Governor Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 361 enacting a new kind of corporation for California, the B-Corporation. You may be familiar with B Corporation Certification which already exists. However B Corporation Certification and California's new B-Corporation are different. B Corporation Certification is certification awarded by NGO B-Labs which certify companies that operate under sustainable principals.
California's new B-Corporation legislation, effective January 1, 2012, allows a new business to legally incorporate as a Benefit Corporation, or an existing corporation to change its legal designation to a Benefit Corporation. The Benefit Corporation shall have the purpose of creating a general public benefit. Under existing corporate law, Corporations owed a fiduciary duty to its shareholders, and all decisions must be made with the shareholders' interests as paramount. Decisions made to maximize sustainability, minimize detrimental impact to the environment, and/or maximize social benefit could leave directors liable to shareholders if those decisions negatively impacted shareholders. With the new B-Corporation legislation, however, directors would have maneuverability in making such decisions without the concomitant liability.
AB 361 encourages corporate transparency. Indeed, as part of the legislation, B-Corps must include in their annual reports a review of the corporation's overall social and environmental performance. In addition, B-Corps must post all of its benefit reports on the public portions of the corporate web site, if there is one.