Ten years ago we decided that we needed to manifest our social and environmental values in a formalized manner. That’s when we decided to become a Certified B Corporation. Just as our business, team, and services have grown and evolved since 2009, so has the B Corp Movement. The B Corp certification process is continually updated to become more stringent and progressive. You can see how our score has changed over the years.
2019 was a re-certification year for us. After seeing our score take a dip in 2016, we assembled a B Corp improvement task force of our team members to help tackle our next re-certification.
We’re excited to report that we recently passed our re-certification with 97.4 points! Not only was this a 5.9 point improvement to our 2016 score, this score also comes from a new version (V6) of the B Impact Assessment (BIA) that is more rigorous than ever before. Here’s a look at where we come up strong, what we did to improve, and our continuing goals for each assessment category.
Measure of the company’s overall mission, ethics, accountability and transparency
Mission & Engagement. Our formal corporate mission is to improve the way people make and use energy while building a prosperous company that supports people. We treat our social and environmental impact as a primary measure of success for our business and prioritize it even in cases where it may not drive profitability.
Ethics & Transparency. We instruct all new hires on our code of ethics while also instructing managers and non-managerial workers on an ongoing basis. We also make our financial performance available to our team members and share our social and environmental performance publicly.
Social & Environmental Management. We’ve integrated social and environmental performance into our decision-making by incorporating social and environmental performance goals to our team lead’s roles and in team member reviews.
Instruction on Code of Ethics. We reviewed and updated our code of ethics and instruct our teams and leads on an ongoing basis.
Impact Reporting. We help many builders and communities share their social and environmental impact, but we haven’t always been as good at sharing our own. Be on the lookout for our 2019 Transparency and Impact Report coming out in early 2020 that shares our people and planet performance targets and progress in meeting those goals.
Governance Structure. This is a really tricky one. One way to really excel in this area is to become worker-owned. This is a super exciting possibility for SEM, but also one that presents a lot of hurdles and challenges. Right now we are researching our options and seeking advice from our Amicus partners who are already worker-owned B Corps and have experience with the transition. Our top priority is to find a path that benefits everyone on our team.
Measure of the company’s relationship with its workforce and the overall work environment within the company
Benefits Package. We offer a great benefits package to all full-time workers, including health insurance, matching 401(k), life insurance, and more.
Worker Empowerment. We engage and empower our team members through formal feedback and complaint mechanisms that are reviewed to ensure they are impactful. We also have processes in place to provide input from team members before operational and/or strategic policy changes, and have adopted self-management principles throughout the workplace through the EOS model.
Unique Hands-On Education Opportunities. This year our team participated in a series of challenges to rethink how we can be more sustainable in our daily lives. We began the year with a plastic reduction challenge and installed a new water bottle filling station in our office. This was followed by a food series which challenged us to get to know where our food comes from. We’re wrapping up 2019 with a health and wellness cooking challenge after learning more about how what we eat can impact us in the short and long term.
Internal Hiring and Promotions. Over 15% of our team was internally promoted within the past 12 months!
Career Development and Training. We have lots of life skills training and professional development opportunities available to our team members through SEM Youniversity, our internal education program. However, as our team grows, we could be better at standardizing the training programs we offer and ensuring that all team members receive the specialized professional development they need to excel.
Field Team Engagement. A majority of our team members are out in the field slapping solar panels on roofs and duct blasting homes for efficiency. The work all of our teams do is so important, but the nature of our roles means that we might not always feel engaged with everyone on our team. We’re looking for ways to improve team engagement and hope to reach a new pinnacle in 2020.
Measure of the company’s supplier relations, diversity, and involvement in the local community
Economic Impact. Southern Energy Management is family-owned and operated out of Raleigh, NC. We are extremely proud to support our local economy with employment opportunities. As we add more team members to the SEM family, we are excited to grow our contribution to our community.
Civic Engagement & Giving. Beyond our economic impact through employment opportunities, we also give back to our community by financial donations, pro-bono service, advocacy for environmental policies, partnerships with charitable organizations, offering our facilities to host community events, organizing company service days, and offering all team members paid time off to volunteer. Last year our team contributed 140+ hours of community service.
Inclusive Work Environments. This year we formalized a program to provide mentorship, apprenticeships, and internships for individuals from underrepresented groups.
Preferred Marketing Vendor List. Purchasing from local suppliers is an area we aspire to improve. Naturally, there are limitations to what we can purchase locally. Unfortunately there are no solar panel manufacturers down the street. Nonetheless, we are taking a first step to making more conscious purchasing decisions by developing our preferred marketing vendor list which includes like-minded local organizations and other B Corps.
