On the (Virtual) Park Bench with Trent Hein

EcoSoul recently chatted with Trent Hein, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Rule4, a leading cybersecurity firm in Boulder, Colorado.

EcoSoul: When did you co-found Rule4?

Trent: We formed the company in September of 2018; myself along with 5 co-founders.

EcoSoul: How many employees does Rule4 have?

Trent: We currently have a team of 21. By design we have a boutique-model. It’s very important for us to maintain a family feel with the team, to know everyone well – to be on a first name basis with everyone – and to have the ability to manage quality at the super high level.

EcoSoul: What does “Rule4” mean?

Trent:  Yes, we get that question a lot. Rule4 is in reference to Isaac Asimov’s fourth principle for the positronic robot brain which is “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”

EcoSoul: That seems like a particularly pertinent principle with the current surge of AI activity. Tell us a little about how this ties to your core business and core values. 

Trent: Our core values really revolve around this fourth rule. We are always driven to ask ourselves ‘How do we become better people; how can we deliver better services; how can we live our best lives?’ We encourage our team to have the mindset that we have agency to blaze new trails – in their personal and professional lives – and to follow their inspirations to do good deeds and achieve their best lives.

As far as Rule4’s services, we are 100% a professional service company focused solely in the cybersecurity space. We are unique in that we are not a VAR.  We are hyper-focused on best security practices and are free from vendor preference bias. This is very important internally and it resonates with clients.

EcoSoul: Coming back to AI, we are still in the frenzied early days of widespread  AI adoption. As you know, for better or worse, it seems that every marketing campaign has some AI related spin on it. From an environmental standpoint, there appear to be some trade-offs between the enormous amounts of energy required for the computational power required for AI,  the expected efficiencies of automation, and the need for sustainability. What’s your read on that? How are those things balanced?  And how do you envision a more mature AI world?

Trent: A challenge facing AI is that the segment is at the cusp of determining if and how there is reasonable value in how AI can provide services to businesses. Is it real? Can we even achieve this? The energy use aspect has been a secondary consideration – the current emphasis is on getting business solutions defined and launched. So there’s not a lot of worry or thought about sustainability right now. This will likely be the pattern for the next 5+ years before things like impact versus value are considered and how to balance and optimize these concerns will be addressed.

EcoSoul: In addition to your cybersecurity work, Rule4 is very active in the community. Tell us a little about your community involvement and employee volunteerism.

Trent: There are several components. We host several monthly meet ups including Boulder Linux Users Group, DevOps Boulder, Boulder Java Users Group, Information Systems Security Association, and Elasticsearch. We support team volunteer involvement in project like ongoing trail maintenance work and volunteering at the Harvest of Hope food pantry.

We have also built this community commitment into our employees’ benefits package. There is an individual employee benefit of a paid annual volunteer day; we do charitable matching of up $2500 per year to encourage the team to support their personal non-profit interests. We will likely top $10,000 in Colorado Gives Day donations and matching. In addition to Rule4 being a net zero company, we also offset our employees’ annual personal carbon impacts. I would say that these programs are all very popular and we view them as essential.

EcoSoul: And Rule4 is also a B-Corp?

Trent: Yes! We have been a certified B-Corp since our founding. This is important because B-Corp is the only program that measures and certifies companies’ comprehensive social and environmental performance. In addition to maintaining our certification, we are active in the B-Local Boulder group. The highest concentration of B-Corps in the country are in Boulder, CO – that concentration is great for having strong relationships with other organizations that are committed to good works and sustainability.

EcoSoul: How does achieving carbon net zero fit into the B-Corp certification?

Trent: Energy usage offsets and general waste stream management are a key part of the B-Corp assessment process. Aside from being a B-Corp, and perhaps more importantly, Rule4 has received very strong employee support for offsets – 100% of the company and 100% of employees’ carbon impact are offset.

EcoSoul: And you have had solar panels in place for some time; and do things like smart travel planning to reduce your energy consumption and carbon impact. Were there any challenges to implementing company travel policies to  minimize your carbon impact?

Trent: We have not experienced any friction or challenges but I would say that having things well articulated and telling the “why” and “how” of carbon impacts are key to team understanding, acceptance, and support.

EcoSoul: How do you educate the team on sustainability topics without getting “preachy”? 

Trent: We are blessed with a staff that is bought into sustainability projects, so we have a great exchange of ideas. This enables us to talk “with” and not “at” our team.

EcoSoul: Do you have a dedicated sustainability team?

Trent: Not a formal team or committee but we have a designated leader – our Chief Client Officer, Haley Berry, leads our sustainability efforts. The person taking point on specific projects varies depending on who participates and the needs of the project.

EcoSoul: You recently put in place (with EcoSoul) a program to offset each employee’s personal carbon footprint for the year. Was that well received?

Trent: Yes, very well received. A unique benefit. 

EcoSoul: What advice would you give to companies who want to be responsible citizens and reduce their carbon footprint and implement sustainability programs?

Trent: I would start with asking where do you use energy and what waste streams do you produce. Based on that assessment, companies will immediately see where are the opportunities for reducing their impact. All businesses have impact – whether it’s travel or energy consumption or office waste. All organizations can find practical ways to reduce and offset. The main thing is to take action.

EcoSoul: Do your clients expect you to be a leader in best environmental practices? Do you include sustainability concepts when presenting Rule4 to prospective customers? 

Trent: It really depends on the client. Some are of like-minded but in some cases the industry, or our contact’s level in organization, may deem that it’s not an immediate priority. The reality is that while we are always open to talking about our successes in sustainability, our services don’t easily integrate with sustainability actions. We’re not quite there yet.

EcoSoul: We understand that you’re not quite there yet but to probe a little further, have your programs and commitments helped any persuade clients or partners to adopt similar programs and take practical action?

Trent: It is something we have talked about but have not yet polled our clients or taken any formal steps. That said, New Belgium Brewing, a like-minded client, has discussed offsetting employees’ personal carbon impacts. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that.

EcoSoul: Thank you very much for your time this morning and all your insights and perspectives. Where can people go to learn more about Rule4, it’s services, and it’s community involvement?

Trent: Come visit our web site at rule4.com!