To honor Earth day this year, SunPower, the manufacturer of the solar panels we install, decided to do a campaign about South Mountain here on the Vineyard. They put a ton of effort into this. They spent time here with us last Fall, did several videos and photo shoots, and wrote extensively about our company and our work. We’re honored by their decision to feature us, and we appreciate their beautiful work. We also appreciate our relationship with SunPower, an American company that makes the best solar panels in the world. If you’d like to see what they’re up to with this, click here.
I recently attended the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy in Worcester MA. Worker co-ops from around the country were represented. As I listened to people relate their struggles to align values with business, it made me think of our good fortune with one aspect of our company: our owners’ equity fund.
In 1987 SMC transitioned from a sole proprietorship to a worker cooperative. Part of the re-structuring was a commitment to profit sharing – we would distribute 35% of annual net profits as cash bonuses to each employee, based on hours worked. The purposes: to share the wealth (of which there wasn’t much at the time) and to partially mitigate our hierarchical wage scale.
In addition, our new by-laws called for the distribution of annual dividends to internal capital accounts for each of the co-op owners. Generally, these distributions were (and are to this day) roughly 50% of the remaining net income after profit sharing.
The internal capital accounts are paper accounts; they do not have cash in them. They are an obligation – the company owes the money to each owner/employee when that person leaves the company.
In September I wrote about a new initiative we are working on called Building Energy Bottom Lines (B-Lines for short). Now it has come to fruition – it’s ready-to-launch. That will occur at the annual Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) conference – Building Energy 14 – in Boston in early March. You can read about it here. You can apply for membership there too.
I’m pumped up about this new NESEA program. It’s an effort to assemble 30 (for now) of the most progressive and thoughtful architecture, building, and energy companies in the Northeast to share secrets, cross-pollinate, and learn from each other within a rigorous peer group structure.