As we wrap up B Corp month, we’re excited to invite all our stakeholders to take a peek #BehindtheB and learn more about how things work #BehindTheSun. For those of you who are wondering who or what a B Corporation (B Corp) might be, or maybe you just need a quick refresher– let’s cover that first.
In case you weren’t sure, the “B” in “B Corp” stands for benefit– as in a business that wants to benefit society rather than just raking in profit at the expense of people and the planet. In a society centered around consumption and profit, we can be easily overwhelmed by the modern burden of assessing the intentions and impacts of every single business you support. That’s where the Certified B Corp label comes in. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab if they meet certain standards after undergoing a rigorous impact assessment that evaluates the company’s business practices and their resulting impacts in five key categories.
Based on the results of the impact assessment, a company is scored out of 200 points. In order to be a Certified B Corp, a business must score at least 80 or above, and ordinary businesses typically score around 50. When you see the Certified B Corp logo, you can be confident that you’re supporting a business that cares about its impacts beyond just profit.
To put it simply, a Certified B Corp uses its business as a vehicle for positive change in the world by benefitting ALL stakeholders, rather than just shareholders who care only about maximizing profit. Neighborhood Sun has been a Certified B Corp since our conception in 2017, back when all we could be sure about was our guiding mission to bring affordable, local solar to all, one community at a time. Since then, our score has improved by more than 30 points, and we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon! We have also been ranked in the top 5% of all B Corps globally, earning us the title Best for the World: Environment in 2021, and Best for the World: Governance in 2018 and 2019.
We’re very proud to hold the highest score of any B Corp in our industry and the work it took to get there, but when we get down to it, we know the score isn’t the important part. Our B Corp score is only as good as the tangible impact behind it, so what truly matters is how Neighborhood Sun uses community solar to benefit all our stakeholders by considering our impacts (both positive and negative) on our customers, community partners, solar developers, team members, environment, and every single member of the communities we serve.
How can we do that? We’re not going to pretend we have all the answers, but we will actively share our journey and invite customer feedback along the way because we’re all about transparency and failing forward. So, come take a peek #BehindTheSun to explore the manifesto that drives each and every business decision we make here at Neighborhood Sun.
As a business, it’s so much easier to talk about what you’re already doing right than be honest and identify what you could be doing better. We have seen lots of growth over the past few years, and that means we have also done a lot of learning. We know there is so much work to do, and the clock is ticking every day as the impacts of climate change worsen. As such, we are a company that is willing to take risks and make mistakes as we work to accelerate the transition of communities to clean energy because we know progress is more important than perfection.
We love being a smaller company because it means we’re nimble enough to engage directly with our customers, ask them what they need, and make changes accordingly, rather than using profit as the main driver of business decisions. At Neighborhood Sun, we value the opinions and feedback of ALL stakeholders, so we hold an annual stakeholder meeting to make space for everyone’s voices to be heard. Learning directly from our stakeholders has been the best way for us to fulfill our promise of prioritizing their needs and well-being above all else. We realized once a year just wasn’t enough to check in with our community, so we are launching a stakeholder feedback inbox where people can suggest new ideas and improvements or just leave a comment about any aspect of our business and customer experience at any time. We truly want to know how you feel about your interactions with the website, our team, and the MySolar platform so we can do better.
Let us be clear– we’re not here to encourage consumerism. We’re here to empower communities and support residents of all income levels by providing access to energy that’s cheaper, cleaner, and more local. It can be hard to buy anything these days without feeling powerless to the waste and harm it causes in the world, but community solar isn’t a product– it’s a service, and we are really proud of that.
We prefer opting for productless promotions by identifying other partner organizations, such as Compost Crew, that are making it possible for us to produce less waste and pollution without sacrificing the things we love. We’re proud that our ad campaigns show a future where clean energy is within reach, rather than encouraging overconsumption or consumerism. Rather than creating more emissions and waste by encouraging people to buy a product, our most recent campaign with Compost Crew resulted in the equivalent of 100 cars being taken off the road for a year. By promoting community solar, we are supporting the world’s transition to clean energy, a power source that’s better for your wallet, better for your environment, and better for your community.
You’re the leaders, the doers, the people who go out to a public meeting on a cold winter’s night. You shine the lantern on the path forward to a clean energy future. Our goal is to serve you the best we can, by providing a way for you to organize and mobilize others around a community solar project. We want to hear from you, whether to praise us or correct us. We want to help you, whether it benefits us or not. We want to support you, whether it costs us money or not.
When we say we’re people-powered, we mean it. Neighborhood Sun began with only two employees in a Maryland coworking space just a few years ago. Thanks to our team of passionate people and our strong mission, we have grown to a solar community of over 13,000+ customers, 80+ solar projects, and 28+ employees. As our solar community grows, we must remember those who helped us get there and demonstrate our loyalty to them. In efforts to empower our customers to have a real stake in the success of Neighborhood Sun, we recently launched our public WeFunder campaign, which offers our customers and other stakeholders an opportunity to invest under the same terms and conditions offered to private investors.
