business members. This 30-Day Challenge involves online enrollment, a January 14 Webinar, and a 10% off on recycled paper from Office Depot. In addition, participating businesses would receive a window decal advertising your involvement to the community.

When the question and answer period came, none of the mainstream news sources asked a question out loud, instead they waited to ask questions privately. A story in the Grand Rapids Press pretty much provides a summary of what was said at the press conference, but doesn’t question or challenge what this campaign is all about. A few TV stations were present for the news conference, but as of this writing they had not posted any stories online.

The Chamber does have a new section on their website devoted to this “new initiative,” which didn’t information different from what was presented at the press conference. However, one thing that seemed to be clear at today’s press conference was that this initiative was about promoting the corporate bottom line. The Chamber website states, “Businesses and institutions join the collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they have a shared interest in making economic investments that can potentially improve the environment while improving their bottom line.

Furthermore, there was no discussion or investigation into what any of the businesses do that are members of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and whether or not their existence is contrary to real sustainability. This initiative seems to be an opportunity for the Chamber and the businesses it represents to present themselves as GREEN, by making minor adjustments to what they currently do. However, unless there is a willingness to question what these companies do/produce and whether or not the function of these businesses are sustainable, then this initiative seems to be nothing more than a public relations ploy to convince the rest of the community that they are doing something that is significant.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. barry Sanders permalink
    January 7, 2010 10:19 pm

    I just read the report about the two activists who occupied Senator Levin’s office over the wars. They mentioned my book, The Green Zone, and I want to thank them. Can you pass along my address to them, please?

  2. September 24, 2011 1:41 pm

    Is that really all there is to it because that’d be flabbergtasing.

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