‘The big work we are doing’: California Solar Electric Company becomes first Certified B Corp in Nevada County
April is Earth Month and California Solar Electric Company recently became the first certified B Corporation in Nevada County.
The certification is another notch in the belt for the Grass Valley company that has worked for years to be a force for good. Early on, Cal Solar embraced a triple bottom line — the idea that social and environmental sustainability carries equal merit alongside economic viability. In 2019, Cal Solar worked with Project Equity to become the first worker-owned cooperative in Nevada County and the first worker-owned solar company in California.
“We’re really seeing ourselves in the community as trying to build a better Nevada County. Our bigger work is beyond just installing solar,” said General Manager Lars Ortegren.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable economy.
There are currently over 3,928 Certified B Corporations in more than 74 countries.The B Corp community reflects the world’s business landscape, ranging from sole proprietors to publicly-traded companies. Well known examples of certified B Corps include companies like Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing and Ben & Jerry’s.
The third party certification took nine month — a rigorous review of systems, governance, community policies, vendor relationships and impacts for the vision driven organization that takes holistic business practices seriously. The assessment process wasn’t easy but the rewards of legitimizing Cal Solar’s work are worth the challenge of the intensive, multi-faceted verification.
Their Impact Report will become transparent on bcorporation.net for all customers to see. Certified B Corporations also amend their legal governing documents to require their board of directors to balance profit and purpose. In a time when greenwashing is commonplace, the combination of third-party validation, public transparency, and legal accountability help Certified B Corps build trust and value. B Corp Certification is administered by the nonprofit B Lab.
“It allows us to measure ourselves against others. It allows us to speak in a verified way about the big work we are doing,” said Ortegren.
Throughout the verification process, Cal Solar discovered new ways of looking at the company’s impact that they hadn’t considered before.
Now they are examining their vendor relationships at a higher level. Tracking local and non-local business relationships was something they always did. Now they are looking at the whole supply chain, examining product sources and creating minimum thresholds for purchasing. It’s one piece of a global perspective to their work.
The other is climate change.
Environmental sustainability is inherently built into the work of Installing renewable energy systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The positive outcome of solar energy as a solution to climate change is nothing new but now the work being done on a local level feels more relevant to the big picture than ever before. Now the company is documenting the carbon offsets of every customer and building a database that will inform local, regional, state, national and global economies and ultimately could help guide research of planetary health.
“We want Nevada County to be part of the answer,” said Ortegren.
Cal Solar has a 21 year history of being a changemaker and the company takes its responsibility beyond providing affordable, reliable alternative energy.
The work always comes back to a common thread of building a more resilient community by 1) investing in the economic viability of the region by providing good paying, meaningful jobs for people who live in Nevada County and 2) by giving back to social and environmental causes that are making a difference.
It’s that kind of fearless integrity and purpose-driven impacts that set a common tone for B Corps and the way they are redefining success in business.
B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Corp Certification doesn’t just evaluate a product or service; it assesses the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it.
And increasingly that’s what people care about – companies who are competing to be their best for the world.
Ortegren says he would highly recommend the certification to other companies.
“It gives a good road map for how we can improve. Ideally, in a perfect world every company would be a B Corp,” said Ortergren.
Learn more about California Solar Electric Company at https://www.cal-solar.coop/
Learn more about B Corps at https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps.
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