5 Lakes Energy was recently featured in the 3rd edition of Entrepreneurs of Michigan. The issue was focused on B Corporations — 5 Lakes Energy was proud to become a B Corp in late 2016. Below is the text of the article, which was written by Lauren Fay Carlson.
“We are really different than the other B Corps in Michigan,” says Liesl Eichler Clark, co-owner and founder of 5 Lakes Energy based in Lansing, Mich. Without producing a tangible product or consumable, this seven-year-old consulting firm has set itself apart from other Michigan B Corps by assembling a team of experts in the field of clean energy.
Focused principally on sustainability, 5 Lakes Energy partners based their business on helping others pursue clean energy efforts. “We build the runways for clean energy, “ says Clark, who works through regulatory and legislative processes to clear red tape for private and public clean energy projects. Utilizing research, data and modeling, Clark and her team assist their clients in making their case to the general public about the demand and need for sustainability. These efforts have grown to include clients in 16 states.
“We don’t build anything, but we absolutely impact the policy environment on behalf of our clients,” says Clark, who previously served as the deputy director for the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth. Without a product of a measurable tick in clean energy use for consultants who assist their clients in independent projects, 5 Lakes wasn’t sure how to measure their contribution to their industry.
“How do you get points for having impact? That was something that was challenging for us,” says Clark. Learning of B Corp certification half a decade into their work, the 5 Lakes partners were attracted to the concise measuring system offered by the international nonprofit. “We felt it clearly represented what we stood for,” says Clark. “We’re very committed to sustainability and the growth of clean energy policies.” Having doggedly fought for clean energy for their clients since 2010, 5 Lakes sought to incorporate sustainable practices into their own business model, and began the certification process in 2016.
5 Lakes prides itself on working with both nonprofits, like the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MiEIBC) and the PEW Charitable Trust, and for-profit companies. At the heart of their efforts is a desire to increase sustainability across the board.
One of these vital efforts is assisting in expert witness testimony at public facility hearings. “If you’re not showing up and making the case, it’s not happening,” says Clark.
Though these public works tick off the sustainability and community categories in B Corp’s 5 tenants – environment, workers, customers, community, and governance – Clark admits that bringing those efforts into the structure of their company was the real challenge. While many of the categories were simple – employee culture, flexibility and charitable giving among them – 5 Lakes seeks to increase and restructure employee benefits as a part of their renewal next year. Most importantly, Clark seeks to allow for greater feedback from her employees as the company updates its policies.
Calling her company “newly minted” as a B Corp, Clark is excited to continue the mission of the certification. “It’s something that aligns with our mission anyway,” she says. However, “It lines up with our mission in a different way than it does with others,” since at its core, 5 Lakes’ goal is to spread the gospel of sustainability. But no matter how B Corp certification aligns with a company’s values, it seems to bring out the diverse benefits each offers its community. “That’s why I think the B Corp certification is so cool,” says Clark. “It looks different for different businesses.”