How We Buy With Our B Corp Values: Local and Climate Conscious

At SunCommon, we purchase with intention. Whether we’re buying sunscreen for our solar installers or panels for your roof, we make sure that we’re partnering with responsible companies. We do that by asking important questions like:

  • Is the vendor we’re considering socially and environmentally responsible?
  • Is their product high quality?
  • Is the company reputable?
  • Good to its employees?
  • Local?

Sure, we look at cost, but that’s not the only factor that influences our buying. As a B Corp, we’re all about balancing purpose and profit. 

T-shirts: A Case Study

We don’t want our solar installers soaking up as much sun as your panels, so we outfit them with UV-protective shirts. Instead of searching for the cheapest UV shirt on the market (probably made overseas and out of toxic materials), we looked for a company with shared values. And we found one! Our UV shirts come from Vapor Apparel, a South Carolina company with a big focus on sustainable manufacturing. That’s the like-minded do-good kind of company that we support.

When our solar installers come to your place, you’ll notice their shirts have the SunCommon logo on it. We’re proud of that cheerful logo and how it represents building our solar community. Our choice of printer for that logo was intentional, too: we’re happy to work with New Duds, a screen printing shop and Community Solar Member in Colchester, not far from our Vermont headquarters. And just down the interstate from there is Select in Burlington. Select does our embroidery work and a few other specialty apparel items, and they operate out of a sustainably restored building with rooftop solar.

Something as basic as buying a T-shirt contributes to a system that benefits our customers, our employees, our communities, and the environment. And so the circle of good continues.

Heat Wave and Solar Savings
Amber solar installer applying sunscreen

Environmental Ethics & Packaging

You know when you get a package in the mail, and you have to tear through a ton of excess packing material before you get your hands on whatever it is you ordered? This happened with our C-clamps. Here’s the real story from Luke, SunCommon’s supply chain manager:

“On the roof we have little clamps that secure the panels in place. We use hundreds of them. They were coming in little plastic bags of four. Not only do you have to cut them open, but you have to throw them away.

Over the course of six months, I spoke with our vendor and advised them on packaging and volumes. I suggested a lot more clamps in a big cardboard box with no plastic.

They completely switched over, and I haven’t seen a plastic bag since the end of 2017 or something. Now, when they launch new products, they often show up and hand them to us and say, ‘What do you think about this?’ That feedback is important for them, and they do listen.”

Part of being a B Corp is encouraging other companies to use best practices. Like Luke did making the call for more environmentally friendly packaging. When other companies listen and take action, B Corp values go farther, doing even more good for the planet.

Luke Cady Solar Warehouse Forklift - Our Values

Weighing the Options

We tried to create a reusable shopping bag for our customers. Our first thought was a cotton tote, but it turns out that cotton is incredibly resource hungry! It takes so much energy to create a cotton tote bag that you’d have to reuse it every day for 55 years for its carbon footprint to be less than that of a single-use plastic bag. The bag we ultimately decided on is made of recycled materials by a fellow B Corp: Chico Bags. The materials they use don’t contribute to micro plastics in the ocean and they help turn a material that would have just been trash into something usable.

Our Fleet – Staying Local

Let’s talk vehicle maintenance! At our Waterbury headquarters, we’ve stuck with our local shop, CARS (Complete Automotive Repair Service), since our early days when we had just a handful of cars. Today we have a fleet of 70! Our fleet management company wanted us to switch our maintenance over to a national company, but we weren’t willing to leave our local partner. We know that 70 cars is a lot of business for a small town. So instead we encouraged the fleet management company to make CARS one of their vendors, and they did! CARS even built a quonset hut to house all of our tires when we switch over for the summer and winter seasons. We have a great mutual relationship, and our local economy benefits from it.

Chevy Bolt Under Solar Canopy

Learn more about B Corps by checking out our How We Roll page.


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