Friday, 16 May 2014
Benefit Corporations take on "Greed is Good" capitalism
At the Tranzac Club on May 13 long time TorontotheBetter directory partner Sucheta Rajagopal of the Responsible Investment Association (formerly Social Investment Organization) introduced 3 would-be or actual "B-corps" i.e. Benefit Corporations, a U.S. originated certification process designed to provide a formal designation for corporations committed to goals more elevated, environmentally and socially than Milton Friedman's minimalist "maximize shareholder profits" mantra. Joyce Sou, a B-corp specialist at Mars Institute, identified a crucial shift in ambition from the historical "negative screens" of social investment to positive screens - equivalent to a shift from medicine's "do no harm" to an as yet not adopted "do good". Other B-corp panelists included Ran Goel of TorontotheBetter participant Fresh City Farms, a pioneering farm in the city, Alice Klein of Now Magazine, Toronto's lingeringly, in these AF [Anno Fordo] days, progressive popular media outlet, and Seema Pabari of wholesome lunch provider Tiffinday Catering. Much of the discussion focussed, naturally, on the challenging and sometimes problematic B-corp certification process, but it seems reasonable to ask, at a time when the world economy still suffers from the crash caused by traditional capitalist "animal spirits" excesses in 2008, what impact B-Corps are having on the collapse proneness of the market economy. TorontotheBetter's Taodhg Burns pointed out that substantial growth of social enterprises and B-corps in recent years did not prevent the 2008 crash. In response, panelists pointed out that these are still early days for B-corps and that they are growing in numbers.Their clear implication was that time and further B-Corp growth may turn the economic tide. As an early proponent of what we call social economy businesses TorontotheBetter hopes so, but we believe there is more that needs to be done to change the economy than a certification process, however well-intentioned. Stay tuned to this space for some suggestions. As a start we have launched an Alliance for Toronto's Social economy (ATSE).