B Corporations In Different Forms
SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets 2011) brought together a confluence of people, ideas, and dialogues from around the social innovation sphere. It was especially interesting to hear about various corporate forms that social ventures had decided on.I had a chance to talk with Blake Jones towards the end of Day 2 of SOCAP11. We had both attended the same breakout session on benefit corporations earlier in the day.
His company, a b corporation, is also a cooperative.
Blake co-founded, Namaste Solar, a B corporation based in Colorado. (Reminder: B corporation is a voluntary certification, benefit corporation is a new corporate form for social innovation that has passed/is being introduced in various states. You can read more about the differences between B corporation and benefit corporation)
Watch the Interview
More About Namaste Solar
Namaste Solar is an employee-owned cooperative that installs solar systems in homes and businesses.
Namaste Solar is proud to be a B corporation and exists to benefit all of its stakeholders, including community and environment.
They may be looking for impact investors in the future.
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You can read posts about this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. Following up on tweets from from SOCAP11 is also possible by following @innov8social on Twitter and searching #SOCAP11 for all related tweets.
And as VentureBeat reports, just last week CouchSurfing made the bold move to reincorporate as a for-profit B corporation and begin its new identity with a $7.6 million investment from Benchmark Capital.
The big move, which involves establishing a physical headquarters in San Francisco, will also likely expand CouchSurfing’s loyal 3M+ user base.
How CouchSurfing Works
“At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter…” – CouchSurfing mission statement
New users can sign up using the simplified sign-up page and can choose to verify their address (which requires using a credit card and having a postcard with a code sent to your address) and are invited to make a recommended minimum donation to the organization, as a good faith show of their desire to be part of the couchsurfing community.
Once you’re on, you can search for “couches” in various cities. CouchSurfing users are peer-reviewed or “vouched for” through badges on the site. And the site mentions multiple tools and measures that have been implemented to ensure safety but clearly states (in multiple places) that surfers should use their individual best judgment when making the decision to surf, host, or meet up with individuals from the site.
CouchSurfing as a B Corporation
CouchSurfing explains its decision to incorporate as a B corporation in stating that “as a B (Benefit) Corporation, CouchSurfing will be part of a group of innovative businesses that deliver products and services with a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, transparency, fair work conditions, and doing good for the world.”
They mention that incorporating as a for-profit entity will better position them to receive funding, make improvements to the website, and evolve their systems along with their community’s needs.
CouchSurfing’s decision to incorporate as B corporation speaks to their commitment to their initial mission and vision, and to keeping with the ideals of the organization. As they mention in a released statement,”Becoming a B Corporation makes us accountable to our core values. And you can check out the full audit that B Lab, the non-profit that issues B Corp certifications, recently completed of our social responsibility.”
What won’t change?
CouchSurfing promises that their mission and vision will stay the same. And that “CouchSurfing will never make you pay to host and surf”.
He outlined key points of the legislation, which was submitted by a number of his constituents. A few key points he noted:
- incorporating as a benefit corporation would be completely voluntary
- benefit corporations would be required to show material positive impact
- benefit corporations would be required to meet higher standards of accountability and transparency
- benefit corporations would create a way for consumers to contribute to social impact through their patronage
- the concept of stakeholders (including the environment, community) would expand on the fiduciary relationship that exists currently between corporations and shareholders to maximize profit.
- a version of the benefit corporation bill has already been passed in 6 states
- Ryan Williams of Method — a scientist at Method–a company that aims to do more than business as usual spoke about Method’s aim to improve the world we work in through supporting infrastructure changes such as AB 361.
- Don Shaffer — an investor and President & CEO of RSF Social Finance attested to the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested in B corporations and underlined the interest of investors in funding social enterprises.
- Donald Simon — an attorney and partner at Wendel Rosen Black & Dean and Co-Chair of the Legal Working Group & Founder of 2 environmental non-profit organizations pointed out the social entrepreneurial roots already tied to California and the need to update the arcane view of fiduciary duty in the state.
- John Montgomery — an attorney and Co-Founder of Montgomery & Hansen and Co-Chair of the Legal Working Group behind the bill noted that AB 361 would make California a leader in social enterprise.
- William Clark — attorney and partner in Drinker Giddle and Reath LLP who has been integral in formulating the model benefit corporation legislation that has been passed in 6 states. He mentioned that he and B Lab (the organization co-sponsoring the bill) have been working on California’s legislation for the past 2 years.
