On January 1st, 2016, Italy became the first European country and the second country in the world – after the US – to create a new legal status called “Società Benefit” (Benefit Corporation).
With the Law n. 208/2015, the Italian Government introduced the Benefit Corporation status for companies willing to combine the goal of profit with the purpose of creating a positive long term impact for the society and the environment.
As of today, there are more than 200 Italian Benefit Corporations.
For the list of the Italian Benefit Corporations visit the: OFFICIAL REGISTER
The choice to become a Benefit Corporation is completely voluntary, and has no impact on existing companies, on other legal forms, and from a tax point of view.
In order to become a Benefit Corporation, a company has to, among other things:
1. Amend its articles of association
A Benefit Corporation needs to declare the common benefit that it intends to pursue in the object clause of its articles of associations. Therefore, the company will not only pursue the purpose of profit, but also other specific purposes of common benefit.
“Common benefit” is defined as the creation of positive effects (or the reduction of negative ones) vis-à-vis individuals, communities, territories and the environment, cultural and social heritage, entities and associations as well as other stakeholders.
Unlike ”traditional” companies, which have the exclusive purpose of distributing dividends to shareholders and investors, directors of a Benefit Corporation have to manage the company with the aim of pursuing the common benefit, taking into consideration the interests of all stakeholders.
2. Appoint an Impact Manager
A Benefit Corporation needs to identify one or more individuals to be appointed as Impact Manager(s), with the specific tasks of pursuing the common benefit. The Impact Managers need to report the activities of the company in a complete and transparent way.
3. Publish an Annual Benefit Report
A Benefit Corporation is required to produce and publish on its website an annual benefit report, which will also be attached to its annual financial statements.
The annual benefit report allows to inform the stakeholders about the overall social and environmental performance of the Benefit Corporation.
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You can find more info on the Italian Benefit Corporation (in Italian) at the following link: www.societabenefit.net
The Italian legislation on Benefit Corporation (in English) at the following link: http://www.societabenefit.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Italian-benefit-corporation-legislation-courtesy-translation-final.pdf