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Benefit Company Bill Signed Into Law

Benefit Company Bill Signed Into Law

House Bill 2296 allows companies to incorporate social causes into their by-laws

SALEM – With co-sponsors and key business leaders, Gov. John Kitzhaber today ceremonially signed into a law a bill that will help attract socially conscious entrepreneurs to Oregon.

“House Bill 2296 is a clear signal that Oregon welcomes publically-minded entrepreneurs to start and expand their businesses,” said Secretary of State Kate Brown, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Lane County, and Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Multnomah/Clackamas counties. “The bill will help attract new capital to our state and create jobs.”

The Benefit Companies legislation provides an alternative corporate status for business owners who are interested in using their company to solve social or environmental issues. Previously, corporation law mandated that businesses were solely responsible for maximizing profits for themselves and their shareholders. However, some companies embrace a broader purpose. HB 2296 allows entrepreneurs whose company qualifies to manage their business with a triple bottom line: people (employees, suppliers, and community), planet (local and global environment) and profit (shareholders). The Benefit Companies legislation allows companies to define themselves by more than just the dollar amount per share, but instead by what they hope to achieve, whether it be patronizing local, but low-income suppliers, or providing exceptional employee benefits.

“Many young people today want to start businesses, but they also seek to incorporate their social values into the enterprise. This bill will allow companies to grow and thrive in Oregon,” Brown added.

“The passage of HB 2296 is a win for both Oregonians and Oregon businesses,” said Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton.

“It not only encourages entrepreneurs to come to our state and stay, it also allows employees to bring their values to work. This legislation truly embodies the spirit of our state and its people.” Rep. Jules Bailey said, “Oregon has been a leader in showing that in business, doing right and doing well can go hand in hand. I’m proud we’ve taken the next step by making B-corps possible.”

“Companies in Oregon should not be forced to maximize shareholder profits at the expense of the public good,” said Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Multnomah/Clackamas counties, who is a business attorney. “It is a sign of great progress that Oregon companies want the flexibility to care about more than just dollar signs.”

Bill Campbell, Principal at Equilibrium Capital Group and co-leader of the Be the Change Steering Committee, praised HB 2296.

“I’m honored to have been part of the collaborative work to bring Oregon what my company, Equilibrium Capital Group, thinks is the best Benefit Company law in the nation. As a ‘certified B-Corp,’ Equilibrium has felt both the power of the principles now enshrined in this law and the responsibility of working under them.  We are looking forward to seeing what great things Oregon Benefit Companies will achieve for our communities, our state, and our planet. We commend the legislature, the Governor, and Secretary of State Brown’s very able team for giving Oregon this important law,” Campbell said.

Eric Friedenwald-Fishman founder and creative director of Metropolitan Group and co-leader of the Be the Change Steering Committee, said HB 2296 will help Oregon’s economy.

“Passing benefit company legislation has been like a barn-raising. Business leaders ranging from our largest corporations to small start ups and from across the state have joined together to further position Oregon as a pioneer of the sustainable economy. This law is good for communities, good for business and good for Oregon,” Friedenwald-Fishman said.

The Co-founder of B Lab, a nation organization that certifies benefit companies, also praised the legislation.

“By working together to pass benefit company legislation in Oregon, the entrepreneurs and legislators gathered here today are taking up the reins as leaders of the growing impact economy, creating higher quality jobs while improving the quality of life in our communities,” said B Lab Co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.

Also in attendance at today’s bill signing were representatives of Bamboo Sushi, Living Room Realty, Cleantech Law Partners, Pacific Northwest Kale Chips, Trilibrium, Learning Innovation, Alima Cosmetics, Elements Naturals, Woodfold Mfg., Inc, Supportland, Rosen, Canvas Dreams, Ater Wynne, NetRaising and the Oregon University System.

Tony Green
Written by Tony Green

Tony is the principal media contact for the Secretary of State's office. He joined the office in January 2013. Previously, he worked in the Chief Operating Officer's office and the Department of Justice. For nearly 22 years, he worked as a reporter for The Oregonian covering legal issues, politics and crime. Media inquiries: 503-507-0082.