Here’s one that sounds like a feel-good deal on the surface, and maybe will never be more than that … but opens the door, just a crAck, to something much larger. As John Lennon exhorted, imagine …
For-profit corporations set up under a legal framework in which they are required to operate not exclusively for the the purpose of enhancing shareholder value, but also with the requirement that recognition of the public interest and fair play with their business partners – customers, vendors, employees and others – also be a required, and demonstrable, part of the mix.
Do that – change the century-old (it isn’t much more than that) requirement that for-profits operate solely for their stockholders’ immediate financial benefit, and you could have a truly significant global game-changer.
The Oregon House Bill 2296a, which cleared the Senate 22-8 (and now goes to Governor John Kitzhaber for likely signature), doesn’t go that far. It’s a lot less ambitious, merely setting up a new kind of business structure:
Currently, legal designations for corporate and business organizations focus the duties of corporate officers on matters of financial stability and success. Businesses that wish to provide a larger community benefit under the current structure must validate these benefits in the context of the financial viability of the organization. Under HB 2296A, a company can add a social or environmental benefit as a key mission of the business in addition to profit.
“By establishing benefit companies, we can attract new businesses to Oregon that focus on serving the greater good while providing a real economic value to owners, employees, and communities,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum. “Today’s vote is a step towards making Oregon a true leader in a new economy that encourages more businesses to pursue more than just profit.”
HB 2296A allows companies of varying size to adopt the benefit company designation, and requires these companies to compile an annual report about the social or environmental benefits provided by the organization.
It’s a small step. But who knows where it might lead?Share on Facebook