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Using Business as a Force for Good

Using Business as a Force for Good

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the day Bob and I consider to be the founding day of SEM.  Although we didn’t officially incorporate as Southern Energy Management, Inc. until May 5, 2002, 9/11/01 is the day we were shocked out of our complacency and realized that we had a responsibility to make a contribution beyond just starting a business to support our family — we decided to start a business to serve the greater good. In 2009 we formalized this commitment by becoming a Certified B Corp. Read on to learn more about B Corps and what this certification means to us. In remembrance and with hope for the future, Maria (Chief Executive Optimist)

What is a B Corp?

It’s pretty much the first question we get asked after someone finds out SEM is a B Corp, and understandably so. As a consumer, you’re probably tired of the constant barrage of marketing from companies claiming to be “green” or “sustainable.” Every product these days has some sort of claim on how it is helping the world or making you look 80 years younger. (Seriously, how much younger can those lotions make us look?) How do you know when a business is actually using good practices and when they’re just trying to sell you? The answer is in the B.

B Corps to business is like what fair trade is to coffee, or LEED is to a building: a certification from a third party that guarantees better practices. So when you see the B Corp symbol, you know that a company has met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

How a company is certified

The process to become a B Corp is relatively simple. There is an online assessment that is scored out of 200 points, with a minimum of 80 points needed. The score is broken down into categories of environment, community, workers, and governance. Supporting documents are submitted with the application, and each year a random 10% of B Corps are given on site reviews to verify documentation, interview employees, and ensure that the company has truly earned their B Corp certification score (SEM had an on site audit last year).

But just because the process is simple, doesn’t mean that becoming a B Corp isn’t hard work. The certification is good for only two years before it has to be renewed. A new application is also released every few years with more challenging questions, ensuring that businesses continue to grow and find new ways to improve.

Sometimes companies are shocked when they discover that their once passing score now no longer qualifies them as a B Corp. SEM has been certified three times since 2009, something we are extremely proud of. But we don’t just certify and forget about it for two years. We have a dedicated team that actively uses the B Corp assessment as a tool to improve our company’s performance. The B Team has goals and targets just like every other team in the company and is currently developing a system to track our Community and Environmental metrics with the same rigor we track financial metrics because, as we say in the B Corp community, it’s important to “Measure What Matters.”

Who can become a B Corp?

B Lab, the nonprofit organization that certifies B Corps was only founded in 2006, but the movement has grown enormously. There are over 1,300 B Corps in 41 countries and 121 industries. This shows that B Lab doesn’t expect your company to fit into the mold of a certain type of company to be certified, but your company does need to be committed to the core values described in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence – if you like, you can even sign the Declaration to voice your support for B Corps and our vision of using business as a force for good.

Why SEM?

There are currently more than 177 solar companies at work in North Carolina, and for someone trying to buy a system it can be overwhelming to pick one. Our B Corp certification is one way we set ourselves apart as a company that’s not just here to make money, but to also make a brighter future for the world.


Maria Kingery speaking at NC B Corp Community Celebration at American Tobacco Campus

Maria Kingery speaking at NC B Corp Community Celebration at American Tobacco Campus


SEM learned a long time ago that if we held ourselves to higher standards and took care of our people and the environment, that we would rise above the rest. As the number one residential solar installer in the state, we’ve continued to prove this to our customers over and over again.

Interested in learning more about our B Corp score? Check us out at https://www.bcorporation.net/community/southern-energy-management and look for future blog posts with updates on how SEM works to B the Change. B good and shine on!