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Mission-Driven at Our Core: Namaste Solar Becomes a Colorado Public Benefit Corporation

Publish Date: December 13th, 2018

In 2005, the founders of Namaste Solar built a company with a mission to help the environment by advancing the use of solar energy and to make a positive impact on our people and communities by conducting business with purpose. This vision was the launching point for a bold experiment that is Namaste Solar, and that experiment continues to grow and evolve today.

In 2011, Namaste Solar became an employee-owned cooperative. We changed our business model in order to share the rewards (and risks) of ownership with the employees who help build the company. We believe this uncommon approach translates to higher quality work, better service, and an unmatched customer experience. But that wasn’t the end of our unique business experiment.

In addition to becoming a cooperative, Namaste Solar went through the rigorous certification process to become a Certified B Corporation in 2011. The B Corp movement is working to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy, and Namaste Solar is adding our voice to that movement. Certified B Corporations are required to recertify every three years to ensure they are still meeting the high standards of environmental and social responsibility. These standards also continue to evolve and challenge B Corps to do more; they are not "set it and forget it." But that wasn’t the end of our ongoing business experiment.

This year, Namaste Solar completed the next step in our evolution when we became a registered Colorado public benefit corporation.

What is a Public Benefit Corporation?

A public benefit corporation (PBC) differs from a conventional corporation in that the company’s purpose, accountability to the public, and additional transparency are written into the articles of incorporation and bylaws. While Namaste Solar’s new status as a PBC won’t change much about how our company operates, the change codifies our commitment to balancing financial return with social and environmental impact. Ankit Sharma, Namaste Solar co-owner and Commercial System Designer, led the efforts to become a PBC and described it this way, “Becoming a B Corp was a commitment, but becoming a public benefit corporation makes it legally binding.”

What changed when Namaste Solar became a PBC?

  • Purpose: A PBC has a corporate purpose to promote one or more public benefits, which must be specified and codified in the company’s articles of incorporation. Namaste Solar’s stated purpose is to "propagate the responsible use of solar energy, pioneer conscientious business practices, and create holistic wealth for ourselves and our community."
  • Accountability: While a conventional corporation’s primary fiduciary duty is to their shareholders, a PBC must balance the financial interests of shareholders with the interests of all stakeholders (employees, community, customers, suppliers, etc.).
  • Transparency: As a PBC, Namaste Solar must share an annual public report with metrics related to our mission and public benefit. We’ll also share information from B Corp, which provides a third party assessment of our efforts. Read Namaste Solar's first PBC report here.

Why Become a Public Benefit Corporation?

Namaste Solar has always been a mission-driven organization, and becoming a PBC further formalizes our commitment to our mission. “We strongly believe that we need to hold ourselves accountable in maintaining rigorous standards for equitable governance, environmental performance, and transparency,” said Sharma. “Transitioning to a PBC felt like a natural and purposeful move, consistent with our existing ethos and standing as a B Corporation.”

Commitment from Our Community

With a democratically run company like ours, it takes more effort to build buy-in and gain support for large changes like becoming a PBC. Since this was a change to the legal designation of our company, a vote by our co-owners was required. The vote was unanimous in support of becoming a PBC. In addition, we notified our external investors of this change and to allow them to express their dissenters’ rights by removing their investment. But none of them elected to do so.

This speaks to the commitment and vision of our community, and Namaste Solar is forever grateful to this community. We’re here because we believe in the power of people to make a positive impact on the world, and that is exactly what our experiment intends to continue doing. Thank you for joining in our audacious experiment; let’s keep evolving forward and creating change together!