Pivot Energy was founded in 2009 to fight against the existential threat of global warming by expanding access to clean, solar energy. Based in Denver, their team is helping the country transition to a more sustainable, decentralized electric grid by working on hundreds of projects across the country.

They were awarded a Best for Colorado Commit to Action Award for their commitment to provide solar opportunities to low to moderate income (LMI) communities across Colorado. They are in the process of developing six megawatts of solar for Xcel Energy that will be subscribed by 100 percent LMI families.This annual award honors inspirational Best for Colorado companies that are driving transformational change in regards to the wellbeing and resilience of our communities, environment and society.

We spoke with Hannah Erwin, Internal Operations Associate, to learn more about Pivot Energy’s efforts to raise the bar in the solar industry.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell us about your community solar initiative?

Pivot Energy: Compared to residential and onsite commercial solar, community solar is a large-scale renewable energy solution built offsite, connected to the utility’s electrical grid and virtually sectioned off for utility customers, including businesses, nonprofit entities and/or residential users. In 2012, the Colorado state legislature mandated that 5 percent of community solar garden capacity be reserved for low to moderate income (LMI) subscribers to promote the expansion of solar in Colorado.

In 2018, the EPA published a report stating that those living below the poverty line have a 35 percent higher burden from particulate matter emissions than the overall population. In this context, the 5 percent community solar LMI carveout seemed inadequate in addressing inequity. Pivot Energy believes in expanding solar access for all, which is why we’ve assumed responsibility for exceeding government mandates. Currently, Pivot’s solar gardens are made up of roughly 25 percent LMI subscribers. In addition, we’re developing 6 MW of solar for Xcel Energy that will be subscribed by 100 percent LMI families.

BFCO: What challenges have you faced in expanding solar access for LMI communities? 

PE: We’ve learned a lot about the challenges that LMI families and individuals face through our work. LMI subscribers, which are disproportionately renters rather than homeowners, are deemed ineligible for many community solar subscriptions that require long subscription term lengths. Pivot Energy has worked with financiers to make LMI subscribers a more significant proportion of subscriptions than the law set out to achieve. The 6 MW project with Xcel Energy we’re developing is a great example of a successful developer and utility partnership. Language barriers have also been a roadblock to success between potential customers and our services. This is one of the reasons why Pivot sought out a partnership with Energy Outreach Colorado who can help us integrate our community solar product within the communities they serve.

While Pivot and others have been pushing the industry on LMI access to community solar, the market is now moving more and more towards a full industry response and more innovative solutions. Using Pivot projects and others as a baseline, entities like the City of Denver are now soliciting Request for Proposals with stipulations for high LMI engagement and subscription, using some of their purchasing power to make access more available.

This article originally ran in ColoradoBiz Magazine. To read the full article, click here.

At the 2020 Best for Colorado Awards Ceremony, Secretary of State, Jena Griswold opened by reflecting on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented in these last several months. Amid her recognition of these great challenges, she affirmed the following:

“Coloradans are not only resilient by nature, we’re committed to pulling our communities up with us. Nowhere is this more evident than in our business community. Our business community is dedicated to doing well by doing good, which will serve Colorado as we emerge from the current crises into a new frontier where businesses are the drivers of a new prosperity.”

Best for Colorado awarded eight companies this year for their commitment to creating this hopeful vision of prosperity that Jena Griswold spoke of–a kind of prosperity that goes beyond just material profit and takes into consideration the wellbeing of our earth and of our communities.

The Change Makers Awards recognized the highest overall scoring companies: Namasté Solar, an employee owned and local Colorado B-corp, and BSW Wealth Partners, an independent financial management firm. Pote Law Firm had the highest score in the Community section of the BIA, Organic India had the highest score in the Environment Section, and DOJO4 had the highest score in the Workers Section.

These companies represent a significant shift towards a new way of doing business and are 2020 Measure What Matters Honorees because of their commitment to continually improving their practices and redefining what success looks like.

