An interview with David Vonesch COO at SkyFire Energy
1. Tell us a bit about SkyFire Energy and why you decided to become a certified B Corp?
SkyFire Energy is a solar EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) company that designs and builds solar electric systems – everything from residential to small utility scale projects. I first learned about the B Corp certification at Social Venture Institute Hollyhock which is a gathering of social enterprises on a small island in coastal British Columbia. I thought that the certification spoke to our values and desire to measure what is meaningful to us, as well as our desire to continuously improve. I worked through the application between 2012 and 2013 and realized we weren’t quite ready. After making some changes, we reapplied and became certified in December, 2017.
2. What are some of the changes you implemented before becoming certified?
We started by measuring everything from our energy consumption to our waste to see where there was room for improvement. We also launched an employee share ownership plan and offered the opportunity to sixteen of our employees (we currently have five owners). We also partnered with nonprofits in the community and started supporting them through various means.
3. What key initiatives have been driving innovation in your company within the past year?
The biggest driver of innovation has been tied to our growth. Within the last two years, we grew from fifteen to fifty employees which brought several challenges and issues to the forefront. We had to make structural changes so that we could transition from a small business to an SME. We have always attracted fantastic people who are passionate about solar and the new green economy, which helped us maintain our culture despite our rapid growth. We are now focused on encouraging our staff to transition into leadership roles, helping us build out teams and provide opportunities for growth both within the business and as individuals.
4. The theme of this year’s Soul Forum is Innovation for All. How does your company “innovate for all”?
Through our referral program, we donate to one of three charities on behalf of our clients. We have been helping Heart and Solar with Horizon Housing, which is a low income housing project in southwest Calgary. We are working with them to install solar in order to reduce operating expenses in the building and drive down the cost of living. Solar is typically only accessible to high income individuals because of the upfront cost, but this relationship allows us to extend the long-term benefits of solar energy to Calgary’s most vulnerable.
5. What do you think it means to do business like a Canadian and how is your company carrying this out?
The first thing that came to mind was “radical candor”. A big part of what we do is educate people since the technology is still new to Canadians. We talk about everything from how it works to economics and forecasting, and make an effort to be honest and present the information in the most candid way possible. We demonstrate radical candor internally as well because we don’t sweep any problems under the rug. We deal with things head on in a positive way, allowing us to move quickly and deal with problems fast and efficiently.
6. How is your company collaborating with other sectors, in particular the business sector?
We have worked on some very cool projects with Imaginea. Suzanne West’s idea of carbon neutral oil production is very innovative and we were honoured to be a part of her project. We saw collaboration within the industry evolve under her leadership and legacy, leading to larger projects with companies like Crescent Point.
Learn more about SkyFire Energy: http://www.skyfireenergy.com/