January 3, 2012
On the first day that California-based companies could change their corporate status to become a Benefit Corporation, TreeHugger Person of the Year 2011-nominated Patagonia further put its principles into practice, reregistering yesterday morning with a new, greener, socially-aware corporate status.
Though a number of other corps (the full list is below) took advantage of the new corporate status in California—passed into law last October and coming into effect on Jan. 1—Patagonia is perhaps the most vocal of the group.
Company founder Yvon Chouinard said in a press statement:
Patagonia is trying to build a company that could last 100 years. Benefit Corporation legislation creates the legal framework to enable mission-driven companies like Patagonia to stay mission-driven through succession, capital raises, and even changes in ownership, by institutionalizing the values, culture, processes, and high standards put in place by founding entrepreneurs.
What’s A Benefit Corporation?
As for Benefit Corporation itself, there are three prime directives: It has to 1) create a material positive impact on society and the environment, 2) expand fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions, and 3) report on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards. The more technical version of all that is available in a white paper.
In other words, a B Corp has to act like a person with a social and environmental conscience, not the normal sociopathic approach of maximize-profit-for-shareholders-and-screw-the-externalities legally enshrined in corporate law heretofore.
Currently there are six states that enable registration as a B Corp (yellow on the map above) and four where legislation is in progress (dark grey, plus Washington DC).
Joining Patagonia in registering as a B Corp on the first available day were: DopeHut, Dharma Merchant Services, Give Something Back Office Supplies, Green Retirement Plans, Opticos Designs, Scientific Certification Systems, Solar Works, Sun Light & Power, Terrassure Sustainable Land & Resource Development, and Thinkshift Communications.
B Corp Status A Step In Right Direction, If Not The Goal Itself
While alone B Corp status won’t be enough of a transformation of capitalism so that it doesn’t eat the planet, it is certainly a step in right direction, that is, towards rectifying the gross inadequacies of our current growth-fetishized economic philosophy, towards one which takes the not-so-radical step of recognizing that we live in communities, in societies, in a civilization and we ought to be minimizing the negative impacts on our fellow humans and non-humans and working to increase more socially, psychologically and environmentally based measurements of human development and not just short-term individualized profit