This blog is for people who want to believe that business can make a positive impact on the world yet need more examples and understanding just how this can work. We will explore together the positive aspects of doing something good for the environment and society and how that can also be good for business.
Fred Keller is the Founder and Chair of Cascade Engineering, which he started in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1973. With a belief that you can have a successful business and still treat employees with dignity and respect, Fred began molding plastic parts with six employees in a 10,000 square foot building. Today, Cascade Engineering employs 1600 people across 15 facilities in six US locations and additional European operations in Budapest, Hungary.
Cascade Engineering has 9 business units spanning a wide diversity of markets including transportation, recycling/waste management, office furniture, agricultural/industrial containers, polymer compounding, and RFID asset management. Primarily focused on designing, engineering and injection molding of large plastic parts, Cascade Engineering is widely recognized for its business achievements and community involvement, and is one of the largest Certified B Corps in the world.
Fred believes that business has the unique opportunity to complement its efforts on financial performance with important work in the social and environmental arenas. He has emphasized the key role business can play in building financial, social and ecological capital, often through partnerships with government and community agencies. His innovative management approach and work in advancing sustainability are featured regularly in business and industry publications.
Fred has been a visiting lecturer at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University since 2002 and is also an Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Positive Organizations at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He was formerly the board chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Council and is a past chair and current member of the Board of Trustees for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Fred is also a trustee for the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.
Fred has served on the boards of the Meijer Corporation and Fifth Third Bank, West Michigan. He has been part of many community organizations and change initiatives and currently is founder and chair of Talent 2025, a catalyst for the development of an integrated talent system to meet employer needs throughout 13 West Michigan counties and co-chair of K-Connect, a Kent County collective impact systems change collaborative. A Grand Rapids, Michigan native, Keller earned a B.S. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University and an M.S. in business management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Fred is an accomplished public speaker frequently asked to talk about the Triple Bottom Line culture he has instilled at Cascade Engineering, including their “Welfare to Career” and “Returning Citizens” programs. These programs have provided career opportunities for hundreds of employees formerly on welfare, or a second chance to those formerly incarcerated. His TEDx speech “Why Business, Why Now”, has been a common theme in many of his public speaking engagements. Fred believes that the power of collective business is the only force capable of solving the world’s toughest problems. A brief list of Fred’s speaking engagements is as follows:
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation – “Philanthropy’s Opportunity”
- Western Michigan University – “Changing the Game: Purpose and Profit”
- University of Michigan; Positive Business Conference – Ann Arbor, MI.
- Michigan Governor Snyder – Economic and Education Summit Panelist
- Varnum Law Firm Annual Executive Retreat: Presentation – “Culture – and things that matter”
- Australian Catholic University; 25th anniversary 5 city tour: “Why Business, Why Now”
- University of Vermont; FERC Burlington “Why Business Why Now”
- Grand Valley State University EMBA students; “Why Business Why Now”
- University of Michigan; Positive Business Conference- Orlando, FL.
- Michianna Leader’s Day – South Bend, IN. – Video Interview
- DEQ Environmental Stewardship Award
- Family Philanthropy Presentation – Fred and Christina Keller
- Cornell University: David BenDaniel Ethics Lecture: “Why Business, Why Now”
- University of Michigan; Class presentation Ross School of Business: “Business Beyond Friedman – Our Hope for the Future”
- B-Corp Retreat – Keynote
- IMT Presentation – Michigan Department of Transportation
- Department of Environmental Quality Presentation
- Positive Business Presentation – University of Michigan
- TEDx Grand Rapids talk; “Why Business, Why Now”
- Herman Miller Inc; Water Carriers Keynote address “Leadership Today”
- Comerica Presentation – “Sustainable Business”
- West Michigan Rotary
- Mansfield Municipal City Government
- Mason County City Government