TFS is an Employee-Owned Cooperative

On January 3, 2017, TFS officially became an employee-owned cooperative with 14 employee owners.
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If you’ve been in correspondence with anyone at TFS over the last year, you may have noticed a little change in our email signatures – many TFS employees are also now listed as owners. This is because 2017 is the year that TFS achieved a long-held goal of becoming a worker-owned cooperative.

Employee-owned cooperatives, which exist around the country and the world, put business ownership and decision-making into the hands of employees with the belief that it’s the workers of a business who have the greatest stake in seeing it succeed. Through employee ownership, employees can have the full business ownership experience: rewards and risks, control and responsibilities. Our belief is that the employee ownership business model contributes to the creation and maintenance of a more positive work environment, which translates to a more positive customer experience.

For TFS, the move to becoming an employee-owned cooperative is a natural extension of our mission from the beginning -- to advance sustainability in the southwest while providing a positive work environment where employees are respected and fulfilled.
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Here are some common questions we’ve been getting about our switch to employee ownership. If you have any questions about this change, or want to learn more about employee-owned cooperatives, please contact us at outreach@tfssolar.com
When did TFS switch to being employee-owned?
TFS was founded in 2003 with the goal of being a collective space for innovation and implementation of sustainable technologies, and we started seriously considering officially transitioning to employee ownership in 2009. After years of reading, learning, and talking to our own employees and other cooperatives, we started the process in earnest in 2016. It took a full year to sort out the accounting and logistical aspects of changing the business, in addition to on-boarding our first set of employee owners. On January 3, 2017, Technicians for Sustainability officially became an employee-owned cooperative with 14 employee owners.
How does TFS make decisions as an employee-owned cooperative?
TFS now has a Board of Directors made up entirely of employee owners. These board members, who are elected by the body of employee owners, help guide the big picture of the company. Decisions are also made at employee-owner meetings, and owners have special venues for bringing forth concerns and ideas.
What’s the difference between an employee-owned cooperative business and an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP)?
An employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, allows employees to own stock in their business, thereby giving them a financial stake in the company’s success. An ESOP arrangement differs from employee-ownership because it ends at that financial investment – in an ESOP, the vast amount of stock is typically still retained by single owners, where decision-making power resides. In an employee-owned cooperative model, owners are central in decision making in the company and own a larger stake in the company.
What does this mean for TFS customers?
Our goal is that, as an employee-owned company, we will provide ever more satisfying experiences for our customer because we have a more positive and engaging work environment for employees. Brian Park, an employee-owner who does site visits and works with people interested in going solar, says it best when he describes the customer experience: “I can tell people that owners will be a part of their installation process from my initial visit, through the admin and permitting side of things, to the actual installation on their roof and the monitoring afterward.”
Are you still a B-Corp?
Yes! B Corporations are a new kind of company which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. TFS has been proud to be a certified B-Corp since 2014. Our transition to an employee-ownership model strengthens our commitment to being accountable to address social and environmental problems through our business. You can read more about our B-Corp status here.
Who can become an employee owner?
Anyone who has worked at TFS full-time for 1 year is eligible to become a worker-owner. There is a candidacy process that can take between 6-12 months, and all new employee-owners are voted in by the existing owners, and also will need to purchase a share in the company.