The Alliance Center is leading the way toward a regenerative recovery for Colorado. If you’re a business, nonprofit, government group or individual who wants to be part of the solution, visit www.thealliancecenter.org/coalition to learn more.

Best for Colorado is a program of The Alliance Center. This program allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey.

This article was originally published in ColoradoBiz Magazine. To read the full article, click here.

*This article was originally published in ColoradoBiz Magazine. You can read the original feature: here.

 

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Montanya Distillers, a craft distillery in Crested Butte, saw the need for sanitizer in their community and shifted their production to donate surface sanitizer to front-line workers.

This commitment to ensuring their community thrives is why they are recognized as a 2020 Best for Colorado Commit to Action Award Honoree.

Montanya Distillers also demonstrates leadership in numerous other ways. Whether it’s their innovative environmental practices, zero-waste mentality, or its employee benefits, the company strives to continuously raise the bar for what it means to be a responsible and successful business.

This annual award honors inspirational Best for Colorado companies that are driving transformational change in regards to the wellbeing and resilience of our communities, environment and society.

We spoke with Karen Hoskin, founder/owner of Montanya Distillers, to learn about what makes Montanya Distillers Best for Colorado.

BFCO: Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to start producing surface sanitizer?

Karen Hoskin: Producing sanitizer was a relatively simple pivot within our business. We were lucky to be allowed to continue production during lockdown because we were able to meet strict health and safety requirements.

We added extra bottling shifts to the schedule using our existing rum bottles and designed a new label so there could be no mistaking what was inside. We created recommendations and guidelines for the use in cooperation with federal compliance entities.

We did not have to make any adjustments to our point of sale or distribution processes as we provided the sanitizer as a donation, working directly with the county’s Incident Command Team to identify the groups most in need: the local hospital, senior care center, doctors’ offices, emergency medical service providers, testing sites, law enforcement and other groups helping to respond.

The project boosted morale by offering staff a way to help the community, and it was amazing how quickly word spread and groups surfaced that could make use of the product.

BFCO: How has this initiative been perceived in your local community?

KH: We should never underestimate the power of doing your part. We initially felt that our decision to make sanitizer was a small act (and still feel that way, particularly considering the true heroes: healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers who kept grocery stores and other essential businesses up and running safely).

We didn’t even think it was that unique: distilleries across the country also shifted their operations to help with the demand for sanitizers. The speed at which the word spread was amazing. People were looking for positive and uplifting stories during this challenging time, and the feedback from our community was tremendous.

BFCO: What can others in the business community learn from your example? 

KH: We were reminded of the value of listening to your community and responding to the actual need. Initially, we didn’t anticipate producing sanitizer of any kind. Our distillation process simply does not produce a high enough alcohol content to follow WHO recipes for hand sanitizer. When our community spoke up, however, we heard of a need for surface sanitizer. We could easily produce that, and taking the time to listen and assess the need allowed us to offer a solution.

Also, as a company working very hard to be zero-waste, we value using every drop of the alcohol we make. We will likely continue creating surface sanitizer moving forward.

BFCO: What are your hopes for the future and for your sustainability goals? 

KH: There is always more we can do, and we’ve had some hurdles to clear this year. We had set a goal to become zero waste in 2020, and we’re not going to make it. Every time we get one aspect of our business waste wrangled, another one becomes problematic. We would never say “zero” unless we meant it. We have made major strides in this area, but the pandemic set us back on to-go containers and local infrastructure set us back on commercial composting. We are working on a biodigester and finding innovative ways to eliminate to-go packaging even in a pandemic.

BFCO: What lessons has your company learned from 2020 so far?

KH: This year we’ve been reminded that things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s where creativity can shine. We’ve innovated and created new business models during these times, and it’s been inspiring to see. It’s been a good reminder that working hard doesn’t always remedy the situation, but being courageous will. You have to be brave enough to take risks, speak your truth, accept new challenges, step outside your comfort zone and believe that success will come.

