Benefit corporations: protagonists of sustainable transition

Benefit corporations represent an evolution of the concept of a company: they integrate in their corporate purpose, in addition to profit objectives, the aim of having a positive impact on society and the biosphere. In other words, benefit companies are the companies of the future.

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Citizens and businesses in their daily lives can contribute to improving the world to leave to future generations; we must be aware that we are all responsible and that radical and lasting change must come from below.

Sustainability may have different faces but it has a single objective: to improve the way we live, consume and produce for an increasingly sustainable planet.

The need for concrete actions in the direction of sustainable development and a more inclusive, sustainable, regenerative and fairer economy in the redistribution of wealth has emerged dramatically with the pandemic. We need to act in the present with the impact of our actions in the future in mind. The new dimension of the ‘civil’ economy is to create profit to be shared with all stakeholders in a system where economic value is also projected with a social and environmental dimension.

In addition to the change in citizens’ consumption styles, the role of companies is fundamental. Today, thanks to the introduction of Benefit Corporations in our legal system, they can consciously and intentionally choose to include in their Articles of Association ‘not only‘ the aim of maximising profit, ‘but also‘ that of creating value and positive impacts for the environment and the community.

The benefit corporations is a new way of looking at business with different eyes, with an orientation towards strategic social and environmental innovation in order to generate shared value and have a competitive advantage.

These are for-profit companies aware of their responsibility towards future generations, whose peculiarity is to focus on three interconnected dimensions: the good of the individual, the good of the company and the common good. The need for a new way of doing business to improve the world shifts its centre of gravity from business as usual towards an integral eco-sustainable model that focuses on the individual and his or her satisfaction and wellbeing, the human value of economic development and the sharing of values and the wealth produced.

In particular, benefit corporations have been introduced into our legal system to address the need of many companies to be able to formalise in their articles of association, and therefore in their corporate purpose, an additional purpose by providing for the common benefit purposes inherent in their core business.

Benefit corporations represent a new conception of business, today and tomorrow, which is not only a reality that produces income, employment, quality, innovation and pays fair taxes, but also a civil enterprise that takes care of the common good of its territory and the community, with a new role in relations with internal and external stakeholders and putting the person at the centre. The civil entrepreneur, while focused on profit, is also involved in solving the problems of the community, the territory, recognising opportunities that, together with the development of the business, increase the common good. It is part of the meaning of the civil economy to participate in the value created by the company, which in turn contributes to the well-being of the territory, espousing the thesis of economists such as Fisher and Keynes, according to whom an initial intervention that incentivises spending increases the circulation of wealth with an increase in income for all. In this way, companies contributing to the common good, with public intervention as well, can reshape the distribution of wealth in the territory.

Today, therefore, there is a need for a new economy that respects man and the environment, an inclusive economy; a model of development that is healthier, more humane, more social and more integral
in order to overcome a system that forgets the common good. An awareness that has emerged even more strongly with the health crisis and its economic consequences, which requires us to take action: we are all called to a civil responsibility towards future generations in order to bequeath a better world. Companies can and must play a driver role in this process of change, and sustainability is the only possible way to rethink change and design a possible future.

In order to pursue a new economic model with a view to sustainable development, it is necessary to abandon the old corporate models and embrace a new way of doing business, as envisaged with the introduction of benefit corporations, which are not intended to be a niche but the natural choice for entrepreneurs to operate in a sustainable, responsible and transparent manner and to be competitive on the market; but also because, in addition to profit, today a company must necessarily respond to the demands of civil society both on the environment and on social needs in order to be able to manage the risks to which it may be exposed. Benefit companies are the companies of the future, protagonists of the sustainable transition.

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