Salvaged materials, renewable energy systems, and high-performance building components are incorporated into the homes that South Mountain Co. builds and remodels, but eco-friendly construction practices are just one part of the company's commitment to sustainability.

Employee ownership is perhaps its most distinctive hallmark. John Abrams (center, leaning against post) started the company as a partnership in 1975, restructuring it as a worker-owned cooperative in 1987 to sustain its values over the long term as well as to give employees a secure stake in its decisions, responsibilities, and profits. All staff are eligible for ownership after five years; today there are 15 owners, including the four members of the management committee listed above.

Together, Abrams and his partners keep South Mountain Co. on a dynamic path toward its simple mission of “enrich[ing] our community through our work.” Complementing its beautifully crafted vacation homes are several high-quality affordable housing developments, with a recent focus on employee housing. New profit centers include renewable energy (design, installation, and service of solar and wind components and Loewen windows and doors); lighting design and manufacture; and teaching and consulting.

The effect is full-circle. Profits are growing, thus enriching the community. The company sets aside 10% of annual profits for charitable contributions — decided, of course, by a consensus of owners.

- Leah Thayer