When Mychele Lord was looking for a new headquarters for Lord Green, her Dallas-based, sustainable-building consultancy, one determining factor was finding a spot that would accommodate seven of her most important team members. Not the 17 humans, but the seven canines that report to work with them regularly. Lord Green had outgrown its previous space in a midrise office building, and Lord says she wanted something that allowed "more autonomy, where we could do our own thing." She found it last spring in a one-story midcentury building in residential Northeast Dallas that looks more like a groovy orange-walled house than an office. "It was totally plug and play," she says. "We just drove our computers over one day, plugged in, and that was it."
Well, almost. Those dogs needed a place to run, so she had a fence built around the property's shady front yard. The ventilation system was tweaked to provide more fresh air if needed by dogs or humans.
Lord Green's dog friendliness is a signature part of its culture--Lord's tiny papillon, Megan, likes to perch on her desk between her and visitors--but the ever-present yapping in the office is really the sound of something greater, a philosophy of mutual trust that governs this $3 million company's life. Nobody set any rules, for instance, about who would clean up after the dogs in the yard; it just happens. When staff wanted to start composting at work so they could take buckets of organic waste home to feed their gardens, Lord responded, "Great. I'll buy the bins, and then you're responsible for it. I'm not going to clean it up and I'm not going to hire somebody."
That phrase, "You're responsible," comes up a lot with Lord. Also this one: "Figure it out." Both of which make sense given her company's background. Lord, 53, was working in commercial real estate until, in the mid-aughts, she became alarmed by climate change. She realized there was room in the market for a company that could enable real estate investors to adopt the latest environmental standards (such as LEED certification), so she assumed the responsibility herself, beginning in 2007.
"I just had to figure it out," she says. In practice, that means helping property owners and managers minimize their environmental impact in things like HVAC, water use, recycling, and energy. For instance, Lord Green has helped a Dallas apartment complex conserve more than 100 million gallons of water since 2012 through plumbing retrofits. By purchasing 100 percent wind energy, the property also effectively removes 32,208 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
As Lord built a team, she realized there wasn't an available labor pool with the experience she needed, so she hired people who were passionate about the environment and, she reasoned, would therefore be driven to figure things out with her. "That's the number one hiring criterion," she says. "Because when they have a passion for this work, they feel good about it every day and it's important to them to be the best at it."
Sustainability director Tema Yara Goodspeed, who started at Lord Green six years ago, says this sense of mission, deeply embedded in the company's culture by the founder, is precisely what makes it a good place to work. "We're a small company, but we work with some of the largest institutional real estate owners in the country"--clients like JPMorgan, Invesco, UBS, and Barings--"so there's a feeling that you can make a large impact."
Despite being a small outfit, Lord Green has big company benefits. There's not only a 401(k) but also a pension plan--rare anywhere these days--as well as a profit-sharing program. The health plan is on par with those of larger corporations, because Lord Green joined an organization that pools multiple small businesses for insurance purposes. Staffers can move around the company to try on different roles and band together occasionally for volunteering stints at local environmental events. They get to work in a place that offers regular massage appointments, cookouts in the side yard, and a grassy area just beyond the grill that's perfect for chipping golf balls.
And, as you might expect, they're hard at work retrofitting their new headquarters to meet the same sustainability standards they help clients achieve. You can't preach green if you don't live it.