Newo Gives Back
Newo Global Energy is not your typical solar company. In fact they aren’t even a company. They are a non-profit social enterprise. Newo’s founders were university classmates who wanted to build a business that was also good for the environment. Through a donation to the founders, they were able to send one of their classmates to a solar training course who then found employment in the solar industry and worked there for a year. After that they thought they were ready to start up on their own. When discussing what kind of organization to form, Newo’s founders wanted to include the charitable foundations of a non-profit with the nimbleness of a business model. As a result, they decided to incorporate as a non-profit.
“when you look to serving community first, there is a sense of deep satisfaction and happiness that comes from knowing your actions are doing good in the world.”
Newo is the Cree word for four, which is an important number in the Cree culture due to the four elements, directions, and seasons. According to Newo’s President, Rajan Rathnavalu, the name is built on the idea of, “working in harmony with the earth and communities to build a better future that includes the next generation and generations to come.” It is based on the idea that in order to make a meaningful transition, we will have to do more than just change technologies. Rather, there is a deeper mind-set that goes with the transition that includes not only looking at clean technology, but also how we look at our economic relations. Newo works to provide stable jobs, but also knows they have a social and ecological responsibility as part of the heart and DNA of the company structure. It’s about how businesses serve communities first, and while the bottom line is apart of that, it’s not the whole picture. Their goal and motivation isn’t to install solar modules, but to “facilitate a growing awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the wider challenges we face as a global community.”
However, Newo is in the green energy sector just like any other company, so they have to be on par with the best industry standards and deliver a cost effective and high quality product. What makes them different is that the profits go back into the community. Projects are designed around the idea of paying it forward. For example, they are developing training programs for communities. Rather than just doing an install, they will leave the community with skills to enter the solar industry. The installation also includes a training program for people looking to enter the industry. They start with background training and the installation is the hands on part of the program. As a result, their business model is different than the traditional model. Rajan says the Newo model “hopes to leave skills and empower local people to continue to do work in that area.”
Rajan is admittedly not the typical businessperson. He left university after two years of study, but later returned to graduate in religion and philosophy and is currently working on his Masters in Education. At this point, Rajan’s immediate hope for Newo is to meet payroll and become stable as an operating business. At peak, they had 7 people on payroll, and through the winter, they will have 5. They have a number of projects underway in Alberta and others already completed.
The long-term goal for Newo is to start to generate enough profit to fund other education programs across Canada and around the world. Their passion lies in fostering the mind-set of the next generation of the new economy. Rajan believes that “when you look to serving community first, there is a sense of deep satisfaction and happiness that comes from knowing your actions are doing good in the world. That spirit reflects what I hope the new economy will look like.”