Benefit corporation is a type of corporate structure recognized by some state governments in the United States. In addition to being profitable, a benefit corporation assumes the legal responsibility of considering its impact on society and the environment. The goal of the corporate structure is to encourage for-profit companies to identify social missions and demonstrate corporate sustainability efforts. In exchange, the corporation may be eligible for certain types of legal protection, bidding protection or tax benefits.
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As of this writing, almost half the state governments in the United States allow a business to incorporate or re-incorporate as a benefit corporation. Although each state provides its own specific guidelines for incorporation, the general intent of the benefit corporation form is to allow a business to define non-financial goals in its founding documents. Such goals may include quantifiable levels of acceptable community involvement, sustainability efforts or charitable donations.
Benefit corporation as a corporate structure in the United States has been promoted by B Lab, a not-for-profit company that promotes the use of business to solve social and environmental problems internationally. B Lab promotes the triple-bottom-line approach to business, placing equal emphasis on people, planet and profit. B Lab also offers a B Corp certification for companies that wish to be identified as being a benefit corporation; while the certification can provide public relations benefits, it does not affect the organization’s legal status.