Balancing Profit with People and Planet: Verdical Group’s Journey
Verdical Group looks at its company’s journey as a BCorporation business – balancing profit with people and the planet – to provide guidance to other businesses looking to do the same.
Verdical Group is a leading for-profit green building consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. We’ve also thrown the Net Zero Conference — now the largest green building event in California — since 2013, and launched the sustainable event planning branch of our business, Verdical Events, in 2018.
Inspired by Certified B Corporations we love like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s, Verdical Group was certified in July 2017. But being a B Corp doesn’t stop with certification. Part of our commitment to B Lab and ourselves was to continue to make substantial improvements to our governance, workers’ experience, community, sustainability efforts, and customer experience.
Members of the Verdical Group team during one of our quarterly hiking adventures! (Photo credit: Verdical Group)
Throughout our journey to become a B Corp and in the years since our certification, our team has set goals to achieve and improve upon each of B Corp’s four pillars: environmental performance, transparency, social performance, and accountability. Our hope is that by sharing our journey, we can provide guidance to prospective B Corps and inspiration to existing B Corps.
Environmental responsibility is at the heart of our business. As a sustainability consultant, we are inspired to do our work every day because we know that each of our projects will have a substantial positive environmental impact and will help mitigate climate change.
Our business is to advise clients on how they can best make their buildings and corporate events more sustainable. On the building project side, that encompasses consulting on energy and water efficiency; LEED, WELL, Living Building, and other building certification management; net zero consulting (for buildings aiming to produce more energy and water onsite than they consume); building energy use modeling; and building code compliance. The Verdical Events side of our business offers comprehensive green event planning, which includes everything from venue selection and program development to securing carbon offsets, coordinating green transportation coordination, and minimizing onsite waste.
And we walk the walk: Our team’s offices are in a healthy, sustainable co-working space, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. Since Verdical Group’s certification as a B Corp, the building has improved its social and environmental features to achieve WELL Gold and LEED Platinum certifications. These certifications acknowledge the building’s excellence in health, wellness, and environmental sustainability attained through state-of-the-art, innovative design measures like a microgrid energy solar and battery system, a 175-kilowatt photovoltaic solar canopy, fast-charger EV stations and two bioswales, excellent indoor air quality and water quality, a carefully planned waste management system, and a greywater system that provides irrigation for a neighboring park.
It is the first building in the United States to achieve both LEED v3 Platinum in New Construction and WELL v1 Gold Core and Shell certifications, and it’s the first public building to be WELL certified in Los Angeles.
Verdical Group is part of the community of businesses that have used a third-party verification of their impact. Use the free B Impact Assessment to evaluate your company’s impact on all stakeholders, including the environment, your workers, your community and your customers.
The building’s location was specifically chosen based on its proximity to local bus routes, the Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line, and bike lanes. It boasts a Walk Score of 87 — a statistic we’re pretty proud of! Ridesharing and e-mobility are encouraged through shuttles and pilot programs, while biking is encouraged by providing storage and (thankfully) showers. EV charging is also provided on-site, free-of-charge.
Many members of our staff also work remotely several days a week, to strike a balance between maintaining a sense of community in our office space and reducing the transit-related carbon footprint of our business. Workers are also encouraged to take meetings and client calls remotely except when absolutely necessary in order to reduce the need to drive to in-person meetings. We also provide our employees with a biweekly stipend for public transit, so that when they do need to come in, doing so has a lighter impact.
Ultimately, our team is made up of sustainability professionals who are passionate about our planet, and we take it upon ourselves to fill in the gaps. Whether through transit choices, volunteering, vegetarianism, or waste management, each member of our team is committed to making personal sustainability choices to better the environment.
This is one we’re very excited about, as it’s really grown and transformed since we completed our B Impact Assessment. Last year, our team worked together to visualize a career pathways system to help employees understand our team’s structure and their career development track. The system outlines every position in each department, specifying responsibilities and salaries for each level.
In addition to making compensation for each position transparent, the system allows employees at every level to see their potential for growth within the company. For the appropriate departments, it also outlines a bonus structure that encourages sales and performance to facilitate our company’s continued growth.
The decision to share this information with our employees was not a difficult one, as our team saw a clear benefit in doing so, but the process of creating the system took some time. We’re proud to say that it was an iterative process that relied heavily on employee input both initially and along the way. This commitment to transparency increases inclusivity and fairness by reducing discrepancies in pay and empowering employees to ask for raises, promotions, and feedback.
There is a certain synergy that exists between B Corps and 1% for the Planet members—lovingly referred to as “B 1’s.” 1% for the Planet companies commit to donating at least 1% of annual sales, not just profits, to environmental nonprofit organizations. For example, Verdical Group’s role as a 1% Member Company helped us achieve a higher score in the Community section of the B Impact Assessment. Since starting the program, we’ve given more than $60,000 in funding and in-kind donations to organizations including the International Living Future Institute, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, the U.S. Green Building Council Los Angeles Chapter, 1% for the Planet, and B Lab.
Volunteerism, pro bono work, and in-kind donations have always been a priority for our company. Since completing our B Corp certification, we’ve continued to spend about 2.5–5% of our team’s total hours on related activities, which include volunteering for local nonprofits and community organizations, performing pro-bono project work for small businesses and/or nonprofit clients, and offering free tables to nonprofits at our annual sustainability conference.
Both within our team and at our work, we aim for diversity. We’re proud to say that our team is 64% female — a number that has doubled since our certification — with women at the head of the majority of our departments. We also have a commitment that 51% of speakers at our annual Net Zero Conference are women and/or people of color — a crucial promise in an industry whose programs too often look homogeneous.
Each year, Verdical Group shares an impact assessment outlining the total amount of energy saved, water saved, waste diverted, people educated on topics related to sustainability, and hours volunteered through our work.
We believe measuring these metrics is crucial because a mission like “saving the planet” may seem long-term or vague. Motivation is more easily maintained when tangible, solid numbers can quantify your efforts. Metrics help our team at Verdical Group see the bigger picture, and they demonstrate that the time and effort necessary to achieve the highest sustainable design standards for our projects can guarantee environmental and financial benefits for decades to come. Our impact metrics show just how big those benefits can be: Since Verdical Group was founded about seven years ago, we have seen energy savings of over 9 million kilowatt-hours across our projects. Our projects have saved almost 3 million gallons of water and diverted nearly 24 million pounds of waste from landfills. We’ve educated 7,844 people on sustainability news and trends, and we’ve spent 959 hours volunteering. (Note that these numbers reflect 2012–2018.)
By quantifying our work’s impact, we are able to demonstrate that small actions do add up to make a big difference — and they do this faster than it may seem. We hope this inspires others to make efforts to benefit the environment through green building or any other means, as every effort adds up, and we have the numbers to prove it.
Verdical Group was proud to provide sustainable event consulting for the B Corp Champions Retreat at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles this September. (Photo Credit: Verdical Group)
Finally, we’re glad to have become more and more involved with the B Lab community over the years. In our opinion, taking advantage of this network of changemakers is one of the most exciting benefits of becoming a B Corp. This fall, we were pleased to provide sustainable event management for the B Corp Champions Retreat, where we met amazing leaders from around the globe. We’re also involved in our local B Corp chapter; this a great way to share ideas and meet like-minded professionals, and we encourage you to find or found your own. These are the folks who continue to inspire us to create real change through our work and to grow ourselves as we grow our business — we hope we’ve inspired you here to do the same.
Editors Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com – Featured Photo Credit: BCorp.