Thursday, July 11, 2013

Benefit Corporations, Social Enterprise and our BCSI Global Advisory Network

(Authored by John Dane, CAE, Chair, BCSI Global Advisory Network)

The explosive growth in state benefit corporation laws in the past two years is one of the most progressive business trends in the United States.  In late June 2013, eighteen states, including the District of Columbia have passed laws regarding the establishment and operation of benefit corporations. A Governor's signature is due soon on a Delaware benefit corporation law, significant not because of the state's size (it's very small), but rather because two-thirds of Fortune 500 firms are incorporated in Delaware.

Moreover, Washington State has enacted "social purpose corporation" legislation and, in Canada, British Columbia enacted "community contribution companies" legislation and Nova Scotia followed enacting "community interest companies" legislation.

So clearly, these states and provinces are "ahead of the game" and can serve as examples for other states, provinces and countries seeking progressive, cutting-edge business innovation ideas, right?

Well, not exactly.

It turns out that our benefit corporation movement in the United States and Canada has its roots in "community interest company" legislation passed in the United Kingdom in 2005.  Closely allied to that legislation has been a recent and broader international movement to create new social enterprise organizations, promote social entrepreneurship and advance socially responsible investing.

These social enterprise organizations are amazingly diverse and active as economic change agents in their respective countries.  For example:

  • Social Enterprise United Kingdom is sponsoring an already sold-out political summit, is promoting a tax relief initiative for social enterprises and is seeking to broaden coverage of social entrepreneurs on British Broadcasting Corporation shows like "The Apprentice."
  • Social Enterprise Scotland (SES) recently sponsored what they term "the world's largest social enterprise event."  SES has an ongoing interest in reforming public procurement to include social entrepreneurship goods and services.  Their "Just Enterprise" initiative is a "one-stop" for business support.
  • Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) uses the brand "Think big. Act now.  Change Ireland."  SEI supports a variety of entrepreneurial progams including a Minnovation Fund to provide seed capital for high potential business startups.
  • Social Venture Australia has a strong focus on non-profit sustainability. SVA runs a School for Social Entrepreneurs and recently raised $7 million in private capital for a social benefit bond.
These social enterprise organizations promote social entrepreneurship and smaller scale business investments and are laboratories for innovation and change.  Their approaches can serve, selectively, as examples for benefit corporations as leaders seek to identify high priority missions.

We are pleased that our international BCSI Board of Directors has a growing Global Advisors Network that has representatives connected closely with social enterprise organizations from the United Kingdom, separately from Scotland and from Australia.  Combined with our Canadian and United States advisors, the BCSI Board of Directors is developing a deep reservoir of talent that can provide a global (and local) perspective on the future opportunities for social entrepreneurship and for rapidly emerging benefit corporations.

For more information and to get involved, please visit our website!  We would love to hear from you!