The B Corp movement has picked up steam the last few years: Etsy, Warby Parker, Patagonia and Method [Ed note: and TriplePundit!] are some examples of firms that are combining good business with doing good. Over 1,000 companies have become certified by keeping the highest standards of transparency, environmental performance and social responsibility. They range from building contractors to professional services such as legal and accounting. But until this week, there was not a single utility in this group until Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP) announced this week it is now a B Corp—the first utility in the world to score this certification.
Based in Vermont, GMP provides power to over 260,000 homes and businesses. The company has recognized that the role and business model of utilities are changing. To that end, GMP has worked with stakeholders across Vermont to develop new forms of energy beyond conventional fossil fuels.
Of the four areas that are paramount to B Corp certification (environment, employees, community and governance), clearly GMP stands out for its work in clean energy. The company has pledged to move away from a conventional electricity grid structure, with more microgrids allowing energy storage and new forms of renewable energy. One source of energy, not surprising when you consider Vermont’s dairy industry, is what GMP calls “cow power.” Customers can enroll in a program that allows farmers to buy digesters that churn manure into methane gas that when connected to a generator creates electricity for the grid. Programs boosting wind power, solar and electric cars are also part of GMP’s business plan.
GMP has also committed itself to a bevy of community programs. Outreach programs and community grants are central to GMP’s social responsibility agenda. While other utilities are using their influence to fight renewable energy projects, especially solar, tooth and nail, GMP is taking contrary action, appearing to be more of a partner of environmental groups than an adversary.
Companies such as GMP are becoming B Corps for a variety of reasons. With competition to attract top talent always a challenge, proof that such a company is a force of social good is a pull for workers who want more form their jobs than just a paycheck. And at a time when consumers are more concerned about the impacts a company has on people and the planet, B Corp certification is a way for that company to stand out amongst the competition. Now that a utility has joined this group, it will be curious to see which of their peers in the energy industry make such a move in the next few years.
Leon Kaye is based in California and most recently worked for a renewable energy investment company in the Middle East. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Other thoughts of his are on his site, greengopost.com.
Image credit: Amanda Wormann