Posted by Sarah Sunderlin - On May 27, 2011 (EST)

Editor's Note:  Meet our guest blogger this month - Erin Payne, Program Associate at SJF Institute and currently leads their Green Jobs Awards program. Erin shares with you highlights and best practices from the 2010 Green Jobs Awards.



The SJF Green Jobs Awards recognizes private companies for excellence in both green business solutions and employee engagement


Last year SJF Institute and Green For All together launched the Green Jobs Award Program to identify, recognize, and promote private companies in the U.S. that are leaders in quality green job creation. The program, developed with support from the Citi Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, celebrates privately-held businesses making valuable contributions to both the economy and the environment. The application process was open to private companies with at least $500,000 in revenue, and with a business model that preserves or enhances environment quality. Applicants were judged on their environmental contribution, quality of jobs and benefits, the diversity of employment opportunities, and their level of community engagement.


2010 Green Jobs Award Winners

In November 2010, an Advisory Board of respected experts in social entrepreneurship, green business, environmental impact, workforce development and engagement and economic development selected ten winners from across the country which were celebrated at a reception in New York. These inaugural winners represented 1,300 employees in diverse industries from renewable energy and energy efficiency to consumer products, manufacturing and engineering, and their aggregate revenues were over $150 million.  Some were founded with an explicit mission to create environmentally-beneficial products and services, and others were transforming traditional markets with green innovations.


Our award-winning companies provided their employees with great benefits, as well as allocating money for training, development and education programs for their employees. All of the companies recognized their employees’ key role in business success.


Below are details of some key green strategies and employee engagement strategies the winning companies have implemented.


Alvarado Street Bakery of Petaluma, CA, is a worker owned cooperative founded in 1978 which is committed to using whole grain and organic ingredients.  The bakery has 118 worker owners who are able to review all financial documents and participate fully in decision-making, as well as engaging in training programs to enhance their skills and development.


Bioengineering Group, based in Salem, MA, is a woman-owned company that is a pioneer in the field of ecological restoration and the application of sustainability principles to site planning, development, and storm water management. One recent project was a hurricane and flood protection system in New Orleans. This innovative company provides its 62 employees with excellent benefits, including a wellness program which offers 24-hour access to an on-call doctor and monthly on-site sessions. Employees are encouraged to present at conferences both to share information on sustainability and also to develop their leadership skills. Further employee skill development happens at weekly brown bag lunches where discussions include good management practices, new methods of sustainability, and new product ideas.


CLEAResult, headquartered in Austin, TX, is an energy optimization company which creates long-term roadmaps (Energy Master Plans) for its utility clients. These roadmaps give utility customers the tools they need to make continuous reductions in energy use over time, reducing energy demand. The company, which empowers its more than 250 employees to identify ways to improve company performance, also features a Leadership Academy to further build the management and team-building capabilities of its people. CLEAResult’s community involvement includes creative engagement such as their holiday auction where employee talents such as babysitting or gardening are auctioned off and proceeds go to local and national charities.


E Light Wind and Solar of Englewood, CO, is a commercial electrical construction company which expanded from traditional electrical contracting to alternative energy contracting in 2009. E Light, with 175 employees, has a very strong focus on people.  Perhaps the most innovative program the firm offers is its 4-year completely funded Electric Apprenticeship Program which combines on-the-job experience with structured classroom time. Most employees, who have a high school diploma, start the training at entry level and work towards their journeyman’s license. Training is also offered at the journeyman, supervision, management, and executive levels. The firm has added an alternative power curriculum for all apprentice electricians and in 2011 they will add training to help prepare employees for certification in alternative energy design and installation. In addition, employees are given a comprehensive benefits package including profit sharing.


FLS Energy of Asheville, NC, is a design-build firm that offers engineering, installation and financing solutions for utility scale solar thermal and photovoltaic energy systems. Their innovative Solar Thermal Purchase Agreement allows clients to implement solar energy without the cost of purchasing the equipment. This triple-bottom line company has a strong employee culture and provides great benefits to its 64 employees, including semi-annual profit sharing based on hours worked and company profitability, departmental career ladders, and continuous education subsidized by the company. FLS Energy is proud to employ graduates of the local nonprofit Green Opportunities program for at-risk young adults as well as host apprentices. 


Melink is an energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions company located in the rust belt in Milford, OH. Founded in 1987, the company offers HVAC and building commissioning, commercial kitchen ventilation controls and solar PV solutions.  Melink’s own building, which the company designed and built, is one of only a few LEED Platinum buildings in Ohio. Melink’s 70 full time employees enjoy strong benefits including health insurance, a retirement plan, and profit sharing, along with access to a workout facility. All employees are encouraged to participate in training and continuing education in order to reach goals set with their managers via Individual Development Plans.  An innovation at Melink is the Dream Manager Program which encourages and supports people to follow their personal dreams which the firm believes will translate to more success in their professional lives. Incentives are also provided to employees after one year to purchase their own hybrid cars or install renewable energy at their homes. 


OPOWER, based in Arlington, VA, is an energy efficiency and smart grid software company that partners with utilities to engage their customers to drive large-scale reductions in energy usage. Customers are offered a variety of platforms to engage in smart energy decisions, including energy reports received by mail, online through a suite of web-based tools, or by phone with customer service representatives. The company is committed to fostering a positive, inclusive company culture and a modern, flexible and diverse work environment for its 155 employees. OPOWER prizes its nonhierarchical structure and every full time employee is given equity in the company. Employees enjoy a weekly company lunch, free gym access, and a quarterly Innovation Day where they can work on areas of particular interest. 


Petra Solar of South Plainfield, NJ, has developed the SunWave™ a new class of renewable technology. This system combines PV solar generation with smart grid communications and grid reliability enhancement functions for utilities. Petra Solar's SunWave™ systems are installed on existing assets, such as utility distribution and streetlight poles, to deliver power directly to the grid. The company also uses shipping containers made from biodegradable materials. The company has grown quickly and its 166 employees enjoy career ladders and a competitive benefits package. Petra Solar is committed to growing jobs locally and is an advocate of tying local consumption to local manufacturing. The firm actively hires graduates of green jobs programs from local community colleges.


Sellars Absorbent Materials of Milwaukee, WI is a manufacturer and marketer of commercial and consumer multi-use disposable towels, wipes, and absorbents. The company is able to compete successfully with much larger firms using what Sellars terms Green Innovation™ -leveraging its proprietary technology to use waste raw materials to create higher performing products at lower prices.  Sellars’ employee culture is a key component to their overall success; in order for the company to innovate, their 115 diverse employees must share a common understanding of the company’s vision and strategy. Weekly trainings, continuing education/tuition reimbursement, and quarterly full company meetings are some of the ways the firm works to establish collective goals and shared metrics as well as encouraging individual employee growth and development.  


Southern Energy Management of Morrisville, NC, helps customers make smart energy decisions through their two lines of business: energy efficiency solutions and solar power installations. A certified B Corporation (a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems), the firm’s business model promotes environmental sustainability in both the services they offer as well as the way they do business. Additionally the firm has a strong culture of ownership that is supported by broad-based employee stock options and competitive benefits. Southern Energy Management strives to create careers for its 88 employees - not just jobs. The firm is strongly committed to promotion from within; each department has an established career path and there are training and certification opportunities at all levels.


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