The "mission-oriented company" status: a French-style B Corp?
"Benefit corporation", "B Corp", "mission-oriented company": these concepts cover different statutes but are part of a common trend. This trend is to enable for-profit companies to integrate into the heart of their activity the objective of developing a positive social or environmental impact.
These different statutes constitute a fundamental tool for positioning CSR (Corporate Social Responsability) at the heart of the economic model which is currently in full renewal regarding the current major environmental, social and safety issues.
1- What is a "benefit corporation"?
The concept of a "benefit corporation" comes from the law of certain American states. This social form was designed for for-profit companies wishing to integrate a social or environmental mission into their governance and management structure. Currently, 35 US states have passed the benefit corporation model as a statutory requirement. In the remaining states, companies can choose the B Corp label.
2- What is the B Corp label?
The B Corp label is a private certification, which is different from the statutory legal notion of "benefit corporation". It was created in the United States, where it is awarded by B Lab: it is intended to bring together for-profit companies wishing to promote a positive societal impact.
The main purpose of the B Corp label is to guarantee the integration of the societal mission at the heart of the company's overall performance. This mission is re-evaluated every 3 years.
Today, the B Corp label includes about 2800 companies in 60 countries around the world, operating in more than 150 different sectors. By the end of 2019, 80 French companies have been B Corp certified since 2014, and this number is still growing.
More than a label, B Corp is also a community. B Corp-certified companies are encouraged to develop a principle of interdependence: they intend to develop common projects and to exchange in many forms.
Obtaining the B Corp label is highly demanding: the company must answer an assessment form with 200 questions grouped into 5 areas: governance, employees, communities, environment and customers. The score obtained must exceed 80 points to obtain the B Corp certification.
3- The "mission-oriented company" of the PACTE law: a true French-style B Corp?
The “Pacte” law of 22 May 2019 introduced the new status of mission-based company into French law. This new status is intended to broaden the purpose of the company to objectives other than profit sharing.
The notion of mission-based company thus aims to reconcile the notion of common interest of the partners and the general interest.
The company must meet three conditions in order to define itself publicly as a mission-based company:
- The company must have a "mainspring" ("raison d'être") as defined by the new article 1835 of the French Civil Code.
- The company must have a "mission" understood as one or more environmental or social objectives that the company aims to pursue in the course of its business.
- The company must have a "mission committee" in charge of monitoring the execution of the mission.
The mission-based company qualification may be publicly displayed by the company, particularly on the company’s certificate of incorporation (“Kbis”).
Several French companies have already seized this new status, notably Groupe Rocher (formerly Yves Rocher Group), Maif and the start-up Openclassrooms.
The motivations of companies wishing to qualify as B Corp or mission-based companies are diverse: to meet the growing expectations of consumers-citizens; to attract new investors; to attract new talents who are increasingly sensitive to the social and environmental impact of their company as well as the sense of their function… Whatever the underlying objectives of the approach, these various statutes are now becoming increasingly popular with the economic players, and that is for the better.