Written by Jice Johnson, Founder and Director of The Black Business Initiative (BBI). She is best known as an advocate for Black Business and wealth building. Since 2014, BBI has worked to provide Black entrepreneurs with business acumen, mentorship programs, investment opportunities and access to capital. It has also worked towards advancing race-specific economic policy development, in order to correct historical injustice and create opportunities for intergenerational wealth building. BBI firmly believes in the power and responsibility of business to build thriving communities. 

 

In the Black community we have a funky little saying that goes: “You’ve got to be twice as good to get half as much.” This unfortunate saying is quite popular among Black elites and academics. Those who have experienced putting in an incredible amount of time and effort into their craft only to be passed up by nepotic and often mediocre colleagues, or those who are assumed to have only received placement or a position due to diversity quotas and suchyou knowaffirmative action speculations. What’s even worse are those who have experienced both.

When we consider the idea of success by way of merit, a foundational concept in this country, we can’t get too far into the conversation until we acknowledge that the systems and policies that govern our lives lean heavily in favor of white people. This is actually no secret at all and is highly documented. And yet corporate America is still plagued with disparities even as monetary pledges to black owned or led organizations flood social media timelines and PR campaigns.

The concept of Black excellence is really quite intriguing when given a bit of context. For example, despite being illegal and often deadly to learn how to read, post slavery statistics show that, once freed, the Black community’s literacy rates sky rocketed past all other groups, growing from a 30 percent literacy rate to an 80 percent literacy rate in a short period of time, all without formal education or access to resources or schools. Although significant disparities continue to exist in education today, Black women are still the most educated segment in the country when looking at associate and bachelor degrees. 

The sheer amount of obstacles in the way of the Black community to obtain any level of success indicates a level of excellence most of white America will never need, and places a huge black hole in the theory of success by merit. Pun intended. 

What’s more offensive is the lack of awareness and insight into the contributions of Black Americans that seem to be missing in the C Suite and board rooms across this country. What adds insult to injury is the Black tokenism in order to check a diversity box that ultimately doesn’t create any lasting change. What rubs salt in the wound is that said tokenism can be detrimental to the one Black person attempting to shed their culture and assimilate into white America, often causing isolation and mental health issues due to both covert and overt aggressions.

Every CEO must work to push past performance. While many corporate changes take place under public pressure and scrutiny, few changes, pledges, and commitments have resulted in a decrease in racial disparities. The climate of the times calls for and allows for organizations to take strong stances in anti-racists practices that have long been upheld in corporate America, challenging CEO’s and boards to perform massive policy overhauls and intentional shifts in their corporate culture, talent development, and supply chain management.

It’s time to change the narrative. Black excellence exists in abundance. It’s more than a trend. It’s an economic revolution and it’s time to take your stand on the right side of history.

 

This article was originally published in ColordoBiz Magazine. You can read the full feature here.

glow + gather is a family-run business, co-founded with two young entrepreneurs from Castle Rock. They promote self-care and a healthy lifestyle through their natural body and spice products. Best for Colorado spoke with co-founders, Sarita Parikh, Kerala (age 13) and Jaxon (age 11) to learn more about this small business’ story.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell me a little bit about how your company got started?

Kerala Parikh: glow + gather started all because I couldn’t use any of the products on the market for my skin. Anything that I would use would cause me to breakout, and I would itch my skin so much it would bleed. My aunt, Sarita, got the idea to make my own body butter, and together we researched and created our signature body butter. Lucky for us, this was also close to Christmas time which meant that it would be the perfect Christmas present for family and friends. They started using our products and we only got good reviews. So, after years of asking our aunt we finally coaxed her into going into business with us.

Sarita Parikh: Kerala and Jax tried to convince me to go into business with them for a couple of years and I said no a few times. About two years ago, I was really struggling with epilepsy and managing my seizures. I shut down my pediatric physical therapy private practice because I needed a change of lifestyle. Then, glow + gather seemed like the perfect new venture. As a pediatric therapist, I found so many clients with sensitivities or many medical conditions where they couldn’t use the products on the market. Between my healthcare background, my epilepsy and then Kerala’s eczema it was perfect timing. We’ve learned how to create our own path in building this company. We’re not following a traditional path, but it’s working for us. We give ourselves grace, we give ourselves lots of flexibility, we give ourselves space to take care of ourselves. I think it’s really nice to see that [business] can be done differently.

