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Ann Arbor Goes Green: New Business Challenge Sparks Sustainability

Ann Arbor Goes Green: New Business Challenge Sparks Sustainability
Ann Arbor Goes Green: New Business Challenge Sparks Sustainability

In a town known for its trees, climate action is becoming more and more a part of its DNA. 

Ann Arbor, Michigan has launched a new Green Business Challenge as a part of its A2ZERO Climate Action Plan. Established in 2020, the plan set a goal for Ann Arbor to achieve community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030. Missy Stults, the city’s Sustainability and Innovations Director, calls it a “beautifully audacious, aggressive, and scientifically necessary goal.”

Green Business Challenge Logo

As part of the larger plan, the city has launched the Ann Arbor Green Business Challenge (A2 GBC) as a fun and engaging way to get businesses progressing in their sustainability journey. 

“In order to become carbon neutral by 2030, everybody has to participate. Everybody has to see themselves in and be supported as part of that movement, including our businesses,” says Missy. “The Green Business Challenge is designed to celebrate, support, acknowledge, and really recognize what’s happening in our commercial sector to advance sustainability and to make sure those practices are amplified and extended.”

Many businesses in Ann Arbor are dedicated to creating climate solutions, and the Green Business Challenge presents a multitude of ways anyone can get involved. Perhaps it’s through adopting solar technology, or making other energy efficient changes, or partnering with sustainable farms. Whatever it is, every business in Ann Arbor, no matter the size, product or industry, is invited to participate. 

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Missy shares an example of an ice cream shop. If you’re sitting at your favorite ice cream shop and see a sign in the window about the A2ZERO commitment, you can learn more about the program and what specific initiatives the business is taking. Maybe you didn’t know they had solar panels on the roof, or that they source their dairy from local farmers. 

“With a program like this, sustainability becomes a part of the social fabric of the community. It’s really about a culture shift,” Missy says. 


Partners for the Planet

For the program, the city of Ann Arbor’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations is partnering with Ann Arbor SPARK, a catalyst for economic development in the greater Ann Arbor region. 

“Ann Arbor SPARK works deeply with lots of businesses to grow and support existing and emerging businesses. They know the business landscape really well, and by combining forces, we can create a much more holistic program that sees the different unique needs of businesses and better supports the ecosystem,” says Missy.

As a recognition program, the A2 GBC invites all businesses throughout the city to apply and participate. Businesses receive certification levels (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) based on the number of points they accumulate across seven areas of sustainability: energy, water, circular economy, mobility, resilience, education, and supply chain. For businesses that haven’t started yet but want to get going, there are also recognition opportunities down the pike for improvement.

Additionally, those that participate in the program receive branding support as well as technical sustainability support, like tangible ways companies can reduce their environmental impact. 

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OrbAid, a sustainability project management software that empowers company teams to green their bottom lines, is one of the businesses participating in the program. 

“Because of our mission at OrbAid, our team feels a deep sense of responsibility and pride in supporting our neighbors in helping them make more green being green,” says William Crane, Founder and CEO of OrbAid. 

Helping companies be more sustainable is what OrbAid does every day, and they’re excited to be a part of the program to “partner with local companies and empower them to do better in business while doing better for the planet,” he said. 

Another participant, APT Solar Solutions, is participating in the program because it aligns so much with the company’s mission. 

“It takes a village to make a meaningful impact in the world. A clean tech innovation business like ours would thrive in a community whose mission and practices are aligned with our goal of creating a more sustainable world,” says Dr. Mojtaba Akhavan-Tafti, Founder and CEO of the company. “The A2 GBC provides the necessary platform for clean energy-minded stakeholders, from decision makers to business owners, to coalesce to support each other as we build a cleaner and more just community, thus helping to position our region as a center for climate tech innovation.”



Becoming a way of life

Many places have goals, Missy says. Less places have plans, and even less actually implement them. In Ann Arbor, the city is committed to building an ongoing program that continues to support businesses — and residents. 

Missy says the program helps position Ann Arbor as a desirable place to live, especially for young people who are focused on climate action.

“It is a reminder that this is what we do here in Ann Arbor,” says Missy. “More and more people want to be a part of something bigger and leave a bigger legacy.”

Whether you’re shopping at a Gold-level GBC boutique or working at a “Most Improved”-level GBC manufacturer, you can be a part of this bigger movement. 

“When we continue to do these things, it’s not just a buzzword,” Missy says. “It’s a way of life. And it ensures we have a high quality of life here in Ann Arbor. That means we will recruit new sustainably-minded businesses and recruit people from around the world who want to live in a community that’s taking sustainability seriously.”


To learn more about the challenge and to apply, check out more details here about the A2 Green Business Challenge


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