Joel Makower has a post on a bill introduced into the the California state Senate.
California’s Bold Move to Legitimize Sustainable Business
A bill introduced in California’s state Senate last week holds enormous potential to give sustainable business a push by making it — well, legal.
Under current law in California and most other states, companies can be sued by their shareholders or investors for taking environmental or social measures that negatively affect shareholders’ financial returns. The proposed bill would enable a new form of for-profit corporation, encouraging and expressly permitting companies to pursue other things besides simply making money.
If you wonder why money takes a priority over the environment, the attorneys help remind the executives of their responsibility and risk for not focusing on making money.
This is no small matter. The legal issue of fiduciary responsibility has long been seen as a barrier to companies taking more proactive social and environmental measures. In many cases, it has given companies a fig leaf to avoid taking substantive measures to, say, clean up pollution or avoid sourcing from sweatshops. Indeed, the requirement for companies to put profits above all else has been blamed for much of society’s ills — at least the kind allegedly propagated by business. And the alternatives have been a cold cup of tea: to become a nonprofit organization, a hybrid model championed by social entrepreneurs, or some other legal entity frowned upon by capital markets. That pretty much guarantees that these "good" companies are destined to remain small.