BFCO: How long has glow + gather been around?

KP: We just turned three years old! I was 10 when we started and Jaxon was seven!

BFCO: Congrats! Has your company’s flexibility helped you adapt to COVID-19?

SP: It has. One of our founding principles is to create connections and help our community thrive, which includes giving back to our community. During COVID, there’s been so much small business support, which has been amazing. We’ve actually seen a lot of good come out of it: community, nonprofits and small businesses coming together to support each other and help each other thrive. It has helped reinforce what we already believed in and what we’re already doing. During this time, we’ve been working with SafeHouse Denver to help fill their food pantry, and we’ve been donating self-care packages to frontline workers.

BFCO: What initially inspired your commitment to your community?

KP: In Indian culture we have Diwali parties. People usually bring gifts, but our family would ask guests to bring toiletries and canned food to donate to different organizations, like SafeHouse Denver and students in need in Jefferson County schools. We’ve always incorporated charity into our lives. At our house, when we earn money, we have to put aside a certain percentage toward charities like the Malala Foundation.

Jaxon: Just watching people in our community struggling caused me to feel bad for them and to try and help them in the best way that I could. We started with our family and continued with glow + gather to help food pantries, raise money for animals, and child trafficking.

Foot + Hand Salve With Pine Cones

BFCO: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of this business?

KP: I get to meet a lot of people and prove that even though I’m a kid, I know what I’m talking about. Some of the negatives though are getting talked down to or not being fully understood by adults.

JP:  Getting to use my creativity to make new recipes for food and drinks. I agree with my sister, it is hard being talked down to especially when I know what I am doing with my business.

SP: Getting feedback from customers about how the products have made a difference in their lives, the community connections that we’ve built and the impact we’ve been able to make in the community are all really rewarding. It’s also been really rewarding to see Jaxon and Kerala grow and succeed in this business. Common challenges we face as a start-up are brand recognition, marketing, financing and trying to find a work/life balance.

BFCO: How did you first connect with Best for Colorado?

SP: Through Anna Castello and her company, Ship Sunshine. She uses some of our products in her gift boxes. At the time, I thought you had to be in business longer to even consider joining B Corp or Best for Colorado, and she was the one to tell us that we could absolutely start participating. I love being part of Best for Colorado because you meet amazing people who share similar values.

BFCO: What does success look like to you, say in five years from now?

KP: Five years from now I’ll be starting college, so hopefully I’ll be taking on more responsibility and continue being able to use this business to support my college fund. In mid-February, I started talking about wanting to take glow + gather down the advocacy path and organizing panels for diverse people to come together and talk about what’s going on in our world. Speaking for justice, advocacy and diversity is glow + gather’s overall long-term plan in my eyes.

JP: I have been creating recipes using our spice blends. The spices are my part of the business, and I would like to keep growing this part of the business, especially since food is one of the best ways to bring people together.

SP: Of course, I would like greater brand recognition and a greater market reach, but I would also like to see us create more significant community partnerships and see us making a greater impact on the world and in society.

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature.

YellowDog is a local, values-driven design, print and marketing studio dedicated to serving their Denver area clients and community. The company was recently recognized in PrintingNews as one of the Top 100 Small Commercial Printers in the country. We spoke with Cynthia Ord, marketing manager, to learn more about this Best for Colorado company.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell us a bit about YellowDog and how you found your way there?

Cynthia Ord: YellowDog has been around for 15 years, and I’ve been the marketing manager since January 6 of this year. I’m new to the scene, but YellowDog has gotten really far without a marketing manager. The business has gotten such good organic results through networking, word-of-mouth and referrals, so there’s a lot we can do to grow even further. I’m part of a new strategic team: we have an HR person, a creative director, a production manager and Jenny, the owner and the account director. It’s really fun to be on an all-female strategic team.

