Jerry Fink’s lightbulb moment came 20 years ago when he swapped out some old toilets in an aging building and saw a 60% water saving. Today, with partners David Kim and Derek Chen, The Bascom Group has completed over $8.5 billion in real estate transactions and has built recycling into how they do business.

“Looking back, I think we were doing green activities before green even became popular,” says Fink. “Back then it was all about reducing expenses but we didn’t realize that we were acting green until green became more popular. We looked for ways to reduce utility costs with energy efficient lights, low flow toilets and showerheads, gas monitoring and efficiency devices. Most importantly we realized that the best way to incentivize the environment is to make it financially attractive,” he says.

This has included the creation of attractive, desert-type landscaping to reduce water usage and clever insulating techniques that cut utility costs. The firm is focused on sustainability and the environment and rather than creating new products they look for ways to use existing materials to revitalize and renovate existing buildings. “Bascom has always strived to find a balance of people, planet and profits,” says Chen. “Rather than throw away materials we look to reuse them within other communities,” he says.

Fink acquires and renovates buildings that are suffering from lack of maintenance, typically 10 to 40 years old, and the team put together a business plan to reposition the property. Tenants in the building are happy with the improved living conditions and the surrounding community is happy to see the revitalization of their neighborhood. They also see people putting money into the improvement of the community.

Fink knows that even his talented team does not have all the answers. “I consider a good leader someone who hires people that are better and smarter than they are,” says Fink. “You should also empower employees with responsibilities and the authority to make decisions and take action.” While Fink says an alternative to what they do would be creating new buildings he has always felt that by revitalizing older ones they help preserve the character and culture of an area.

“We try and find building materials within a short radius of the property we’re working on,” he says. “And use local vendors and construction workers that live nearby to help minimize CO2 emissions from commuting to the workplace. It also gives local people a sense of pride to be helping improve their neighborhood,” he says.