In Philadelphia Tuesday, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele accepted registration forms from the state’s first “benefit corporations.”
The businesses in line ranged from a fair trade coffee shop to a travel firm to a home health-care provider, all asking for formal permission to do what most have been doing already: making the public good part of their business planning.
Karen Kulp, CEO and president of worker-owned Home Care Associates, offers the following as description of the company’s mission:
“We provide quality care, but we believe that in order for people to get quality care they [employees] have to have a quality job, and a quality job means that they get decent benefits,” she says. “They get training. They get support.”
The company can now formalize its mission by becoming a public benefit corporation. In practical terms, this means becoming a not-totally-for-profit. Under these rules, a business can take things such as the environment or employee well-being into consideration, even over the profit motive of its shareholders.
“Isn’t that what we all think anyhow?” observed Aichele Tuesday.
She said that letting companies sign up as corporate benefit corporations “is attractive to a set of entrepreneurs, investors, who want to finance consumers who want to patronize companies who, as a part of their stated purpose, is to provide a public benefit.”
The nonprofit organization B-Lab has already encouraged 12 states, including New Jersey, to pass similar legislation allowing benefit corporations.