BFCO: Do print shops commonly have strategic teams? What is the market landscape like for printing?

CO: A lot of commercial print shops are structured as franchises. There are also a lot that are purely online, so self-service or e-commerce. With these kinds of online e-commerce platforms that do print, there’s no contact with a person; it’s all automated. YellowDog is unique in the industry because we are a local small business. We highly value customer service and contact. Each client is assigned an account manager that makes sure their print project looks good and is on track before it’s printed in large quantities. Unlike large franchises, we offer our clients a lot of guidance and quality assurance.

BFCO: How does YellowDog approach corporate social responsibility? Do you see customer service as a CSR focus? 

CO: We really want to help our customers thrive and get results, especially because we work with so many other small businesses and nonprofits. Nonprofits are a huge part of our client base. If a nonprofit succeeds because of a print campaign we helped with, then that ties into being values-driven for us.

Dan and Jenny are the two owners, and ever since the beginning it’s been really important for them to run their business as environmentally responsibly as possible. We’re tracking our energy use so that we can contribute to an offset program, offering recyclable options and we’re involved in other programs like Certifiably Green Denver. Corporate social responsibility has been baked into the business’ culture from the beginning.

Yellowdog Best For Colorado

BFCO: How did you all first hear about Best for Colorado, and why did you decide to join?

CO: It was one of the alliances that was already on the table when I came on board, so when I learned about it, I recognized it was aligned with our values. We renewed our Commit to Action pledge and made a commitment to get engaged and work toward a B Corp certification. YellowDog decided to join because we want to measure and understand our impact and create goals and baselines for improving and hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing based on objective standards.

BFCO: What is a challenging aspect of YellowDog’s work?

CO: One of the challenges is people think of print as a dying industry. It’s a challenge to make sure people know that print is still very much relevant and part of an effective marketing mix. We have to really demonstrate the value of print campaigns. That said, there’s always basics people will need, for example: signage. There will always be physical spaces to maintain and promote and print has a role in that. One way we’ve adapted in the last few years is expanding our digital services such as design, marketing, website development, rebranding and packaging. We have one foot in print, which is where our roots are, and another foot in the creative digital agency space.

BFCO: What’s one achievement YellowDog is most proud of?

CO:  In just the last few months YellowDog has received a finalist status for the Denver Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, has been listed on Colorado Companies to Watch, was featured in the Denver Business Journal Small Businesses in 2020 and now we’re listed in the top 100 Small Commercial Printers. The first three awards/mentions are local, but that last one recognizes us at a national level. This is great validation especially for a company of our size.

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature.

Angel Touch Commercial Cleaning is a local, family-owned business. Its commitment to using environmentally friendly products, supporting the local economy, and giving to different organizations makes them Best for Colorado. We spoke with the co-owners, Natalie and Corey Nove, to learn more about this small business.

Best for Colorado: How is your company adapting during this time?

Natalie Nove: We work primarily with other small businesses, so about 40% of our clients have closed. We’ve definitely been impacted this way, but we were also fortunate to have acquired some disinfectant products that are on the CDC-approved list. We started offering a disinfectant cleaning service right away in mid-March, and we’re getting a lot more inquiries about this as businesses have started reopening. We recently acquired the best eco-friendly, non-toxic and responsible product we could find, which is on the CDC list as an approved agent against COVID-19.  We’re thrilled to begin the partnership with Clean Republic, and we plan on using their disinfectant product for the long term.

Corey Nove: We’ve invested in an electrostatic sprayer machine, which disperses a super fine mist over everything. It can be sprayed on anything you can imagine, even electronics. These were previously utilized primarily in medical spaces, but since COVID-19 the use of these machines in all types of industries has quickly emerged. We’re now using them in office spaces.

BFCO: What has been your experience managing your employees during this time?