Did AB 361 pass?
After about an hour of testimony and answering of questions from Committee members, AB 361 went to vote. It was passed by the Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions 5 (in favor) – 1 (against) – 1 (abstained).
It passed through the Committee.
What’s next for AB 361?
It is due in the California State Judiciary Committee next week where it will face a similar process of presentation, witness testimony, and questioning from Committee members.
It would be great to hear feedback on any programs you know of, you can also find Innov8Social on Facebook and connect on this topic there.
– cost (price, cost per serving, sales/promotions, incentives, bulk/bargain buys)
– nutrition (low calorie, low fat, high protein, gluten free, not gluten free, etc.)
– expiration date
but with a shifting focus on sustainability, health, and reducing our carbon footprint, a few more factors can come in play:
– was it grown locally?
– is it organic?
– fair trade?
– were hormones/pesticides used?
– did the company use sustainable practices?
– is the company a responsible employer?
All of these various factors can complicate a simple grocery run for bread and milk—to say the least.
Certifications and badges can help guide our choices. For example the Guayaki bottle of organic mint yerba mate tea on the right features a mini display case of badges denoting its various certifications. And these can be decidedly helpful—if we know what they stand for & if we are on board with the certification process.
Guayaki notes its approval as a B corp—which is of special interest to me as that entails a number of other factors including social and environmental considerations.
Do certifications make a difference when you shop?
And do companies actually benefit by being evaluated for certifications?
Whether we see them as such or not, our purchases ($.25 or $25,000) are also votes for a particular product, brand, or type of product. Just as you cast a ballot for your favorite candidate, ‘voting’ for a product makes a statement to companies, suppliers, buyers, and retailers.
Arguably, however, no matter how aligned with our values a product may be, if it doesn’t meet our basic consumer instincts (i.e. do you love it? is it a good value?) it may not make it off the shelf and into our carts.
So, consumers or voters? I would venture to say both—and to examine further—we may see ourselves as consumers first and voters subsequent. As ever, am curious to hear broader feedback :)
Welcome by Genevieve Taylor (Partner, CircadiaOne), Brad Baker (President/CEO, Codding Investments), and Robert Girling Ph.D. (Author).Keynote address “California Legislation for a Sustainable Future” by California State Assemblymember for the 6th Assembly District Jared Huffman, JD
Keynote address “Ecological Sustainability and Economic Drivers” by Maggie Winslow, Ph.D. (Academic Dean, Presidio Green MBA)
Keynote address “Green Energy in the Golden State Under a Brown Administration” by Panama Bartholomy (Deputy Dir., Effiency and Renewables Division, CA Energy Commission)
Workshop: “Straus Family Creamery Strategic Planning” panel including Edward L. Quevedo (Sr. Counsel & Chair of Sustainability Practice, Paladin Law Group, LLP), Sarah Isabel Parriott (Sustainability Strategy PM, Paladin Law Group), and Deborah Parrish (CFO, Straus Family Creamery), with special guest Albert Straus (Founder of Straus)
Keynote address “Pulp Non-Fiction: Changing the Paper Industry” by Jeff Mendelsohn (President/Founder, New Leaf Paper)
Workshop: “Behind the Scenes with B2B B Corporations: Building the Vision and Infrastructure to Shape, Support, and Scale the Sustainable Business Economy” panel including Matt Reynolds (CEO of Indigenous Designs), Jonathan Storper (Partner & Chair of Sustainable Business, Hanson Bridgett LLP), and Carolyn McMaster (Principal, ThinkShift Communications)
Workshop: “Localization and Sustainability: Tales of Success” with panel including Mike McGuire (4th Dist. Sonoma, County Supervisor), Tom Scott (VP and GM, Oliver’s Market), Nancy Bailey, (GM, Quivira Wineyards & Winery), and Evelina Molina (Co-Founder, North Bay Institute of Green Technology)
Lessons Learned, Call to Action and Closing Statements by Oren Wool (Executive Director, Sustainable Enterprise Conference)
- “Sonoma County ‘sustainability’ conference draws hundreds” (pressdemocrat)
- social & environmental performance
- enhanced legal accountability
- documentation & business practices
- http://www.bcorporation.net/ (Certified B Corporation)
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