It’s our mission to bring the benefits of clean energy to ALL– not just the select few who can afford solar panels. For that to happen, we must first address energy equity, which acknowledges that Low-Income households and other underserved populations spend a disproportionate share of their income on home energy costs in addition to bearing a disproportionate share of the negative health impacts of fossil fuel power plants.
When it comes to equity and clean energy, we believe that everyone must be part of the solution, especially those most affected. That’s why we are the only community solar company to specifically cater to the needs of Low- and Moderate- Income households as we work to break down the unique barriers they face in accessing clean energy. Our Solar Helps Advance Resident Equality (S.H.A.R.E.™) program provides increased cost savings and reserved space on certain projects for Low- and Moderate Income households. Whether it’s through promoting environmental justice, fostering connections, or building economic resilience, we are here to serve our community and support our neighbors. When things get tough, keeping the lights on is the last thing we want you to worry about, so we donate 1% of our annual revenue to our Neighbor Benefit Fund, which can be used by community solar subscribers to pay electricity bills in times of crisis. Access to electricity that doesn’t pollute our air, water, and resources shouldn’t be exclusive. Community solar finally makes clean energy available to anyone who pays an electric bill. That’s the way it should be, right?
We’re as serious about our work as we are about climate change, but as the proverb goes– all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. What’s the point in fighting for a healthier future if we don’t even take the time to enjoy everything along the way? At Neighborhood Sun, we encourage the right to disconnect outside of work hours, so our team members can focus on more important things like family, friends, and the activities that bring them joy. For some employees, that might involve using a few of the 50 hours of paid volunteer time we offer to encourage our team to support the causes they care about and actively participate in creating a better society for us all. For others, it could mean going on a hike with a friend, Thursday night trivia with the team, or participating in local community events.
At Neighborhood Sun, we’re more to each other than just coworkers– we’re each other’s friends, teammates, advisors, advocates, critics and supporters, so we take care of our team like family. In addition to caring for our team, we also provide green incentives and sustainability education whenever possible. We saw major progress already this year as we developed a curriculum to ensure that everyone at Neighborhood Sun fully understands the implications of our status as a B Corp, our mission, our values, and our comprehensive social and environmental impacts, both as a company and individuals. We are also excited to launch a new green employee benefit that allows us to help each employee evaluate their individual annual carbon emissions and set goals to reduce them while we buy carbon offsets to cover 100% of those emissions. Through this program, we will continue increasing our internal sustainability education and engagement while monitoring and offsetting our emissions, both as individuals and as a team.
Yeah, we deal with serious and important issues but we’ve gotta laugh sometimes too. Now, how come I have 100 socks but only 20 matching pairs?
No one is immune to the effects of climate change, and, unfortunately, many underserved populations are especially vulnerable to them. We cannot ignore the fact that those who have historically polluted the least are at a heightened disadvantage to suffer the most from the detrimental impacts of climate change. An analysis conducted last year by the EPA demonstrated that the most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately upon underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts. We can’t properly combat climate change without first addressing energy equity and environmental justice because climate change isn’t just about the planet, it’s about people.
Our business model increases access to local solar energy by putting the power in the hands of the people who are using electricity. We’re here to disrupt the old system where ratepayers are forced to merely be the subjects of decisions made by others. With Neighborhood Sun, you and your neighbors are actively promoting positive environmental, economic, and social development in your area while saving money. Community solar empowers your community to be both the generator and recipient of electricity, so you can have the power to choose energy that helps you save and live better instead of harming you through pollution. We know that grassroots and community organizing is key to creating a more equitable and sustainable future, and we’re here to make sure that EVERYONE has a seat at the table.
As empowering as it can be to take control of the products you allow into your home and body, it can also be exhausting and confusing to vet whether or not every single company would choose to make an extra dollar rather than account for your health and well-being. Conscious consumerism has grown in popularity, and we should appreciate those demanding more from the companies so many of us support. No efforts are too small because it all matters in the end, but we can’t take our eyes off the prize: a future where you don’t have to choose between living the way you want and polluting the planet. That’s right– they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and they never were. It was all a ploy by the fossil fuel industry to convince us that living more sustainably means sacrificing the things we want, but at Neighborhood Sun, we believe that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If we are serious about sustainability, a clean environment, and a healthy economy, we need to make buying local a top priority. Buying local is one of the easiest things you can do to give back to your community and its members. Each monthly payment for clean energy credits from a local solar project through Neighborhood Sun not only saves customers money, but also serves as an investment in the local community and its transition to clean energy. When we buy local, we’re supporting our neighbors and other members of our community. Neighborhood Sun also partners with local nonprofits and organizations in the communities we serve to forge authentic connections and ensure that customers’ money is reinvested back into their communities. We help you keep your energy clean, local, and affordable.
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys (1) the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and (2) equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. That means everyone needs to be involved in the solution. When it comes to clean energy, community solar plays a key role in making that possible by bringing the benefits of solar to all– not just the select few.
Written by Stephanie Monmoine, Director of Communication & Corporate Sustainability