Steelcase Honors Wege For All the Right Reasons

bigwind3The March 18, 2008, New York Times titled a major news article in the business section, “Corporate Sponsorship for a Wind Farm.” The corporation covered in this national and international news story is Steelcase Inc., the company Peter Martin Wege founded in 1912 as Metal Office Furniture. But the story gets even better.

Because Steelcase has committed to buying all the renewable energy credits that will be produced by this huge wind farm under construction in Texas, the Grand Rapids corporation gets naming rights to the farm. Such an opportunity for the office-furniture maker to promote itself by calling it the Steelcase Wind Farm would seem irresistible. Certainly after that such a big investment, most corporations would not consider doing otherwise. “Green” sells these days so the marketing possibilities are stunning.

But Steelcase did not blink. With everything to lose in advertising and nothing to gain financially by honoring one low-profile individual, Steelcase chose to pay tribute to the man whose environmental vision has influenced corporate policy for half a century. The eight wind-tower turbines going up on a new wind farm in Panhandle, Texas, will be known as the Wege Wind Farm, named for the retired Steelcase executive and head of The Wege Foundation, Peter Martin’s son Peter M. Wege.

Working in collaboration with John Deere & Co. building the windmills, Steelcase will be able to use the clean energy produced by the Wege Wind Farm to offset 20% of its carbon footprint (amount of carbondioxide/greenhouse gas they emit) in Steecase facilities across the United States. The expected 35,000-megawatt hours of electricity generated by the Wege Wind Farm each year is enough to operate 2,925 homes and three times more than needed to run Steelcase’s global headquarters in Grand Rapids.

Steelcase is now a national role model for committing to buying RECS before the Wege Wind Farm is built. If other corporations similarly sign up to purchase the clean energy during the planning stage of renewal power facilities, they, like Steelcase, will ensure those green producers of energy get built.