Southern Strategy Group is leading the effort to make it easier to start social responsible firms.
A bill is making its way through the Florida Legislature right now that would make it possible to form a new kind of company in Florida — one with a focus, not just on profit, but solving social and environmental problems.
The bill — SB 654 — would allow for the creation of two new kinds of companies: social purpose corporations and benefit corporations. Additionally, existing companies can amend their bylaws to become one of the new kinds of companies.
If passed, the bill could help spur the creation of more companies in Florida, particularly companies founded by millennials. Shawn Seipler, CEO of Orlando-based Clean The World Foundation Inc., said the traditional choice for college students has been to work for a company and try to make money, or work for a nonprofit and eat Ramen noodles for the rest of your days.
“Millenials want to work in places where they can make a difference, make an impact,” Seipler said. “This opens the door for them to create companies and businesses that have a mission focus and environmental focus and to be able to create a business with a sustainable model. What’s the actual economic impact, I don’t know. But without a doubt it will have a positive economic impact.”
A benefit corporation has the purpose of creating a broad, general public benefit on society or the environment. A social purpose corporation has the purpose of creating a more narrow “public benefit,” according to a staff analysis of the bill, including:
- Providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services.
- Promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business.
- Protecting or restoring the environment.
- Improving human health.
- Promoting the arts, sciences or advancement of knowledge.
- Increasing the flow of capital to entities that provide a benefit to society or the environment.
- Florida is one of only 17 states where benefit corporations aren’t yet allowed.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for Florida, and I think Central Florida, to be a favorite to companies that want to solve social problems, but do it with smart business techniques,” said Seipler, who has traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for the law. “I hope this is the catalyst event that leads to that all over the state.”
So far, the bill has been passed unanimously by two committees, and is on the calendar for another vote.
By: Abraham Aboraya
Reporter- Orlando Business Journal