Anyone who has endured a Simon Sinek inspired business building seminar has been challenged with the pithy question:
“what is my why?”
Presumably, if you know what motivates you to tumble out of a warm bed on a frosty morning, wrap a neck strangling tie around your throat and trudge off to the office, you will be a whole lot better at what you you do, and make more money, so management gurus are constantly exhorting us to look deep within to discover our “Why”- our true purpose – our reason for being.
The same question can be asked of any organization or business, but, when posed to a corporation the doctrinaire answer has always been “to maximize shareholder’s value.”
This has been the universal corporate mantra for so long that some believe that it was handed down upon a stone tablet when the earth was very young, although in truth it was probably Milton Friedman who first articulated it. The single minded pursuit of ‘shareholders value’ can come at the expense of the environment, worker’s safety, customer satisfaction and other laudable goals, and it is no surprise that “corporation” is a dirty word for many, synonymous with cold-hearted avarice.
So, it was a bit of a shock when, a few weeks ago close to 200 of the CEO’s of some of the largest corporations on the planet, including JP Morgan Chase, Walmart, Amazon and Google announced that they had seen the light, and henceforth would be guided, not by blind allegiance to maximizing shareholders value, and that their companies purpose- their “Why”- would be instead, to serve their customers, staff and communities. Henceforth, their companies would “do good” rather than chase profit.
This has sparked some lively debate amongst those who follow economics and business. While many laud the possible advent of a kinder, gentler and more socially responsible capitalism, others are merely skeptical, and the respected news publication the Economist even devoted an entire edition to arguing against what it calls ‘collective capitalism” as an inefficient allocation of scarce resources.
It is hard to know where this new trend is going to go- whether its really just window dressing or whether a revolution really is brewing in the way we do business. If the latter, we in British Columbia are uniquely positioned to man the barricades and lead the charge, since the prescient minds who drafted the Business Corporations Act, to replace the doddering old Company Act amended the BCBCA in 2012, to give us the power to create an entirely new type of corporation.
This new from of incorporation is called a Community Contribution Corporation ( and those words, or the abbreviation CCC must appear in the corporations name, lest we think we are dealing with an old fashioned avaricious company.) and Part 2.2 of the Act is devoted to the nuances of creating , maintaining, and ultimately dissolving such a creature.
A CCC is a new age company which must declare itself to be dedicated to a “community purpose”, meaning “a purpose beneficial to society at large, or a segment of society that is broader than the group of persons who are related to the community contribution company,and can include, a purpose of providing health, social, environmental, cultural, educational or other services—“.
A CCC offers limited liability protection for is members , and is different from a Society, inasmuch as it is a restricted profit, rather than a non-profit entity.It is allowed to make a profit, but must pursue social goals while doing so.
There are approximately 50 such Community Contribution Companies currently doing business in the Province, although your correspondent has yet to find a client willing to actually take the plunge and modify their dreams of striking it rich, in order to toil for the common good.
One has to wonder though, now that the moguls of Wall Street claim they are shifting their focus, will BC , with its somewhat unique corporate legislation, become a mecca for those businesses looking for a higher purpose?