Florida Affirms B Corp Status as SEQUIL Systems Leads the Way

(3BL and Just Means) - It finally happened: as of July 1, Florida businesses will have the option of registering as a Benefit Corporation (B Corp).  The state currently has eight, B Lab Certified companies which have voluntarily undergone the rigorous scrutiny of the B Lab certification process. These progressive, Floridian companies have paved the way for Florida's Benefit Corporation Legislation and for the state's involvement in the B Corp movement. 

I recently spoke with Jef Conley, the Managing Principal of SEQUIL Systems, a sustainability advisor to architects and engineers, in Delray Beach, and the longest standing, B Lab certified company in Florida. Conley is a strong supporter of the B Corp model. He decided to pursue it for his growing firm simply because it represented the DNA of SEQUIL Systems.  For the last two years, the company has been awarded as one of the Best in the World B Corps.

"We have a few clients who understand it, but we became [a B Lab certified company] because we care. We aren't just talking about it. We are living it. We stand behind what we do," Conley told me. "It [the B Corp model] helps emphasize who we already are."

There's no doubt about that. As I was preparing for my conversation with Jef in Delray on Friday, I was amazed by SEQUIL System's level of community involvement. They are a firm of eight people, yet just in the past six months they have partnered with the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Park(ing) Day Competition and The Green Mile 5K Run in Miami Beach- just to name a few. To Conley, this is just what businesses are supposed to do as a part of pursuing sustainability. He's been involved with green building design and sustainability since the 90's and eventually decided in that he wanted to help push the green building market forward in South Florida. SEQUIL Systems opened their doors in 2002 and their first client is still a client twelve years later: the Charlotte County Public School District.

"Hurricane Charley destroyed most of the schools. The entire school county said, 'let's build green'. They decided to go with LEED certification. They cared a lot about cost.  And five projects later, they are still a client today," Conley said.

Of course it makes sense that in a highly professional, highly generous company there will be loyal employees. But, that could also be because of the open, 'take it when you want it or need it' vacation policy. Or, maybe it's the open space of the office.  I'm sure it also has something to do with a collective, democratic decision making process and a strong, team camaraderie. All of these elements combined have provided SEQUIL Systems with zero percent turnover.

"Everyone I brought in is still here. They aren't going anywhere. They will tell you that. It's a trusting place. Our environment fosters successful problem solving. There's a certain element of support we give to one another and it's highly valued. I value their support tremendously. I never fear there's an issue we can't solve together. There's confidence in one another," Conley explained.

SEQUIL Systems has built a culture of trust internally and with their clients. They are committed to providing sustainable building solutions and finding cost savings for clients by challenging traditional architecture designs.

"Engineers are still designing the way they used to. They aren't adjusting their designs accordingly. In the Northeast and in the West, they are using innovative ideas and thinking discreetly. But in Florida, it's a developer's mindset. Construction costs—that's what matters. If pretty is the top line requirement [in Florida], we keep it pretty, as opposed to saving energy. But as more of society starts to care, things will change here," Conley explained.

SEQUIL System's profile of work includes bringing high, energy efficient systems to the service plazas on Florida's turnpike. They have also revamped the cooling and glazing systems at Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science which resulted in a 50% energy savings and a 75% diversion of construction waste. Most recently, SEQUIL Systems has expanded their work into Ethiopia. They will be introducing the first LEED certified building in the country, the Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Centre and Network. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has already been there to visit.

"The entire project is being constructed from adobe, from one thousand year-old buildings. We are using tree trunks as part of the structure. There are no material costs. It's been a huge challenge because how do you figure out the LEED denominator when there are no material costs? There are only labor costs. We never dreamed we'd be involved," Conley told me.

SEQUIL Systems is an example of using business as a vehicle of social good. They are one of the forerunners of the B Corp movement in Florida and are excited to see the movement grow. Florida is about to see a B Corp Revolution.

Read about SEQUIL Systems and their B Lab Report.