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What are benefit corporations, the companies doing good for society

All companies aim to profit, but some of them are doing something for the society. They’re called benefit corporations.

Each and every private company aims to increase its profits. But there are some that also set an extra mission: do something good for society and the Planet. These companies are called benefit corporations.

What is a benefit corporation

Benefit corporations are companies developing economic activities that have a positive impact on the environment, on the territory, on people, and on the community. While doing so, they profit from their activities and this is what differentiates them from non-profit organisations.

Benefit corporations are a relatively new reality. The US state of Maryland was the first to officially introduce them in 2010. To date, 32 US states have adopted a specific regulation on the matter. In 2015 Italy became the first country in Europe and outside the United States to create a new legal status for benefit corporations.

Le benefit corporation inseriscono nello statuto l'impatto sociale
Benefit corporations operate in any sector. But they must define and report their social impacts © Geber86/Getty Images

The legislation in Italy and the US

Having Italy recently introduced them in its legislation, LifeGate has decided to become a benefit corportation. “A benefit corporation is a company which combines the goal of profit with the purpose of creating a positive impact for society and the environment and which operates in a transparent, responsible and sustainable way,” reads the legislation.

These goals are to be included in the business objective and should be carried out trying to balance the corporations’ interests with those of the parties involved, directly or indirectly. Every year benefit corporations are required to report what they’ve done so far for the common good. Also, they are required to declare the objectives they had set, how they achieved them (or not), and what they’re planning for the following year.

Benefit corporations and B-Corps aren’t the same

At first glance, benefit corporation might seem a synonym of B-Corp. Actually, they’re two separate things. A B-Corp is a company, of any legal forms, that obtains a certification by B-Lab, a US non-profit organisation, voluntarily. The company fills in a questionnaire of the Benefit Impact Assessment and B-Lab evaluates its social and environmental policies. If they meet B-Lab standards, the company is certified. So, a benefit corporation can be a B-Corp and vice versa, but they’re two separate things.

All over the world there are more than 2,000 B-Corps across 50 countries, working in 130 different sectors. And they’re likely to increase. This is a sign of a growing awareness and of the will of putting into practice the company’s purposes while doing something tangible for the environment and the people.

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