Blog : Benefit Corporation Coming to New Hampshire; Progressive Businesses Strive to Be Early Adopters of Novel Legislation

By Anna | Nov 6, 2014 | in

Starting January 1, 2015, qualifying New Hampshire businesses can join corporations in over 25 states with a benefit corporation legal status. The Green Alliance, along with W.S. Badger Company, Inc. and Nearby Registry hope to be among the first in the state to adopt this status. This new legislation will help companies include both the public and the environment in their business plans in a new, defendable and promotable way.

Companies that choose benefit corporation status pledge to make a tangible, positive impact on the environment and the community. Businesses designated as benefit corporations make a commitment to meet higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability and transparency. These companies account not only for profit in their business plan but also include people and the environment in what is known as the triple bottom line.

Becoming a benefit corporation can help community oriented businesses target and promote their values, such as community building, environmental awareness, sustainable practices and more. It can also provide marketing opportunities and legal benefits to help companies reach like-minded customers and retain their values over time.

"Benefit corporations have the opportunity to bake their values right into their legal DNA," said Holly Ensign-Barstow, Policy Associate for B Lab. B Lab, the nonprofit organization responsible for the initiation of benefit corporations, promotes the use of higher business standards to solve social and environmental problems.

After becoming a benefit corporation, companies make an annual report available demonstrating the steps they have taken to pursue general and specific public benefit in the past year, the extent to which these benefits where achieved, and any hindrances the company experienced in achieving its public and environmental benefit goals.

"We are learning all we can about this new company designation which will be available in New Hampshire starting January 1, and doing our due diligence to not only promote the heck out of it as a viable means for a company to prove its progressive and environmental mettle, but also see if we can’t be one of the first New Hampshire businesses to obtain this business status,” says Sarah Brown, founder and Director of the Green Alliance. “One of the tricky aspects of this designation is that the business has to be a corporation so it unfortunately may not work for many small, green-minded businesses in New Hampshire that are registered as Limited Liability Corporations (LLC’s). We are working through those bugs now to act as a sort of business guinea pig for other progressive New Hampshire companies in regards to this exciting new designation.”

“Luckily we’ve had the pleasure of connecting with lawyers from Drummond & Drummond who are graciously helping us through the process in ways we probably couldn’t have done on our own,” explains Brown. “If it works for us financially, we do plan on becoming a Benefit Corporation early in 2015 with the help of legal counsel from Drummond & Drummond.”

The Green Alliance works to unite green companies with the ever-growing, green-minded consumer community. Since its inception in 2009, the GA has partnered with progressive businesses in New Hampshire, such as Smuttynose Brewing Co., NHPTV, and more, to promote sustainable business practices. The Green Alliance also offers the community two membership programs: The Green Card and Green Families Club, which provide discounted goods and services for nearly 4,000 members at Green Alliance Business Partners. All businesses in the GA are green-certified, a transparent requirement for both the Green Alliance and the state’s new Benefit Corporation designation.

“The timing for the new legislation is ideal,” Brown added. “More and more consumers are demanding progressive thinking from businesses both big and small.” New Hampshire’s new Benefit Corporation designation will provide consumers with a transparent seal of approval and analysis of that company’s environmental and progressive products, services and management.

There are no changes in taxation for implementing benefit corporation status, which makes joining fairly easy. B Lab has released a free Balle Quick Impact Assessment (QIA) on their website. The QIA is intended to provide a snapshot of a company's sustainable impact. A more comprehensive company score is generated by the B Impact Assessment, which determines whether they can become a Certified B Corporation. Business owners may also schedule a free Assessment Review Call with B Lab staff, to ensure their results are accurate and comparisons are meaningful.

Once designated as a benefit corporation, a business is required to publish publicly an annual benefit report that includes "an assessment of [its] overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard," according to the B Lab website.

This requirement is intended to help the benefit corporation, its directors, its shareholders and the general public determine whether the benefit corporation has met its statutory corporate purpose to generate products and services with a "positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, assessed against a third party standard."

In addition to pursuing their own status as a benefit corporation, the Green Alliance qualifies as a third party standard certifier in New Hampshire. As a third party certifier, the Green Alliance has the potential to help educate the local community to think about the products and services they use and the impact those services have on the environment.

Providing sustainability certifications is something the Green Alliance has done since launching in 2009. Green Alliance Business Partners receive a Sustainability Certification: a three-piece document reporting a business's overall community and environmental practices that scores each business's sustainability practices on a scale from 0 to 10. Business Partners are given the final report to share with consumers or other businesses. All of the Green Alliance's Business Partner's certification documents are transparent, comprehensive and made available on the Green Alliance website.

As a possible third-party certifier with B Lab, the Green Alliance would offer a similar service to those companies seeking the benefit corporation designation.

"It is something we would like to do to help other businesses on their path to being green," said Brown. "We're still working out the finer details of whether this would be a possibility for us, but it would be a great opportunity to grow the green business sector here in New Hampshire."

To learn more about the Green Alliance, click here or on Facebook and on Twitter at Green_Alliance

Find out more about benefit corporations by clicking here.

Learn more about the legal aspects of becoming a Benefit Corporation in NH with Drummond & Drummond here