Opinion: B.C. passes legislation to create new kind of company

Credit: Wilson Hui/Flickr

Businesses pursuing environmental, social goals now have legal recognition and support

The B.C. Green caucus’s landmark legislation just passed to make British Columbia the first province to provide a legal framework for businesses committed to pursuing social and environmental goals to incorporate as benefit companies.

In bringing forward this legislation, we were inspired by the business model that B Corporations already live every day. B Corps are those companies that are certified through B Lab, which measures a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community and environment. They are incredibly innovative companies that are already using their businesses as a force for good.

We must empower business leaders who are willing to do more good in the world. Whether it be climate change, rapid transformations in the nature of work or growing income inequality, today’s challenges call for us to harness the power of business to help us find solutions.

By having benefit company legislation on the books, B.C. is doing more to support early adopters who want to embed environmental and social values right into their corporate DNA, and we are encouraging more businesses to follow their lead.

To incorporate as a benefit company, directors must enshrine in their articles a commitment to operate responsibly and sustainably and to pursue specific public benefits, whether for people or the environment. Directors of benefit companies would need to balance this broader commitment to society with their existing duty to act in the best interests of the corporation. They would also need to report their work annually against an independent third-party standard. We don’t think directors should have to risk facing greater liability in trying to do good, so now there are legal protections for them as they try to achieve this balance.

The B.C. Greens were able to pass this legislation, the first of its kind in the country, and the first private member’s bill from an opposition party in the province. Government lent its support to this initiative throughout the process, and it passed with the unanimous support of all three parties. This represents a refreshing new way of doing politics. That is because supporting British Columbians who want to build their businesses sustainably, while also serving their communities, is a nonpartisan cause every MLA can get behind.

B.C.’s economy is strong because of its people, its abundant resources and its remarkable perseverance even as it faces unprecedented challenges. With each visionary step toward a new path, we continue to unlock our potential. This legislation is just one more step on that journey.