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Understanding the purpose of benefit corporations: an empirical study on the Italian case

Giorgio Mion () and Cristian Loza Adaui
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Giorgio Mion: University of Verona

International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, 2020, vol. 5, issue 1, 1-15

Abstract: Abstract Rethinking the traditional understanding of organizational purpose appears to be necessary. A teleological paradigm shift seems to be on its way, changing the focus of attention from considering business organizations as instruments used to generate profits toward a more comprehensive understanding of their purpose and of the benefit they can create for society. Recently, new organizational entities have emerged, accompanied by the renewal of institutional frameworks, among them are benefit corporations. Italy was the first European country to introduce a legal framework to define the benefit corporation as a particular legal entity. The Italian law on the benefit corporations proposes the promotion of firms that pursue the generation of benefit in a responsible, sustainable, and transparent way and considering diverse stakeholders. This paper explores and describes the multidimensional understanding of benefit and purpose of Italian benefit corporations, utilizing qualitative and quantitative content analysis of 94 Italian benefit corporations’ purpose declarations, and providing a deep insight into the purpose declared by benefit corporations. The research highlights a certain vagueness in public declarations of the purpose of benefit corporations, even though it is clear that they attempt to differentiate themselves from traditional businesses by focusing on social objectives more than on economic ones. Furthermore, normative compliance emerged, but further normative requirements seem to be needed to make more effective the transformative potentiality of benefit corporations and to avoid risks of opportunistic behaviors.

Keywords: Benefit corporations; Purpose of the firm; Organizational purpose; Purpose-driven organizations (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1186/s40991-020-00050-6

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International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility is currently edited by René Schmidpeter and Samuel O. Idowu

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