Companies that want to attract customers and recruit top talent need to pay attention to more than sales and marketing — they need to make a commitment to social and environmental issues as well.
That’s according to Robynn Shrader, CEO of the National Co+op Grocers, keynote speaker of The Gazette’s third-annual Business Excellence Awards and proponent of certified B Corps.
Shrader spoke to more than 250 attendees Thursday evening at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids during the event, which brought together business leaders and city officials to recognize accomplishments in the Corridor.
National Co+op Grocers is an umbrella organization that represents 147 retail food coops in 38 states that do more than $2.3 billion in sales annually.
Certified B corps are to a business what fair trade is to coffee or LEED certification is to a building, Shrader explained. B Corp certification brings a company’s social and environmental performance to light and holds that company accountable.
More than 2,300 businesses in 50 countries across 130 industries have achieved this designation, Shrader said, including big names such as Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s and Kickstarter.
National Co+op Grocers became a certified B Corp in 2012 and since has made considerable strides — planting 1.4 million trees to offset carbon emissions made by the company, increasing the diversity of its board and providing a “living wage” to all its employees.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
This has helped the company achieve “world status,” meaning it’s in the top 200 certified B Corps in the world. But getting there wasn’t easy, Shrader added — it takes a lot of hard work to not only get a passing score but to maintain it and increase it.
“We had a rude awakening,” Shrader said, explaining there was lots of education involved to get employees to see the value of the certification. “It helps you not only improve your business, but improve the story you tell the world.”
During the awards presentations, Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, received The Gazette’s first-ever Trailblazer of the Year award, while Nate Klein, interim dean of students at Mount Mercy University, was named the Young Professional for 2017.
The University of Iowa took home the top award this year — The Gazette’s overall Business Excellence Award — for its work in sustainability, for its numerous recent and current major construction projects and for continuing to serve as a significant economic engine in the Corridor. In the past two years, UI has completed a number of large-scale building projects, including the $360 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall, the Visual Arts Building, the $189 million Voxman Music Building and the $113 million Hancher Auditorium.
“The last 10 years has been a remarkable trial for many of us,” said Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations at the UI, when accepting the award for the university. “But we’ve never been better.”
In the midst of all the construction, the UI also is working to be more sustainable and anticipates it will run on no coal by 2025.
“We’re at lower energy now than we were 10 years ago,” he said. “Many of us thought it couldn’t happen, but I’m proud of the work we’re doing in a challenging time for higher education.”
2017 Gazette Business Excellence Award winners, by category, were:
The Gazette Business Excellence Award
University of Iowa
Excellence Award — Heery International
Achievement Award — One Place at Riverfront Crossings
Commercial real estate
Excellence Award — Coe College, Mount Mercy University and the Uptown District
Achievement Award — Ashton Hill Farm
Excellence Award — ESCO Group
Achievement Award — Hy-Vee
Excellence Award — Kids on Course
Achievement Award — Liberty High School, in the Iowa City Community School District
Excellence Award — Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust
Achievement Award — University of Iowa Community Credit Union
Food and drink
Excellence Award — Big Grove Brewery
Achievement Award — Rapid Creek Cidery
Excellence Award — Quaker Oats
Excellence Award — Eastern Iowa Health Center
Achievement Award — Tanager Place
Excellence Award — United Fire Group
Achievement Award — Backpocket Brewing Company
Excellence Award — Signal Center for Health Innovation
Achievement Award — Revival Theatre Company
Made in the Corridor
Excellence Award — Highway Equipment
Achievement Award — Legacy Manufacturing
Excellence Award — Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery
Achievement Award — General Mills
Excellence Award — The Hook
Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, Cedar Rapids Public Library
Excellence Award — Catherine McAuley Center
Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Follies
Excellence Award — city of Cedar Rapids
Also awarded for their participation in September 2016 flood efforts:
Advanced Traffic Control
Borst Brothers Construction
Dave Schmitt Construction
Roto-Rooter Sewer Drain Service
Schrader Excavating and Grading
Foth Infrastructure and Environment
Forterra Concrete Products
Martin Marietta Materials
Residential real estate
Excellence Award — Hobart Historic Restoration
Achievement Award — Affordable Housing Network
Excellence Award — Alliant Energy
Achievement Award — HR Green
Excellence Award — Rockwell Collins
Achievement Award — Pro Circular, L8NT Wireless (tie)