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Thinkshift Joins Patagonia and Other Sustainability Leaders in Becoming California’s First Benefit Corporations

Sandra Stewart | January 3, 2012

“I hope that five years from now, ten years from now, we’ll look back and say this was the start of the revolution. The existing paradigm isn’t working anymore—this is the future.”

Those were Patagonia founder and CEO Yvon Chouinard’s closing words as he led a parade of companies up the steps of the Secretary of State’s office this morning to become California’s first benefit corporations. He captured the spirit of the moment perfectly—many of us got up long before dawn to be in Sacramento when the office opened so that we could become benefit corporations at the first possible moment. (What’s a benefit corporation? See this previous post.)

For Thinkshift, and I think for the other newly minted benefit corporations as well (Give Something Back Office Supplies, Dharma Merchant Services, Sun Light & Power, Opticos Design and many others), it felt like we took a significant first step in support of the kind of business culture that can build a sustainable, responsible and vibrant economy.

B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert, whose organization has been leading the push for benefit corporation legislation across the country, described California’s law as the “most rigorous” yet and “on its way to becoming the most used.”

Why is this important? Benefit corporation status ensures that mission-oriented buisnesses can honor their social and environmental commitments as they grow (and take on investors) without fear of shareholder lawsuits. Chouinard compared it to a conservation easement on a property. “It’s a conservation easement on a business, and I’m pretty excited about that,” he said. It also gives clients and customers a way to separate companies that are walking sustainability from those that are just talking it.

We’re a bit dazed here in the Thinkshift studios, since we also just became a corporation (moving up from a partnership) in conjunction with becoming a benefit corporation (benefit status relates to governance; we also needed to elect a standard corporate structure). The fact that we were able to do it all, in less than a month and over the holidays, is thanks to our lawyer Donald Simon of Wendel Rosen Black & Dean, who helped write the benefit corporation law and is a rock star.

A great start to 2012!

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