Tracking Diversity. We have room to improve on tracking and measuring the diversity of our team and supply chain. In the future, we hope to be able to understand the diversity of ownership among our suppliers, formalize targets and policies around purchasing from underrepresented groups with diverse ownership, and have programs in place to provide support to suppliers with diverse ownership.
Volunteer Participation. We have several opportunities for our team members to engage in community service projects throughout the year. We’d like to see everyone participating in these programs and hope to launch more initiatives that our team will be excited to engage in.
Measure of the company’s environmental impact through its facilities, materials, emissions, and resource use
Environmental Business Model. We excel in the environmental category through what we do each day as defined by our business model. Our solar power, energy efficiency, and sustainability consulting services help homes, businesses, and communities conserve resources to reduce their environmental impact. Because of this, we've been named Best for the World in the Environment category since 2016!
Management of Renewable Energy. We measure and manage the impact of our products and services by meeting third-party standards for impact, measuring the short-term outcomes of our services to meet expectations of our customers, measuring long-term outcomes to determine the lasting positive impact for our customers, and identifying potential causes that may lead to negative effects so customers can make an informed decision.
Purchasing Our Facilities. In 2018 we made a huge move by purchasing our new home on Triangle Drive. Before then, we were leasing a facility which prevented us from tackling any major renovations to make the building more efficient or add solar. Now we can take action and create a work environment that reflects our core values and mission.
Overall we improved the most in the Environment category! We are excited to be named Best for the World in the Environment category for the third year in a row! Each year, B Lab recognizes the top-performing B Corps in their Best for the World lists. This designation is given to B Corps who rank in the top 10% of each impact category and to those who are the best overall. Through what we do, we naturally have a head start in the Environment category. So we’ve got our sights set on becoming Best for the World in another category in the next 3 years.
Supply Chain Management. Benchmarking and understanding the vast footprint of our supply chain is an area we can work to improve in. Having a better understanding of the carbon footprint of all of our materials is a crucial first step for us to find ways to make more impactful purchasing decisions, and minimize/offset that environmental impact.
Environmental Management. As we grow into our (relatively) new office, there are many improvements on our to-do list to make our facilities reflect our mission. Assessing our building footprint, tracking, and setting targets for energy reduction, water conservation, indoor air quality improvement, and clean energy production are high on our list for 2020.
Measures whether a company sells products or services that promote public benefit and if it is designed to solve an environmental or social issue
Managing Customer Stewardship. We manage the impact and value created for our customers by offering product and service guarantees, warranties, and protection policies. We also have third party certifications and accreditations with formal quality control and feedback mechanisms.
Monitoring Customer Satisfaction. We regularly monitor customer satisfaction and have set performance targets for our Net Promoter Scores. We also share customer satisfaction both internally and publicly.
Everything! Scoring in this category is new to us this year based on how we responded to the updated questions of the V6 B Impact Assessment. We're excited to continue seeking solutions to improve our impact to our customers.
Serving in Need Populations. We can improve on benchmarking and setting targets for our impact on underserved groups.
Innovative Practices to Increase Accessibility. We can strive to seek innovative solutions when it comes to finding ways to make solar power and energy efficiency accessible to more homes and families.
Now that re-certification season is over, you might think that we’ve returned to our regular programming and that our B Corp Improvement Team has disbanded. If you know us and our never settle spirit, you’ll know that’s certainly not the case.
Our rebranded B Corp Improvement team, known on the street as B Squad, is launching into the next decade with a new sense of purpose. To prepare for the journey ahead, B Squad is crowdsourcing ideas for impact through surveys and a series of listening tours. Afterall, B Squad isn’t going in this alone. We’ll need the passion, energy, and talent of our entire team to make the impact we have our sights set on.
The first team survey was sent in late November with engagement questions based on the results of our 2019 B Corp re-certification assessment. A majority of our team members at SEM participated in the survey, and from the responses it clear that these are the areas that are most important to our team:
With this feedback in hand, the B Squad will be establishing “rocks” (or quarterly projects if you are not familiar with EOS lingo) to move forward in these areas. We’ll also be enlisting the help of our talented team members to help propel positive change.
The other areas of improvement on our survey that didn’t make the top three are not to be forgotten. We are working behind the scenes on baselining, tracking, and measuring several goals for environmental and social impact improvement around areas from the B Impact Assessment. Stay tuned! This data will be available in our first ever Transparency and Impact Report launching early next year (the perfect time to make new resolutions).
Until then, if you are interested in becoming a B Corp, want to learn more about the B Movement, or want to share ideas with a fellow B Corp, we’d love to hear from you!