Good afternoon, all. I hope you all have been enjoying the summer. I took this photo this morning as the sun was rising over downtown Grand Rapids.
Just a few days ago Business Roundtable announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”
It is exciting to see the general acknowledgment and support for the idea that business exists for a purpose more than simply profit.
This is not a new thing, particularly in West Michigan.
West Michigan is truly a unique place where business and philanthropy intersect unlike any other place. Giving of time, talents and treasure to worthy causes is embedded in the culture of this community.
We know of many businesses that have established core mission statements of social good as something beyond profit for quite some time. I look to Cascade Engineering, as one example. Check out the Blog of Fred Keller, Founder of Cascade – titled “Purpose & Profit”
Some groups are skeptical that this statement will lead to any real change – case in point Corporate America Says “Sorry” via @npquarterly
However, I am hopeful that this statement pushes the ball forward on business for good in the State of Michigan.
Last year the State House tantalized social entrepreneurs, once again, with the possibility of benefit corporations (“Bcorps”) becoming a viable legal option to do business in the State of Michigan.
There was never any movement on those bills and they died in committee.
Back almost two years ago the legislature proposed similar legislation which also died in committee (are you recognizing a pattern?). For a review of the Former BCorp Bills, the House Fiscal Agency issued a Fiscal Analysis, check it out here.
The Analysis provides good background on what the legislation would do. This is helpful for those who are not overly familiar with BCorps in general.
Education on the “why” for BCorps.
Interested groups and local politicians have been educating the public on why BCorp laws would be a good thing for our state.
State Rep Hank Vaupe gave a discussion to a local chamber group on B-Corps two Septembers ago:
As Rep. Vaupe indicated “benefit corporations provide an opportunity for businesses to use the markets, rather than traditional charity giving, to advance their philanthropic missions.”
Michigan is behind the ball.
Over the last several years Michigan legislators have repeatedly introduced BCorp legislation – to no avail.
Check out this handout from Rep Barnett almost 10 years ago in support of the BCorp legislation he proposed in September 2010.
I found particularly interesting the very last section – it provides some comment on why some Michigan businesses may have been averse to the introduction of BCorp legislation. Feel free to read it and reach your own conclusions.
Michigan now ranks as one of the vast minority of states that has not enacted benefit corporation legislation.
Check out the Benefit Corporation website for a state by state legislative analysis.
I hope Michigan can continue to make progress and recognize business as a force for good.
Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka