I don't know how many of us in the third sector association sphere have been paying close attention to the movement to establish a new corporate structure in the United States known as the benefit corporation. Although businesses of all types have been pursuing goals related to a triple-bottom-line for some time, and sustainability issues aren't new, what is new is the push to put the legal structures in place to foster, promote and protect the development of this "fourth sector" - the socially conscious corporation.
California was the seventh of eight states to see legislation passed and signed into law to support the creation of benefit corporations. I am no fan of the corporation run amok and I am a staunch supporter of our 501(c) community. Combine those two facts with a belief that associations do not need a race to relevance as much as they need a reason for relevance and that explains why I am serving as the first Board Chair of BCSI.
I'm going to cut to the chase here with this blog post. After all of the talking and explaining is over (which I will not be doing THAT much of here on the Association Subculture but will be doing a lot of on the BCSIBlog so please visit and subscribe for updates on this critical association issue) what follows is the most salient point you need to know, (and need to know NOW), as an association executive about the benefit corporation movement.
Benefit corporations are for-profit enterprises that are allowed to also pursue social and environmental improvement goals in addition to pure profit. They are not non-profits. As a condition of maintaining benefit corporation status, those businesses are required to select an independent third-party standard and then publish an annual report that details how they did or did not meet that standard. Associations cannot develop the standards on their own since the legislation prevents organizations with a substantial material and/or financial interest in the adoption of the standards from being the sole developer.
That is where we come in.
We are providing an independent, third-party platform for associations to use to connect with business leaders and stakeholders to participate in the development of next generation standards for those companies (members) who choose to become benefit corporations. Who better to be a player at the table and help develop those standards for this emerging market segment than the associations who have been engaged in standards development for years? Who better to give guidance on the development of standards that can be meaningful, yet practical and easily understood by investors and consumers? Who better to provide leadership, education and training for your member companies/professionals on this new, unique, and competitively advantageous corporate form? That would be you.
We are seeking the following:
- Associations who would like to volunteer as a pilot project for standards development.
- Associations who are interested in knowing more about this project.
- Additional board members who do not have to be located in California, nor have an association background, but who do have a passionate interest in seeing business become more humane and pursue other goals than sheer profitability.
Here is a link to our Facebook Page, our Twitter account, our LinkedIn Group and our Google+ Page. Please like, follow, join and circle :D. Here is a link to our BCSI ScoopIt e-newsletter. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to set up a time to talk. Visit our website, subscribe to the BCSIBlog and get ready to watch us attempt to do everything we can to see businesses and associations fully collaborating on the creation of a more sustainable world and supporting the new fourth-sector economy which we believe will be a key factor to health and economic growth in the 21st century.