Businesses that are looking to draw customers and recruit top talent need to pay attention to greater than sales and marketing — they will need to create a commitment to social and environmental issues as well.

That’s based on Robynn Shrader, CEO of the National Co+op Grocers, keynote speaker of the Gazette’s third-annual Business Excellence awards and proponent of certified B Corps.

Shrader spoke to over 250 attendees Thursday evening at The Resort at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids through the event, which brought together business leaders and city officials to acknowledge accomplishments in the Corridor.

National Co+op Grocers is the umbrella organization that reflects 147 retail food coops in 38 states that do over $2.3 billion in revenue annually.

Licensed B corps are to some company what fair trade is to java or LEED certification would be into some building, Shrader clarified. B Corp certification brings a firm’s social and environmental performance to mild and holds that firm accountable.

More than 2,300 businesses in 50 nations across 130 businesses have attained this designation, Shrader said, adding big names like Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s and Kickstarter.

National Co+op Grocers turned into a certified B Corp in 2012 and because has made considerable strides — planting 1.4 million trees to offset carbon emissions created by the company, increasing the diversity of its own board and supplying a “living wage” to all its employees.

This has helped the organization achieve “world standing,” meaning it’s in the top 200 certified B Corps on the planet. But getting there was not easy, Shrader additional — it takes a whole lot of hard work to not just get a passing score except to keep it and raise it.

“We experienced a rude awakening,” Shrader said, explaining there was lots of education involved to get employees to observe the value of the certification. “It helps you not only improve your business, but improve the story you tell the world.”

During the awards presentations, Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, obtained The Gazette’s first Trailblazer of the Year award, while Nate Klein, interim dean of students at Mount Mercy University, was named the Young Professional for 2017.

The University of Iowa took home the top award this past season — the Gazette’s in general Company Excellence Award — because of its function in sustainability, because of its numerous current and present significant construction projects and also for continuing to function as a significant economic engine in the Corridor. At the past two years, UI has completed Numerous large scale construction projects, including the 360 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall, the Visual Arts Building, the $189 million Voxman Music Building along with the $113 million Hancher Auditorium.

“The past ten years was a remarkable trial for many of us,” explained Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations at the UI, after taking the award for its university. “But we have never been better”

In the middle of all the construction, the UI is working to be sustainable and anticipates it will operate on no coal by 2025.

“We’re at lower energy today than we were 10 years ago,” he explained. “Many people thought it couldn’t happen, but I am proud of the job we’re doing in a difficult time for higher education”

2017 Gazette Business Excellence Award winners, by category, were

The Gazette Business Excellence Award

Excellence Award — Heery International

Achievement Award — One Place at Riverfront Crossings

Excellence Award — Coe College, Mount Mercy University and the Uptown District

Achievement Award — Ashton Hill Farm

Excellence Award — ESCO Group

Achievement Award — Hy-Vee

Excellence Award — Children on Course

Achievement Award — Liberty High School, in the Iowa City Community School District

Excellence Award — Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust

Achievement Award — University of Iowa Community Credit Union

Excellence Award — Big Grove Brewery

Achievement Award — Rapid Creek Cidery

Excellence Award — Quaker Oats

Excellence Award — Eastern Iowa Health Center

Achievement Award — Tanager Place

Excellence Award — United Fire Group

Achievement Award — Backpocket Brewing Company

Excellence Award — Signal Center for Health Innovation

Achievement Award — Revival Theatre Company

Wanted Award — Highway Equipment

Achievement Award — Legacy Manufacturing

Excellence Award — Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery

Achievement Award — General Mills

Excellence Award — The Hook

Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, Cedar Rapids Public Library

Excellence Award — Catherine McAuley Center

Achievement Award — Cedar Rapids Follies

Public-private partnerships

Excellence Award — town of Cedar Rapids

Also awarded for their participation in September 2016 flooding efforts:

Borst Brothers Construction

Dave Schmitt Construction

Roto-Rooter Sewer Drain Service

Schrader Excavating and Grading

Anderson-Bogert Engineering/Surveyors

Foth Infrastructure and Environment

Forterra Concrete Products

Martin Marietta Materials

Excellence Award — Hobart Historic Restoration

Achievement Award — Affordable Housing Network

Excellence Award — Alliant Energy

Achievement Award — HR Green

Excellence Award — Rockwell Collins

Achievement Award — Guru Circular, L8NT Wireless (tie)

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Rod Lehnertz senior vice president for finance and operations at the University of Iowa, discusses after accepting the General Small Business Excellence Award on behalf of the university at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Co-op Grocers, provides the keynote speech at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Nate Klein, The Gazette’s Young Professional for 2017, talks along with other attendees at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. Klein is interim dean of students for Mount Mercy University, at which he’s worked with the leadership development team Enactus. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Awards, including the award for Overall Excellence, at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Mark Nolte, president of the Iowa City Area Development Group, introduces the keynote speaker at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Co-op Grocers, provides the keynote speech at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Mark Nolte, president of the Iowa City Area Development Group, listens to keynote speaker Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Co-op Grocers, at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Co-op Grocers, provides the keynote speech at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Award winners at the third annual Gazette Business Awards at The Resort at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

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