CN: We’ve followed all the CDC guidelines. So, if we work with the electrostatic sprayer machine, we use proper personal protective equipment. On our janitorial cleans, we’re using gloves and face masks on every single job. We’ve asked our customers to let us know if they have any outbreaks, so that we can communicate that with our team. Fortunately, we haven’t had anything like that up to this point.

NN: I think our service has also been helping other businesses. They’re able to reassure their employees and customers that everything has been disinfected.

BFCO: How did you first get started?

CN: We purchased the business in 2013, and it’s been around since 1998. When we purchased the business, it was doing 95% construction cleanup. Overtime, we transitioned it over to janitorial work. We also do windows, carpets and now this new kind of disinfectant cleaning. We predominantly do office cleaning and some restaurant cleaning in the evenings. Right now, a lot of restaurants have closed, but we’re not out of business because we still work with enough businesses in other industries. We built our business for longevity. I came from a mortgage banking background, so the market crash of 2008 definitely taught me the importance of diversification.

BFCO: What made you want to go from banking to owning your own business?

CN: We decided that we wanted to build something for ourselves instead of working for a big corporation. We had two small children at the time. I was working 70-hour weeks in the corporate world, so I knew we had to make a move. We started researching a bunch of different business ventures and decided on this cleaning company because it would give us more flexibility and time with our kids.

BFCO: How did sustainability emerged as a priority in your business?

NN: When you have kids, you think about the future that you’re leaving for them. I started thinking about transitioning to a 100% green cleaning company about a year after we had it. We stumbled upon Boulder Clean (which is a B Corp and Best for Colorado company as well) and we’ve been working with them for nearly five years now.

CN: When we first started, we were using all the products the previous owner was using. Boulder Clean products are far more natural than anything we were using before, and they’re local.

BFCO: What made you want to donate to the Denver Rescue Mission and Denver’s Children’s Hospital?

CN: Our children have had procedures done at that hospital, and we’ve seen the amazing work they do. That decision was pretty easy for us seeing the ways they’ve helped our family. As far as the shelters, we have business partners down in that location and I see the amount of people that are out there in the streets. So just seeing that made me want to help in any way I could.

BFCO: What has your experience been like being part of Best for Colorado?

NN: Feeling the support of the local economy has helped a lot. Best for Colorado also gives us ideas about things we can do from a business modeling perspective and different ways we can reduce our environmental footprint.

BFCO: What do you hope your company will look like in the future, and what does success look like for you?

CN: We’ll definitely continue to grow. Most of our business right now is in the Denver metro area, but we’ve started to expand, and it’s been working well. We will continue to diversify our business and continue trying to be on the cutting edge of the green movement.

NN: We’ll also continue to expand upon our support of organizations we think are important and other small businesses we work with. Of course, we’ll continue supporting our employees by ensuring that they have the flexibility, compensation and resources they need.

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature.

In well-established industries, companies attempting to disrupt processes as they have been are often met with resistance and numerous challenges. Switch Automation, a Denver-based global real estate software company, is attempting to do just that in the real estate industry, bringing innovation and modern technology to the well-established processes of managing assets and building management.

The company’s software helps property owners and facility managers reduce operating costs, improve energy efficiency and deliver exceptional occupant satisfaction. Not only is the firm forward-thinking in its products, but Switch Automation has dedicated itself to practicing and promoting sustainability through its products and in its operations.

Best for Colorado spoke with the company’s Vice President of Operations Patti Mason and Creative Marketing and Brand Manager Sara Spangler to learn more about this growing company.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell us a little bit about what Switch Automation does and how you got started?

Patti Mason: Switch Automation is a global real estate software company that started in 2012. We’ve created the Switch platform, which allows property owners and managers to reduce facility costs, improve energy efficiency and remotely manage building assets. We help our customers by aggregating data in the platform, providing visualization to help them prioritize improvement projects, and we’re seeing that, in light of the current situation, there is a growing interest in the remote management aspect of our platform.

BFCO: Aside from the increased interest in remote management, how has COVID-19 impacted Switch Automation?

