Alternative Energy: Ushering the New Era of Corporate Governance?

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Over at the MoJo blog, David Corn highlights the symbolic statement President Obama made Tuesday afternoon when he signed the stimulus package into law at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The museum draws its power from solar panels, installed by Namaste Solar Electric, a small, progressively minded company based in Boulder, Colo. But the most intriguing thing about Namaste isn’t that the president signed the stimulus package, which includes billions for renewable energy, under a roof lined with the company’s product.

What intrigues me most about Namaste is the business structure that governs the company: Namaste is employee-owned, with every employee given the chance to purchase a stake in ownership, and each owner receiving the same salary and power in decision-making.

Cynics might call it socialism masked as capitalism. But the company is about making money, and one benefit of giving everyone an equal stake—and salary—in the company is that the employee pool would by nature include only those most passionate about the company’s mission. The business model is exciting, and the fact that Namaste’s president, Blake Jones, was present at the signing shows the Obama Administration approves of the company’s mission. If the model catches on, it could transform the way renewable-energy start-ups govern themselves. But I do have two questions: Is there a point where too many employee-owners will bog down the decision-making process? And can those smaller companies sustain the growth the stimulus package, with its billions for the renewable-energy sector, will create?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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