Four house bills in Michigan move benefit corporations forward

Businesses with triple bottom line move forward with enabling legislation by State House action.

A series of House Bills were introduced earlier this week in Lansing to make “benefit corporations” more mainstream in Michigan. A benefit corporation is a relatively new business model, one that makes ecology and community as important as profits when conducting business.

Legislation introduced for bills: HB 5710, HB 5711, HB 5712 and HB 5713

HB 5710 generally defines a benefit corporation as having “specific public benefit” that includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

  1. Providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services
  2. Promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business
  3. Preserving the environment
  4. Improving human health
  5. Promoting the arts, sciences, or advancement of knowledge
  6. Increasing the flow of capital to entities that have a public benefit purpose

HB 5711 mostly addresses reporting requirements for a benefit corporation, such as a mandatory annual benefit report. Included in the report should be:

  1. A narrative description of the way(s) in which the benefit corporation pursued the corporation’s general public benefit purpose during the year and the extent to which general public benefit was created.
  2. A narrative description of the ways in which the benefit corporation pursued any specific public benefit included in the purposes of the corporation in the articles and the extent to which that specific public benefit was created.
  3. A narrative description of any circumstances that have hindered the creation by the benefit corporation of general public benefit or a specific public benefit described in subdivision A or B.
  4. The process and rationale for selecting or changing the third-party standard used to prepare the benefit report.
  5. An assessment of the overall social and environmental performance of the benefit corporation that meets one of a series of requirements (please review the HB 5711 for additional information on requirement).

HB 5712 inserts a definition of a benefit corporation into a section of statute relating to corporations more broadly. For example, as the[CAN1]  bill states, “benefit corporation” means a domestic corporation that meets the requirements for being a benefit corporation under Chapter 9A and has not terminated its status as a benefit corporation under that chapter.”

The final bill, HB 5713, introduced, to support Benefit Corporations is also reporting related. Additional information can be found by viewing the actual bill or by visiting legislature.mi.gov.

To eliminate any confusion, there is a difference between B Corps and benefit corporations. The former is a certification process by a third party. The non-profit organization, B Lab, which certifies corporations on their “B” level status, states the difference: “Certified B Corporation is a certification conferred by the nonprofit B Lab. Benefit corporation is a legal status administered by the state [...] Benefit corporations do NOT need to be certified.” Both examples are essentially designed to support the triple-bottom line concept.

Benefit corporations are now becoming increasingly popular in Michigan. But Michigan is not alone in this effort. Additional examples of states moving forward with legislation can be found here

Michigan State University Extension helps communities learn how to improve their social and economic appeal to create livable communities and retain jobs. Community leaders are given the tools they need to have a positive effect on their cities, villages, townships, counties and the entire state. 

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