Carolyn McMaster | February 1, 2013
It’s been a little over a year since Thinkshift joined 12 other businesses to become one of the first California benefit corporations, and a lot has happened since then. A year ago, there were a few dozen benefit corporations, and California was the seventh state to pass the legislation. There are now more than 200 benefit corporations in the U.S. and the form is available in 12 states.
Growth prospects for 2013 are looking even stronger, said the founders of B Lab, the leading advocate for benefit corporation legislation, during a recent briefing to B Corps on the “State of the B.” (B Lab certifies companies as B Corporations, which meet high social and environmental performance standards. Thinkshift became a B Corp in 2010; today there are nearly 700 B Corps in 24 countries.)
Benefit corporation laws are pending in 17 more states—including Delaware, which would be huge. About half the country’s public companies, and 63 percent of Fortune 500 companies, are incorporated there. The governor and secretary of state want it—already, a couple of companies have left the state to become benefit corporations elsewhere—and the legislation is likely to pass this spring.
But it’s not going to be easy to get legislation with substance, according to B Lab’s Andrew Kassoy. The state bar is interested in maintaining the status quo, and there’s a good chance legislation will allow companies to greenwash, he said. Benefit corporation laws in other states specify that companies must benefit society, consider all stakeholders and report on their performance using a third-party standard. In Delaware, the state bar is pushing for legislation that would let companies do what they want (benefit society or something else), consider only certain stakeholders and self-report.
B Lab is working to keep Delaware from passing a watered-down law, with campaigns on care2.com and change.org and other actions. Most of the nearly 700 certified B Corporations will be signatories of a letter to the governor. To learn more, go to bcorporation.net.