Cascade Engineering Is Doing Well by Doing Good

By Jane Whitttington on May 22nd, 2016 / Comments

Profit is important for Cascade Engineering, as it is for every business. But it is only part of their mission. Their three guiding principles—people, planet, profit—reflect their commitment to doing well by doing good. Since their founding in 1973, Cascade Engineering has been focused not just on the bottom line but also on the positive impact a business can have on employees, the community and the environment.

Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Cascade Engineering has 14 facilities throughout North America and one in Hungary. With large scale plastic injection molding expertise, it serves the automotive industry, commercial truck and bus industry, waste-recycling (if you live in Grand Rapids, both your garbage receptacle and your recycling bin were made by Cascade Engineering), and office furniture manufacturers.

Fred Keller, the founder of Cascade Engineering, was CEO for over 40 years but turned that position over to Mark Miller about two years ago.  Keller serves as Chairman of the Board, and the culture he created along with the company continues to inform company policies and principles.

According to Director of Marketing and Public Relations Keith Maki, “Cascade Engineering is made up of nine different businesses or brands, which we call our family of companies. We operate nine facilities here in Grand Rapids. We have a total of seven manufacturing plants. We employ 1,600 in total with about 700 here in Grand Rapids.”

What sets Cascade Engineering apart is not only its sound business practices and the excellence of its products, it is a strong sense of social responsibility. It has created a number of innovative programs that serve as models of corporate accountability.

One such program is Welfare to Career.  Maki explains, “In the early 1990’s, it was recognized that many people on welfare wanted to work and were capable of being good employees but were unable to overcome the difficulties of transportation, childcare and other roadblocks to a successful work experience. With the Department of Human Services, Goodwill and other community partners, we set up a program to overcome barriers. We hired a full-time social worker to help these employees succeed. When we started, we called this program Welfare to Work but changed it to reflect the belief that former welfare clients could have more than just a job, they could have a career.”

The company is proud to report that their Welfare to Career program has a 98 percent success rate.

Another program which has proven beneficial not only to the company and the individual employee but also to the community is the program known as “returning citizens”. Cascade Engineering hires from the population of men and women coming out of the prison system. Unlike most employers, Cascade doesn’t ask on its employment application whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime. Instead, they give these individuals a second chance for a successful reentry into the general population.

Cascade Engineering has also adopted a strong anti-racism statement. It reads:

“Cascade Engineering is an anti-racism organization.  Cascade Engineering defines being an anti-racism organization as creating an environment where all employees regardless of race or the color of their skin know they are valued.  We acknowledge that racism can be unconscious or unintentional and identifying racism as an issue does not automatically mean those involved in the act are racist or intended the negative impact. As an anti-racism organization we will purposefully identify, discuss and challenge issues of race and color and the impact(s) they have on the organization, its systems, and its people. We will also challenge ourselves to understand and correct any inequities we may discover within Cascade Engineering and gain a better understanding of ourselves during this purposeful process.  Being an anti-racism organization is a journey and it is the learning along the way that makes this work worth all of our efforts.”

Cascade Engineering is one of the largest businesses to receive the coveted B Corp certification, which is awarded to for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet, as stated on their website, “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Maki says, “Cascade Engineering is a successful business and we continue to grow. But we know that success begins and ends with our employees, our customers and our communities, and they are our priority.”

For more information on Cascade Engineering, visit their website at www.cascadeng.com

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.