PM: Because we’re a cloud-based company, and because all of our teams are very comfortable using technology, the transition to virtual work has been pretty seamless. I think that’s because the majority of the work we do with our customers is virtual. We don’t have to go to a site to optimize buildings—that’s all done virtually. Of course, we miss things like having beer together on Fridays and face-to-face interactions, but we’re doing our best to keep our traditions alive on Zoom.

BFCO: What is a challenging aspect of Switch Automation’s work?

PM: Managing real estate assets and building management has been done the same way for decades, so we get involved in the change management space quite a bit, and that can be hard. Facility management has an aging workforce, so we’re trying to show customers that technology is not only going to make your building smarter, but also make your team smarter, more efficient and help recruit the next generation [of workers]. We find that exciting, yet this can be challenging when talking to someone who has 50 years in the industry and has only ever worked with spreadsheets.

BFCO: What role do you think your technology plays right now in the current health crisis?

PM: The greatest value right now is transparency. We offer our customers the ability to see the building through data and understand what’s happening. Let’s say I’m going back to a space in a commercial office building; I want to know what’s been done to ensure that I’m coming back to a space that’s safe and clean. A building management team can say to a tenant, “Yes, we’ve cleaned the building, and we’ve done a nightly air flush.” The Switch Platform can validate that through data and evidence. That’s the value that we’re bringing right now—this extra, and much needed, layer of transparency to building operations.

BFCO: What role do you think Switch Automation will play in future crises, like the climate crises?

Sara Spangler: For so long we’ve been making the case that smart building technology is the future and will make facility managers’ lives easier while saving you money and time. This product isn’t going to replace your job. Instead, it’s going to become a different kind of job that’s more tech focused. With the COVID-19 crisis it feels like we’re finally at the point where the market is realizing remote operations are the future.

PM: Buildings account for 40% of energy use and carbon emissions globally, primarily from heating and cooling buildings​. The Switch Platform enables building engineers to set up better schedules for your heating and cooling system, and we can use our fault detection diagnostics tool for alerts when a system is starting to slip.

A new building is going to run as designed until you put people inside of it. Then, as occupants enter your building, our tool allows you to go back in and tune up the building. Having a smart, connected building helps you be more resilient, it helps you be proactive, and in the background, it’s also lowering your energy use. I think Switch will help advance grid interactive buildings and more connected communities; both of which are needed to achieve ambitious carbon reduction policy goals.

Deb Noller, CEO of Switch Automation

BFCO: How did corporate social responsibility emerge as a priority in your company? 

PM: Corporate social responsibility emerged from our co-founder and CEO, Deb Noller. Her educational background is in forestry and natural resources management. During the onboarding for every employee, she shares her personal story of growing up in New Zealand in a time before plastic constantly washed up on the beaches. She leads by example and wants to ensure we pursue the B Corps certification and make commitments in the Best for Colorado program so we can demonstrate our commitment to sustainability.

BFCO: What is the future of buildings and what role does Switch play in that?
PM: I think we’re going to see more empowered tenants who will start demanding transparency and data particularly around employees’ health. I foresee air quality becoming a topic of significant discussion. New buildings install air quality monitors all the time. This is pretty standard, but that information usually doesn’t get out to anyone outside of the building management team. People are going to want to know more like, “What kind of air quality is my team in for 9 to 10 hours a day? What are you doing to ensure public health and safety?” I get excited about the opportunity to empower voices to ask those questions!

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine: Click here to read the full feature.

Companies of Peace (CoPeace) is a holding firm at the vanguard of sustainable impact investing. It has worked to build a profitable, ethical, sustainable portfolio that everyone can invest in. Best for Colorado spoke with Craig Jonas, CEO of CoPeace, to learn more about this B-Corp certified company.

Best for Colorado: How did you decide on the name CoPeace?

Craig Jonas: Companies of Peace evolved from the idea of putting all these companies that are doing good things for the world under one umbrella, and then we shortened it to CoPeace to make it more intriguing. The word peace is especially significant to me because of my background. My parents were both very interested in social justice—my dad marched with Martin Luther King Jr.—so, I always had a sense of wanting to be more involved in this kind of community.

