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The unstoppable rise of the Benefit Societies

2022-09-07 15:40

Davide Tammaro

The unstoppable rise of the Benefit Societies

Who they are, how they are born, prospects and opportunities. The role of leader of Italy and the activism of young people, (real) protagonists of the Impact Re

by Davide Tammaro

Who they are, how they are born, prospects and opportunities. The role of leader of Italy and the activism of young people, (real) protagonists of the Impact Revolution .

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From 2016 [1] to today, over two thousand companies active in the most diverse sectors of our economy have been born or have become Benefit Companies. Start-ups, SMEs and large corporations that want to generate a positive and lasting impact on society.

BENEFIT COMPANIES BETWEEN PROFIT AND IMPACT

Profit or non-profit: which side are the SBs on? According to Italian law, SBs “ in addition to the purpose of dividing profits, pursue one or more purposes of common benefit and operate in a responsible, sustainable and transparent way towards people, communities, territories and the environment”. An innovative model, which goes beyond the traditional profit-non-profit dichotomy and integrates an element of additionality . As a recent Pwc study [2] points out, "it is not just a matter of being responsible with respect to the externalities generated, which [the SB] consider substantially mandatory, but of assuming in the common benefit a purpose that defines the orientation of the whole 'business activity ”.

FROM DEFINITION TO ACTION

Whether they are corporations, individuals or cooperatives, SBs must comply with certain requirements: identify the purposes of common benefit (the impact objectives) and include them in their articles of association or statute ; guarantee the balancing, in company management, of the interests of shareholders with that of other stakeholders; identify a responsible person within the company who is in charge of controlling the pursuit of the defined impact objectives; produce an annual report (Impact Report) which, through external evaluation standards - such as the B Impact Assessment - evaluates the results achieved with respect to the declared impact objectives.

WALK THE TALK OR… IT'S TROUBLE!

SBs that do not pursue the objectives set in the corporate purpose may be sanctioned for violating the rules on misleading advertising (Legislative Decree 145/2007) and the Consumer Code (Legislative Decree No. 206/2005) by '' Competition and Market Guarantor Authority , which has the right to inhibit the continuation of the activity, order the publication of corrective declarations at the company's expense and prescribe fines from 5 to 500,000 euros. It goes without saying that if the sanctions are harsh, the reputational damage can be incalculable.

AN ITALIAN FIRST

Among the many firsts we have to boast about, there is also this: Italy was the first nation of the European Union to give legal dignity to the business model of the Benefit Corporation, the movement founded in 2006 in the United States by B- Lab , a non-profit organization that aims to use business as a positive force, to create lasting and shared prosperity for society. Right here lies the main difference: if the SBs are a corporate model provided for by the legal system and complementary to traditional business models, the B Corp are such because they obtain a certification on the basis of the standard defined by B-Lab. An SB, therefore, does not necessarily have to be a B Corp, vice versa a B Corp is required to assume the status of SB within a time frame of its certification, if possible in the country in which it is based.

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IMPACT, DISTINCTIVE NUMBER OF YOUNG PEOPLE

Faced with global macroeconomic and social tensions and the extreme consequences of climate change, the success of SBs - doubled in the pandemic period [3] - is understandable, especially among young people who, as shown by a recent study by Deloitte [4], are particularly sensitive to social and environmental issues. And it is no coincidence that the "benefit purpose" is the key element on which brands are aiming to attract and motivate the younger generations, protagonists of what Ronald Chohen defines as the Impact Revolution [5]. A peaceful and gentle revolution “initiated by young consumers and entrepreneurs who are revolutionizing the prevailing business models with the aim of improving people's lives, reducing inequality and changing the planet for the better. “ The profit-with-purpose model - writes Cohen - is the hallmark of the millennial generation” .

CONSUMER REQUESTS

Assuming a concrete positioning with respect to a market that is increasingly attentive to socio-environmental consequences is right and convenient. As shown by the Banca Ifis research, "Economy of Beauty" [6], for 58% of Italians, values are 'decisive' in the choice of brands and products, while another 33% consider them 'important', highlighting how much social and environmental issues have become relevant. Consumers, in short, "are transforming themselves from mere audiences to critical actors at the center of the scene who want to interact, converse and judge" .

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MARKET EXPECTATIONS

Sustainable companies appeal to consumers and attract the interest of investors : as shown by a research carried out by the LIUC University in collaboration with IR Top Consulting [7], the priority issues in the evaluation of investments will be increasingly linked to the ability of companies to position themselves solidly with respect to the crucial issues of our time: climate change, circular economy and social issues such as diversity and inclusion.

[1] The Benefit Companies were introduced with the 2016 stability law (no.208 of 28 December 2015), paragraphs 376-384 of art. 1.

[2] Benefit companies: a new entrepreneurial paradigm , Pwc, 2022, p.39

[3] Companies, benefit companies boom in the year of Covid-19, Vitaliano d'Angerio and Daniela Russo, Sole 24 Ore, 29 June 2021.

[4] Climate change: the number one challenge for Millennials and GenZ , Nicola Andreatta, Green.it

[5] Ronald Cohen, “Impact. The revolution that is changing capitalism ”, LUISS University Press, p. 21.

[6] Banca Ifis, Economy of Beauty, https://www.bancaifis.it/comunicati-stampa/nel-2021-l economy-della-bellezza-rappresenta-il-24-del-pil-nazionale/

[7] ESG disclosure and capital market: state of the art and future scenarios

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