When Peter Martin Wege moved to Grand Rapids to open his own metal-furniture business in 1912, he could not have imagined Metal Office Furniture—started on a $75,000 bank loan—would become Steelcase, the world’s largest office-furniture company. Wege’s experience as a metal fabricator himself created the workplace culture that continues a century later. Peter Martin knew the success of his new business depended on his employees, and he made sure to treat them well and pay them well. If his company was to prosper, he wanted his employees to do so as well.
When his son Peter M. Wege went to work for Steelcase, he, too, left a permanent mark on the company’s culture based on an airplane ride. During World War II Peter M. Wege flew for the Army Air Force; one sunny day trying to land in Pittsburgh, the smog was so thick he couldn’t see the ground. From that day in the cockpit on, for the rest of his life Peter M. Wege devoted his time, energy, and financial resources to cleaning up and protecting the environment.
And he started at his father’s company. Peter M. Wege’s influence on Steelcase led to the company’s becoming a pioneer in environmental manufacturing from biodegradable paints to ergonomically clean air to protecting furniture with reusable blankets instead of boxes. In 2001, Steelcase built the world’s first industrial manufacturing plant to receive LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Peter Martin Wege died in 1947 and Peter M. Wege in 2014. But Steelcase’s attached report confirms that their legacies live on. Titled appropriately Sustainability, it highlights the company’s triple-bottom-line mission to make profits, protect the environment, and promote positive social change. Peter Martin and his son Peter M. Wege had a lot to do with this