When we discovered the impact investing movements, we decided the timing might be right for our Companies of Peace idea. We argue that the only way we are going to have peace in our world is by changing the current financial system to be more inclusive and caring about our future.

BFCO: How did CoPeace get started? What is most rewarding aspect about your company’s work or what are you most proud of?

CJ: I’m trying to make a difference my kids can believe in (I have 22 and 26-year-olds). I was looking at what was going on in the world, and I started to ask myself, ‘What’s going to be my contribution?’

I wanted to find a path that was more mission-aligned with my worldview. In contrast with past work I’ve done, I now feel a deep alignment with our mission, and we have an incredible team. Having been part of nine startups in the past, I know it is all about the team, and I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than working toward a common goal with teammates you like and respect.

BFCO: Your company emphasizes the involvement of “non-traditional” investors. How did this emerge as a priority within your company, and how has this evolved or improved over time?

CJ: The current system is not working for more than 90% of our world and it has only worsened inequality. Our idea was to take the Berkshire Hathaway approach and allow everyone to have access to it. We felt we could make a significant improvement if we could create a tool that provides a path to build equity for people from communities that haven’t traditionally had access. As we’ve gone along, more ‘institutional’ investor types have told us how difficult this is. We’ve realized this, but we’ve only become more and more committed as a result. Our goal is to democratize the process so almost everyone can directly invest in companies without being wealthy accredited investors.

BFCO: Can you tell us a little bit about the process by which a company gets added to your portfolio?

CJ: We use the head plus hear plus math approach:

  • Head- Is it a good idea?
  • Heart- Does it have a measurable positive social or environmental impact?
  • Math- Do the finances compare favorably vs. less sustainable businesses?

The good news is that we’re finding a lot of promising opportunities in which companies that are more sustainable and more egalitarian are better positioned for long-term success. We use B Corp’s criteria and mission-alignment to figure out who to do business with. Of all the companies we evaluate for possible inclusion in our portfolio, we only invest in about 2% of them. 

BFCO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far, and how did you overcome it?

CJ: The biggest challenge so far has been the somewhat cumbersome bureaucracy. The legal, audit and compliance processes are quite onerous and expensive. We are fortunate to have friends and family who are supportive of what we are trying to do, and who believe in our mission; my brother was our first investor. The diverse capabilities of our staff allow us to get things done together.

BFCO: You’re competing with other investment companies and non-investment organizations. What do you believe sets you apart from the competition?

CJ: We welcome anything that democratizes and gives people access in a different way, and we think that’s a good thing. One of our differentiators is our leaders have deep experience. We have brought in experienced people who bring leadership, finance and marketing skills, which gives us an inclusive set of abilities. Another differentiating factor includes our emphasis on involving non-traditional investors. CoPeace is trying to balance the expertise of older people with the idealism of younger people, and we’re committed to diversity in all aspects of our work.

BFCO: Could you please share how you first heard about the Best for Colorado program?

CJ: Being a certified B Corp, we are constantly looking for ways to be more involved in a community of like-minded and mission-aligned companies both locally and globally. Since we founded CoPeace, we have been following The Alliance Center and had built relationships with a few individuals on their team. One day we received an email about the Best for Colorado program and decided to explore the option.

Joining the program felt so natural and had a very local community feel to it. We enjoy Best for Colorado because it’s brought us into another network of companies who are perhaps not yet certified B Corps, but are mission-aligned and in the state. Best for Colorado allows us good opportunities to join forces with these companies and be part of a growing community.

BFCO: What is your company’s vision of the future?

CJ: We envision becoming a modernized Berkshire Hathaway. Our vision is to become a publicly-traded entity that grows because of our authenticity and ability to make good choices. We want to be extremely genuine about our investments so that young people, women and people from marginalized communities can invest in companies with long-term goals to create social and environmental change.