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Insights / November 14, 2013

Public-Benefit Corporations Coming to Minnesota?

By Sara Simon

We sure hope so!

Here’s the scoop:

As the name suggests, public-benefit corporations are state-chartered corporations that treat the goal of a social benefit just as legitimately as they do the goal of a profit.

The idea isn’t entirely new. In fact, it’s only a little bit of a stretch to claim that the roots of public-benefit corporations trace back to the 17th century. Dust off that bit of early American history that’s hiding deep in your memory, and bear with me for a totally abbreviated minute. 

In the 1620s, England granted a charter to the Massachusetts Bay Company that allowed the company to colonize an area in New England. John Winthrop and his Puritan pals quickly took control, but focus on the general principle. The English monarchy granted a charter that allowed a company to make an investment that was, in its fundamental design, intended to benefit the people rather than create a profit. Phew!

Wait. What does this have to do with Minnesota?

In more than a dozen states, public-benefit corporations currently fill the gap between nonprofit organizations and regular for-profit corporations. There’s talk that Minnesota might adopt the legal structure soon.

Tonight, we’ll be attending “Public Benefit Corporation Law: The Right Thing for Minnesota?” The Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities is hosting the event, and the panel is set to feature Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, CEO of thedatabank Chris Hanson, and Jennifer Reedstrom Bishop, an attorney at Gray Plant Mooty.

(It’s worth mentioning that public-benefit corporations are often confused with Certified B Corporations. Lots of handy information about the two found here.)

As we hope you can tell, the idea of a benefit corporation fits in quite well with the Software for Good mission. The future of business is really exciting, and we’re thrilled to be joining the conversation.