Generating Value: Benefit Societies in Italy

Creating value – for one’s own company and its stakeholders. This is the aim of being a Benefit Society – an enterprise that, besides generating profits, integrates its mission with the idea of having a positive impact on the society and the environment. With a balance between common (i.e. social and environmental) and economic goals.

How many active Benefit Societies are there in Italy today?

In March 2023 there were almost three thousand of them; one upon three is situated in Lombardy.

The Chamber of Commerce of Taranto is monitoring the situation through a digital dashboard; at the end of 2022, the Chamber produced the first analysis tool on the Benefit Societies included in the business register, thus creating an actual Observatory.

The number of companies that choose this route is increasingly growing. Just think that on 31 December 2022 the Benefit Societies in Italy counted over 2600, with an increase of 55% with respect to 2021 and more than +300% with respect to 2020. These companies employ almost 140 thousand people. The sectors more represented belongs to tertiary – more than 45%, in fact, operate in professional, scientific, technical, information and communication activities; then come manufacturing activities, above all food and chemical industries. 35% are based in Lombardy, 11% in Lazio and 10% in Veneto.

Taranto Observatory shows that budget data of the surveyed Benefit Societies reveal a particularly virtuous dynamic in the latest years: “In the period 2019-2021, notwithstanding the outbreak of Covid emergency from the beginning of 2020, the global added value of these companies has almost quadrupled, and their net result has grown almost thrice.”

In Italy Benefit Societies had been introduced by the law n°208 of 2015; it is the second country in the world, after U.S. established Benefit Corporations in 2010. The law allows firms to add the description “Benefit Society” to their legal nature, provided that the company commits itself to fulfil one or more goals of common benefit besides profit, while operating in a responsible, sustainable, and transparent manner.

The social and environmental mission. Benefit Societies have a clear mission, one that goes beyond the mere profit. They commit themselves to solve social and environmental issues: for example, promoting environmental sustainability, improving work conditions for employees, supporting disadvantaged communities, or coping with other social challenges.

At the core of everything there is an effort to balance between the profit generation and the creation of social and environmental value – a balance that can require an innovative approach to business and a long-term commitment to integrate sustainable practices in the whole organisation. All actions must be reported to shareholders as well as to stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, communities) – Benefit Societies are bound to be transparent on their activities and social and environmental performances. In this way, transparency lays at the base of every action.

To be counted as Benefit Societies, many companies choose to obtain later on the B Corp Certification – a process involving a rigorous evaluation of performances in terms of social and environmental impact, transparency and responsibility.

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