After the USA, Italy is the second country in the world to have introduced – in January 2016 – the benefit corporation: a new type of corporate legal status for a company whose corporate object, in addition to profit, is to have a positive impact on society and the biosphere. A Benefit Corporation is a new legal instrument that creates a solid base for the long-term alignment of its mission and the creation of shared value.
Shared value means the pursuit of one or more positive effects (also by reducing negative effects) on people, communities, territories and the environment, cultural and social assets, entities and associations and other stakeholders. The goal of benefit corporation managers is to achieve a balance between the interest of shareholders and the interest of society; for this purpose management must name a person responsible for the company’s impact who commits to providing a full and transparent report on operations through an annual impact report. At the moment, benefit corps do not have access to economic or tax incentives, so besides providing value for society, they have no adverse effects for tax payers.
Today there are more than 2100 companies in 50 countries round the world, in 130 industrial sectors, with B-Corporation certification, which attests to their compliance with the international Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), strongly oriented to business impact and creation of value. Certification is promoted by B-Lab, an international no-profit body that created the B-Corps movement, an international reference community that has brought the juridical recognition of the for-benefit company to Italy, through the creation of special laws.
Italy has approximately 100 benefit corps, the majority located in the North (66), followed by the Centre (19) and the South (12).
Notable examples include Slow Food, Vita (the publishers of Vita, a monthly magazine on social reporting, voluntary work, economic and environmental sustainability, the first benefit company to be listed on the stock exchange), and Nativa, Italy’s first benefit company.