Northern Michigan University's new Sustainability Hub for Innovation and the Environment (SHINE) launched this week at an event announcing its partnership with Grand Rapids-based nonprofit People First Economy. With NMU student involvement, the two entities will deploy technical assistance and sustainability expertise to a cohort of Marquette-area businesses.
The goal of People First Economy's “Good for Michigan” program is to help businesses implement positive and measurable place-based impacts related to diverse workforces, sustainable supply chains, carbon footprint reduction, environmental stewardship, and community impact. The program is funded in part by Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“The Good for Michigan team ideally would like to recruit 15-20 businesses every semester to help them align with either sustainability development goals or standards for B Corp certification,” said Jes Thompson, NMU College of Business professor and interim SHINE director. “My social responsibility class will work on this every semester as interns, giving recommendations and insights. It's a great learning experience.
“A lot of small businesses don't have access to consulting services or would have to pay hefty premium, especially in larger market. To bring free environmental and social responsibility consulting to the community provides something that not a lot of other places have. There is a similar cohort model in Petoskey, but they're not partnering with a university. We hope to help organizations working to make world a better place. If we work together, we'll go farther.”
Thompson said Donckers in downtown Marquette is completing its application. It is likely to become the first B Corp-certified business in the U.P. and one of only 19 in Michigan.
In addition to collaborating with regional partners and providing thought leadership, SHINE will support on-campus initiatives. It will work with NMU's Sustainability Advisory Council on the university's STARS rating, which advanced to silver in 2020 from bronze three years previously. The rating system measures institutions' sustainability performance and factors in academics and research, operations, administration/planning and engagement.
SHINE will facilitate access to resources for classes, research and practical implications. It will also foster student-led efforts such as Eco Reps and Sustainable NMU. Eco Reps successfully lobbied for the green fund, a $5 per semester refundable fee assessed to full-time students that supports the organization's campus-wide programming.
“Right now, SHINE is a virtual place; we don't operate out of a physical location,” Thompson said. “Perhaps that will change if we're able to secure private funding to have a permanent home on campus, expand our efforts and hire a full-time director. Until then, we will continue to serve as an arm of the Sustainability Advisory Council. A lot of great minds brought the SHINE concept together. I happened to be the person willing to sit in the driver's seat until it officially launched.”
For more information, visit nmu.edu/shine.