Today I had the privilege of talking with Brian Setzler, MBA, CPA, and Co-Founder of TriLibrium, a “green CPA” firm in Portland, OR. The “tri” in TriLibrium stands for triple bottom line and the “librium” stands for equilibrium. To learn more, read their Story on their website.
Here are just a few things I got out of my meeting with Brian that you might want to apply to your business:
Look forward to the future. Brian says that traditional CPAs spend 80% of their time looking back and reporting what already happened. One of the key things that sets TriLibrium apart is that they encourage their clients to spend 80% of their time looking forward at what they can improve in the future. Once decisions are made and the bills are paid, you can’t do too much to change the past. TriLibrium encourages their clients to think about their strategy and spending going forward and what they can do to become a more sustainable company.
Get rid of the garbage. This sounds unthinkable for most businesses because most Americans have a throw-away mentality. Brian showed me a paper bag in the closet that’s there for emergency just in case something is no longer useful and can’t be recycled. The only thing in the bag that day was a small piece of plastic film from some packaging. When someone goes to the garbage in the closet, they joke with each other that it’s “the walk of shame.” In their kitchen area you won’t find any disposable cups. They’re all the real thing.
Replace garbage cans with recycle bins. If we all focused on producing less garbage and separating the garbage we did make, our landfill growth rate might slow down a bit. Replace the garbage cans in your office with recycle bins for paper, aluminum, glass, batteries, and any other common items regularly consumed by employees and your business processes.
Involve employees in shaping the company. TriLibrium employees don’t feel oppressed with a lean and green work environment. They all have a say in defining the company. Below is a collage they put together with words and photos that describing their ideal company. So it’s no coincidence that TriLibrium employees get a weekly massage by a masseuse in the same building.
See the bike in the picture? TriLibrium gives clients a bus ticket if they come to the TriLibrium office by bike or bus. Even clients partake in minimizing TriLibrium’s carbon footprint.
One of the other few works of art in the office is a painting entitled “Accounting Services for a Sustainable World” done by one of the employees, André Furin. Teachers take pride in their student’s work in K-12 schools every day, but this is usually where it ends. Why not include employee works of art demonstrating your company values?
Keep things simple. The office has a courtyard entry from the center of the building. The courtyard includes a few large potted trees and a few chairs. When I entered TriLibrium’s second-floor office, I felt a sense of spaciousness and clarity. Because it’s a courtyard office, they’re able to light their office with a lot of natural light. There’s no place for clutter here, just the essentials. I really got the sense that I was in a business with focus where people not only believe in the work they do, but also enjoy it. One of the keys to sustainability is to weed out things that don’t serve a clear purpose. Brian believes in transparency and authenticity and he helps his clients achieve these goals. Brian is a graduate of Bainbridge Graduate Institute and now serves as a staff member going back once a month to teach. “It’s a great place to make connections,” he says.
Become a B Corporation. When a company earns the status of a B Corporation, they’re making a public statement that they’re committed to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
Use the GRI Reporting Framework. If you’re serious about sustainability, use the Global Reporting Initiative Reporting Framework to measure and report on the economic, environmental, and social performance of your company.
Say no. Brian invited me to check out their conference room, primarily lit by natural light, well as much as you can get in Portland, anyway. This March day happened to be unusually sunny for the green city which is usually covered by grey skies this time of year. The EnduraWood conference table is made of sunflower seeds, wood pulp and natural resins. One of the few things on the conference table was a copy of their 2009 Sustainability Report. I asked if I could have a copy and he very politely told me that they only printed ten copies, but I was welcome view the report on their website.
“We do very little printing in this office,” Brian said. “We only used three reams of paper our first year in business. When you hear the printer running in our office, you know it’s something that really must be printed.”
TriLibrium helps their clients develop business plans and strategies. Their typical client is a small to medium size company with under $10 million in revenue.
Keep up with the latest news and tips from Brian on his Green CPA blog.