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PV Squared, located in Greenfield, MA, and established in 2002, provides renewable energy solutions to homeowners and businesses in the Pioneer Valley and surrounding regions. Its mission is to create sustainable, living-wage jobs and strengthen the local economy by establishing a worker-owned cooperative.
PV Squared initially focused on various sources of renewable energy but found that sun power was the most efficient source. They then focused solely on solar energy, seeking to efficiently transform how energy is generated to promote a healthier environment. The solar panel product, while innovative as a stand-alone, is only the beginning, as their business model of creating a worker-owned cooperative is equally important. Their innovation is in line with their mission to create sustainable, living-wage jobs, and strengthen their local economy.
PV Squared partners with designers and builders on projects such as co-housing projects, assisted living centers, farms, and Veteran training centers. Employees own the company and all earn living wages. According to Kim Pinkham, who is one of the founding owners, “I wanted to be a part of something that respected and encouraged all voices in the company and I want my son to witness that I value a better model for doing business with the hope of setting a good example for him as he grows up.” As a cooperative, they are truly setting an example for other businesses that workplace democracy and business responsibility is an effective system in creating a healthier economy based on the greater good.
Baby Boomer Richard brought solar energy to the area in the 1970's and despite the fact that the country lost interest during the 1980's, he continued to advocate and provide the best possible solar energy solutions to customers who were willing to make a difference. Richard developed a strong friendship with one of his customers, Don, and the biggest issue they saw in the 1990's was having a local source for high quality solar panels. According to Pinkham, “Both Richard and Don were incredibly interesting individuals who still bore elements of the 1960’s and yes they were at Woodstock!” Richard and Don both enjoyed nature walks and began talking about establishing a worker-owned cooperative similar to Mondragon in Spain that could support a factory of 250 workers. As they began to work with the United States Federation of Cooperatives, it became apparent that it would require at least a million dollar investment to launch the project. While Richard and Don were disappointed, they learned that they could create a worker-owned cooperative on a smaller scale. Their first meeting netted over 100 individuals who were interested in the project. The cooperative began with 4 workers and now has over 23 members and is growing. As Pinkham says, “It’s important to serve as a good example--do it yourself--it can be done!”
PV Squared provides the best possible solar energy solutions to their greater community, which improves the quality of our environment by reducing carbon emissions and other forms of waste. But equally important is the creation of the cooperative itself. It is run as a true democracy where everyone has a vote and is respected for their work and contributions. Additionally, all of the employees are earning at least living wages which leads to a better quality of life for them and their families.
PV Squared walks the talk and has successfully completed the certification process as an established B Corp. Information on B Corps from their website is at https://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/why-b-corps-matter
“Individually, B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems. Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for good(TM). Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the world(TM), and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all. ”
Pinkham explained, “After six months of employment, employees are given the opportunity to join the cooperative as an owner. We didn’t want them to have to wait too long as that wouldn’t be fair and we also decided that it had to remain optional or else the process would no longer be considered democratic!”
It is obvious that the concept has been successful as the cooperative has grown from 4 employees to over 23! Pinkham said, “We are interested in growth, but in a respectful and smart way. The goal isn’t to become the largest, but instead to strive to be the best.” And in the long-term, the cooperative is sustainable, scalable, and a great model for others to follow.
PV Squared is so convinced about the benefit of doing business for the better that they include the following on their website:
There are some very important differences between co-ops and regular businesses. Worker-owned co-ops tend to create stable, long-term jobs, employ sustainable business practices, and are strongly connected with and accountable to their community. The workers own their jobs, and therefore have a direct stake in the local environment—as well as the power to do business in a way that benefits their community.
Walk into their office and you’ll immediately sense the difference: their workers look happy to be there. They’re committed to the business as owners, and the business itself is connected to the community in a significant way. http://pvsquared.coop/why-pv-squared/the-cooperative-model/
PV Squared is taking the lead in showing other businesses how worker-owned cooperatives can be successful. Further, they are accomplishing this with a business focus on renewable energy which nets a win-win for the community and the environment.
Kim Pinkham, Human Resources Manager