In 2010, the first benefit corporation legislation passed in the United States, giving companies the option to pursue social missions alongside profits under this law. Though skepticism still exists for companies attempting to provide public service, there is no doubt that social ventures are working collectively to create more than economic value. But who are they? According to professor Craig R. Everett at the Graziadio School of Business and Management, there are close to 100 benefit corporations that span across seven states.
At first glance, these benefit corporations provide products and services that are no different than their counterparts, but create additional social value to their communities that may not be visibly seen:
Bindle Bags (Virginia) – Product or Service: Bindle Bags sell women’s handbags. Impact: They tackle homelessness in America by providing homeless people with a temporary stepping stone to get their lives back in order through employment and training. Profits from the sale of bags provide fair wage and cover the cost of living in an emergency shelter.
Blessed Coffee (Maryland) – Product or Service: Blessed Coffee imports, roasts, brands, and distributes premium Ethiopian coffee. Impact: Calling their company more than fair trade, they work with Ethiopian coffee cooperatives and small farmers towards the development of quality coffee growing and ensure coffee farmers attain a larger profit margin by eliminating middlemen. Profits support the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in building schools, health clinics, and safe water wells.
Clean Currents (Maryland) – Product or Service: Clean Currents provides households and businesses with greener electricity options by purchasing renewable energy certificates to ensure clean wind energy are a source to power buildings. Impact: They reduce the use of polluting sources of energy and increase the use of pollution-free wind power.
Fenton Street Market (Maryland) – Product or Service: Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in May to October, the Fenton Street Market hosts a marketplace with goods from around the world and community programs. Impact: The market supports the development of local business, creates job opportunities for youth, and puts the community back on the street.
Greyston Bakery (New York) – Product or Service: Greyston Bakery bakes and sells brownies and desserts. Impact: With a slogan “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.”, this social enterprise has a mission of personal and community renewal through employment and using profits to support many areas of the Greyston’s Foundation initiatives including childcare, low-income housing, and health services.
The benefit corporation class exists to encourage and distinguish “good business”, and is no doubt a growing class of corporation with other states on the verge of passing the law. Benefit corporations show that creating social value is highly feasible alongside providing everyday products or services and meeting financial sustainability. In the future, if every business operates on an expanded spectrum of values and there is a system to support it, there would be no need to question, “Who are they?”.
Social Enterprise Buzz is a media company dedicated to covering social enterprise news from around the world. We publish a range of stories from startups to entrepreneurship, innovation, and finance, which showcase business making the world a better place. Read more.