The Global Business Club of Mid-Michigan participants received a surprise visit from Iraq’s top investment chief, Sami Al-Araji who is the chairperson of Iraq’s National Investment Commission and an alumnus of Michigan State University’s College of Engineering.
The envoy, who was in Michigan to woo investors to make inroads into Iraq, as the country embarks on an economic restoration program, urged Michigan business leaders to establish a symbiotic trade relationship with Iraq to facilitate the much needed economic growth both in the state and in Iraq, as he outlined the various projects that Iraq has earmarked for foreign investment.
Following the speech by Al-Araji, Dr. Richard Chapas, board member for the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, and the scheduled keynote speaker for the event delivered the keynote speech on corporate sustainability.
“Innovation is really at the heart of corporate sustainability,” said Chapas, who is also a professor at the Lerner Business School, University of Delaware.
Chapas said that companies need to remodel their perspectives on product design and waste disposability to embrace technologies and processes that lead to improved energy efficiencies, reduction of industrial emissions and the use of environmentally safe inputs.
Although some companies are daunted by the extra costs of adopting sustainable practices, Chapas, said that firms that adapt to sustainable operations eventually use less input in their production and early movers are likely to generate more income from enhanced products; a competency that competitors would be hard-pressed to match.
Speaking of product design, Chapas said that the end-of-life design model is one of the ways that companies can build sustainability into the design of each product.
He said this referring to a waste management program called “by-product synergy,” an initiative where the waste materials from one company could be used as a primary resource by another company.
At the workshop that preceded lunch, Christine Spitzley, an official from the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, discussed the various ways in which business organizations from the greater Lansing region could get involved in this waste reduction program. She said that if fully adapted, the by-product synergy has the potential for reducing waste volumes and toxic emissions to air and water, as well as cutting operation costs.
During a panel discussion, officials from the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development urged businesses to work together, through a database, to match waste products with potential users, in order to make by-product synergy a country-wide success. The waste reduction process, which was developed by the U.S. BCSD to address industrial waste and pollution issues, has already been developed and successfully adapted in some regions including Chicago, Houston, Ohio and Kansas and is in use by some companies in Mexico and Canada.
Also at the workshop, Andrew Sheaffer, a manager at ENVIRON, an environment, health and safety international consultancy group, gave an account of some of the successful energy reduction programs his company has pioneered. He said that ENVIRON has been able to identify programs within some companies that have helped cut down their energy expenditure by up to $40 million per year and that some of these clients have recovered their costs in about three years.
The message from everyone was summed up by Chapas: “Making sustainability a community success requires complete business integrations,” Chapas said. “Every part of the company should be talking to each other, all departments should stay on-board.”