Florence, 29 November – Last Friday, at the headquarters of Cassa di risparmio di Firenze, the First National Day of Benefit Corporations was held. It was promoted and organised by AssoBenefit, the association for protection and promotion of the B enterprise model.
In honour of the first anniversary of AssoBenefit, the phenomenon that first took shape on 3 December last year, the event was held “because we believe the sheer strength of these experiences has the potential to change the rules of the game and spread the values and model of these companies, which are the future of business”. These were the words of association president, the Honourable Mauro del Barba, who drafted Italy's first ever law on Benefit Corporations.
He welcomed guests and thanked all stakeholders, who immediately and whole-heartedly lent their support to the association and everything it stands for. "Parliament is certainly keeping its finger on the pulse and is working on Benefit Corporations as well as on the broader concept of a new economy, one that is better for everyone."
The efforts of this enlightened group of companies have therefore not gone unnoticed. They are all courageous pioneers of a new and healthier business model that is finally becoming a topic of political discussion.
The central theme of the day develops on this premise in order to answer questions from the traditional and for now, contentious business world: Why embrace Benefit? Why should it become an integral part of any law? Why become part of a team and join an association like AssoBenefit?
Let's start from the beginning: Benefit corporations are those which “not only avoid committing offences, but actually nurture the context they operate in. There's a greater sense of responsibility for what isn't done whenever something could be done, rather than for what is actually done. It is a strong notion of responsibility ” (Stefano Zamagni) towards society and the environment. Benefit Corporations are a national asset Italy should be proud of: “they structurally combine economic operations and activities with a positive impact, starting from their articles of association” (Paolo Ciocca).
The afternoon started with a panel of nine women, who Mauro del Barba presented as "the heart and soul of Benefit". They told the story of their nine enterprises, focusing on the identity principles they aim to leverage in order to redesign the new economic paradigm.
These companies are rich in values that today are the veritable strong points of a product or service:
"Benefit corporations are resilient and this is why they cultivate perseverance and the capacity to learn from mistakes and improve." — Ruhma Rinaldi, Little Genius International.
"Benefit corporations make room for life: for employees, the community and the planet." — Serena Stoppoloni, Antica Erboristeria.
"Benefit Corporations are innovative and this is why they cultivate inquisitiveness, flexibility and the capacity for taking risks." — Lucia dal Negro, De-LAB.
"Benefit Corporations are inclusive, and this is why they cultivate diversity." — Sara Cirone, Sara Cirone Group.
"Benefit corporations are forward-thinking, and this is why they cultivate a visionary outlook and the capacity to look beyond." — Myriam Giangiacomo, Bottega Filosofica.
Of course our very own Laura Gori, Founder & CEO, was present as spokesperson and founding member of AssoBenefit, a committed ambassador of the B movement right from the start.
"Benefit Corporations are passionate about what they do and this is why they cultivate courage, intuition and a pinch of healthy folly. These are the premises that inspired me to incorporate Way2Global: Three years ago, I discovered the fascinating world of Benefit Corporations and their mission to change their world. I was truly impressed. This renewed passion, coupled with intuition, a whole lot of courage and a little recklessness, inspired me to wrap up 30 years of classic business and establish Way2Global as a Benefit Corporation, a certified B Corp. The energy of this new vision inspired me to close an important chapter of my business life, walk away from my previous company which I'd steered with blood, sweat and tears to the top 100 players in its sector at a global level, a formidable war machine that generated numbers and profits, in favour of a small start-up: I started from scratch. A Benefit start-up that is a source of immense satisfaction every single day, because it makes you feel part of a bigger picture, one that is nobler than your personal interest. Of course it hasn't been easy, it is a continuous challenge, which demands boldness and determination to continue innovating and generating social impact, even in critical times. But this is what is so appealing about being an entrepreneur for Benefit: You have an idea and transform it into value for others."
Laura Gori — Founder & CEO of Way2global
If it is possible to generate a positive impact even without changing the law, then why is it so important not only to declare, but to institutionalise social and environmental commitment?
"In this economic and model-changing phase, it is important to declare oneself as Benefit, to set an example for a new economic model" — Monica De Paoli
A new economic model that cannot be promoted by a handful of virtuous yet isolated companies: Creating a system is a fundamental requirement for succeeding in this momentous endeavour. No company is an island, cooperation, communication, sharing and interdependence are keywords for networking and creating a strong, unique movement.
"There are already networks that at a global level propose initiatives for developing the Benefit market and the impact economy — and in this game we need to play as a team as much as possible, to create a single system that can become the largest in the world" — Roberto Randazzo.
Which brings us to the last question. This is why AssoBenefit was founded a year ago: "Why should a company become a benefit corporation? Why should it join AssoBenefit? To change the economic model, together" — Mauro del Barba
The First National Day of Benefit Corporations at which we are proud to have made our small contribution, is an important new milestone toward achieving Italian sustainable enterprise, a target we feel is increasingly within reach.