Paul Galvin Of Safe & Green Holdings: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable
An Interview With Martita Mestey
Surround yourself with good people. Smart people, of course, but also inherently good.
As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Galvin.
Paul Galvin is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Safe & Green Holdings Corp., a leading modular solutions company. He brings more than three decades of experience developing and managing real estate, including residential condominiums, luxury sales, market rate and affordable rental projects.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
To start, thank you for the opportunity to tell our story. My career journey has been an interesting one, interwoven between the public and private sector. My experience in the not-for-profit space — creating an organization that provided housing, food and medical care for homeless people and families with AIDS in New York City — combined with my background in the for-profit world, developing and managing real estate (including but not limited to luxury sales, market rate and affordable rental projects), positioned me well to establish an innovative, cutting-edge modular solutions company that can develop structures of all kinds that are of higher value, better for the environment, and built faster and more efficiently. Thus, Safe & Green Holdings, previously SG Blocks, was born.
I knew we had something special on our hands when fate led me to meet David Cross, now VP of Business Development, and Steve Armstrong, our Chief Technology Officer, who opened my eyes to the world of shipping container construction. That idea morphed into a company, which has since evolved into an even larger, more complex Holdings company. We have grown from a small entity that repurposes shipping containers to a modular solutions focused, fully integrated building design firm.
While I’ll always look back upon my time running a nonprofit fondly, at Safe & Green Holdings, we can do more good, and also be good. Our solutions sit at the touchpoints of almost every facet of life. Who doesn’t experience building design or construction in one way or another? We’re able to contribute to society in really meaningful ways, through our modular point-of-care medicine offerings, our environmental solutions, our sustainable development company, and more.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
At our core, Safe & Green Holdings improves on every aspect of traditional construction. We are a leading modular solutions company whose offerings include the development, design, and fabrication of modular structures.
We aim to meet the demand for safe and green solutions across various industries, from the inundated, out of touch healthcare industry, archaic waste management solutions, traditional real estate development, and more. Our methodologies aim to make the process faster, cheaper, and more sustainable.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Modular construction is inherently more eco-friendly than its traditional alternative. We strive to build and create structures that utilize recycled or repurposed materials wherever we can, whether that be with shipping containers, wood, or steel.
When you choose to build with Safe & Green Holdings, you’re opting for a greener choice. That’s because we use less energy (modular construction reduces energy consumption during the building process by roughly 67%). Modular construction also reduces emissions from frequent site deliveries and provides efficiency and quality control, less noise pollution, safer working conditions, and more. We have the capability to build up to 50% faster than standard methods.
One specific example I’ll point to is our creation of sustainable, eco-chic, nomadic luxury hotel units with hospitality company Moliving. These portable luxury units can be transported to seasonal locations, leaving minimal impact on the environment.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Now more than ever, companies recognize that you can’t just talk the talk in terms of sustainability strategy — you also have to walk the walk. Businesses are increasingly looking toward improving ESG outcomes and reducing their carbon footprint.
At Safe & Green, we were the first company ever to receive an ESR from the ICC (International Code Council) for our ability to meet, and exceed, all international building codes. This is both good for our planet, and it’s good business sense.
An additional example is our work at Los Angeles International Airport, in which we responded extremely quickly to the COVID-19 health emergency. We set up sustainable, modular testing units very quickly in tandem with Grimshaw Architects to provide travelers with a safe, efficient environment for testing collection and onsite deployable laboratory analysis. Point-of-care medicine, harnessed via our modular solutions, is a sustainable win for everyone.
Both the optics and the operations favor the environmentally conscious.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are a few things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement?
1 . Know your purpose.
As a father of two, I couldn’t relate to this more. Leaving my children and the younger generation a better world is one of my primary motivations for all that I do in life and as an executive. If we’re not creating a better world to leave for our children, what’s even the point?
Our work at Safe & Green Holdings allows us to achieve greener construction, benefitting society at so many different levels and facets. This is what drives me. It’s important to instill in our children the need for purpose. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Follow that passion — and tap into it.
2. Lead by example.
I always aim to lead by example. I do this by showing up to work every day — despite the challenges, hard days, weeks, or months. Running a business is never easy, but when you believe so strongly in the mission, it makes it that much easier.
If you want your children to be invested in sustainability, you must be invested yourself.
3. Start early.
Engage your kids not just in sustainability efforts from a young age, but also stress the importance of helping others. This lends itself to the greater sustainability mission.
Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or donate to your local charities of choice. When I was working tirelessly with the homeless and families suffering with AIDS, I really believe it taught my children to see the forest through the trees, or rather, the big picture.
Being a steward of the environment also means being a steward for others. The work is all interrelated.
4 . Keep at it.
One of the toughest aspects of succeeding in anything is maintaining consistency. It’s one thing to reach a goal once or land a single win. What’s more important than any of that is learning how to continuously evolve, challenge yourself further, and attain broader objectives.
This is an important lesson both in business and in sustaining our environment. When we are evaluating potential partners, or even clients at Safe & Green, one of the very first questions we ask ourselves is if their mission aligns with ours. We are relentless in our pursuit to do good and be good, and we expect the same from those we choose to work with.
We’re always looking for new ways to create impact. It’s how our environmental sector was born, which includes a sustainable medical waste management system that shrinks your current carbon footprint while providing significant cost reduction. We’re always ideating at team SG!
5. Find community.
I am a firm believer that you are who you surround yourself with. If you’re tackling global issues like climate change and trying to achieve big things — you need to rally the troops. We can’t solve global problems alone. But we can do anything together.
This takes me back to when I first met David Cross, now VP of Business Development, and Steve Armstrong, CTO. We all had unique experiences, strengths, and backgrounds to bring to the table. We knew we would be smarter and nimbler if we worked together.
Seek out friends and allies who share your values, but also bring different skills and life experiences to the table.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Surround yourself with good people. Smart people, of course, but also inherently good.
2. Create goals both big and small, but always remember the big picture.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s OK sometimes to lose a battle if you have a solid gameplan to win the war.
4. Make sure you’re passionate about your work. It will get you through the long nights!
5. Solidify your “why.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife is my, and team SG’s, biggest supporter. She’s not just a fantastic life partner, but an amazing listener and sounding board for the highs and lows of running a public company.
It’s not always an easy ride, but she, along with our two kids and our French bulldogs — Cricket and Blanche — remind me of what’s important, and why I do what I do.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
That’s easy. I’m doing it right now. If I had a magic wand, I would accelerate what we’re already working on at Safe & Green Holdings. I’m so confident in our work and what we bring to the table; our modular solutions have applications spanning so many sectors — from real estate and manufacturing to healthcare. It’s just about patience at this point, and continuing to put the time in.
We’re revolutionizing traditional construction, one modular solution at a time.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
My favorite quote is actually a part of a larger speech from Teddy Roosevelt, which is popularly known as “The Man in the Arena.” It’s so relatable for those of us who run nimble, small companies. You’re constantly presented with challenges, but it emphasizes the importance of facing those challenges head on and striving for your very best every day. The excerpt goes as follows:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Visit www.safeandgreenholdings.com and follow us at @SGHcorp on Twitter and Instagram.
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!