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Tech Networks of Boston Puts Sustainability at the Core of Business


Tech Networks of Boston (TNB), is a 47-person professional information services company. It delivers help desk, remote monitoring and maintenance, staff augmentation, onsite support, training and project IT services to nonprofits and businesses in the greater Boston area. TNB, founded in 1994, has incorporated the principles of sustainable business from its inception. The company has steadily expanded its sustainability initiatives enabling the firm to broaden the range of services it provides.

Susan Labandibar, founder, president and chief mission officer of Tech Networks Boston, converted her environmental activist career into an earth-steward, job creation role with the launch of TNB. At its inception, TNB saved computers from heading to the landfill by refurbishing them and giving them a second life. The company evolved to bringing energy efficient computers and servers to the market. The company’s Earth-PC and Earth-servers used 25 percent less energy than well-known commercial computing devices. At the time, energy efficient computing devices was a groundbreaking, novel idea that has since taken hold of the entire computer industry.

TNB’s mission has evolved from salvaging and repurposing old computers to building energy efficient models. The firm now provides a suite of technology-related services aimed at significantly reducing the resource consumption of its clients. The suite of services includes training customers to optimize computer technology and software; properly manage, store and back-up information; and use IT tools to serve business needs. Through proper use, firms can maximize the return on their technology investments without wasting compute cycles, energy or money by purchasing more equipment than needed.

TNB has successfully integrated the financial, environmental and social elements of sustainable practices into its own business as well as its clients’ businesses, building a resilient company that has prospered for 20 years, establishing a strong competitive position in its local market.

Remote IT management, the genesis of cloud computing, is designed to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, intensive capital equipment requirements. TNB launched with the development of energy efficient compute devices; it has evolved to a managed services provider. Along the way, the firm adopted a range of sustainable business initiatives for itself.

TNB opened its original store on a subway portal. This location enables its customers and prospective customers to visit the shop without having to drive private vehicles. This simple site selection has saved thousands of driving miles.

As the company added employees, the location enabled the firm to actively promote its core values through the subsidization of transit passes. Three-quarters of the employees take advantage of the pass, removing more than 35 cars from day-to-day commuting. Using EPA-based measures of 5.1 tons of CO2 per year, per vehicle, TNB prevents over 178 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere annually. Employees who need to visit customer sites have TNB’s electric vehicle available for use.

Office waste management is an operational cost where TNB has applied disciplined handling. The company has implemented aggressive recycling and composting initiatives. These initiatives have reduced its waste from operations significantly. The City of Boston provides recycle services and TNB uses a third party for compostable pickup services. The firm has eliminated its landfill-destined waste by more than 50 pounds each month.

One of TNB’s most successful sustainability initiatives is the greening of its office. The site is a repurposed building in a neighborhood undergoing revitalization. TNB is working on upgrading its older inefficient florescent lighting to new, fifth-generation fluorescent lights. The new lights use the existing fixtures and infrastructure which represent up to 80 percent of a lighting upgrade cost. The new lighting technology enables a faster, more cost effective lighting upgrade; and eliminates adding functional fixtures to the landfill. This change is expected to have a dramatic impact, reducing the firm’s energy costs by more than 20-percent, or approximately $75 per month. TNB recognized the electric waste of having a hot water heater at its first facility and removed it.

In 2013 TNB pursued B-Corporation status, increasingly thought of as representing the ultimate commitment to sustainability by small business leaders. It took three months to accomplish this goal. Along the way to becoming a B-Corp, the company learned it was an industry thought leader on many corporate practices; however, the firm needed to put a stronger emphasis on establishing and tracking metrics for energy, waste, and their ecological footprint.

The B-Corp status was important to Labandibar and the firm because it identifies TNB as an earth-friendly, mission-based company. The status certifies TNB as an accredited, mission driven organization focused on its own environmental impact as well as its role in driving sustainability within the community.

Image credit: Flickr/izzymunchted

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Sustainability4SMEs: Graham Russell & Martha Young

Graham Russell brings 25 years of CEO experience in the environmental services industry to his current role as a sustainability professional. He currently teaches sustainable business in the University of Colorado, Denver MBA program and chair’s the School’s Managing for Sustainability Advisory Council. He provides sustainability and cleantech consulting services to SMEs through TrupointAdvisors and is on the board of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.

Martha Young has been an industry analyst and writer for 20 years. Her expertise is in small and mid-sized businesses, information technology and energy. Young co-authored four books on virtual business processes (cloud computing), and project management for IT. She is on the board of two small Texas-based businesses, and acts in a technical advisory and business strategy capacity for an east coast venture capitalist.

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