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The First European Benefit Corporation: Blurring the lines between ‘social’ and ‘business’

Alissa Pelatan

Roberto Randazzo

In December 2015, the Italian parliament passed the “Stability Act of 2016”, thereby creating the “Società Benefit”, an innovative management structure for entrepreneurs looking to pursue common benefits. More precisely a “Società Benefit” is a company which pursues one or more “common benefit” purposes as well as an economic activity. The “Società Benefit” is the first ‘Benefit Corporation’ created in a civil law legal system and the second one created in history (after the basic form created in the US). The characteristics of a “Società Benefit” are very similar to a US Benefit Corporation, a legal entity introduced in 30 jurisdictions in the USA. The “Società Benefit” should not be confused with the B-Corp certification, which is a label offered to any company that scores more than 80 points on the B Impact Assessment and obtains a private certification from B Lab.

This article will analyze the new Italian law introducing the “Società Benefit” starting with a comparison between the US and the European context, highlighting common aspects and peculiarities, and pointing out the potential impacts of the Italian experience on other EU Members’ legal systems. We will then further develop the relationship and the interaction, if any, between “B” certification, the “B” impact assessment and the “Società Benefit” under the new Italian law. Finally, we will predict the global out-come and benefits related to the increasing dissemination of Benefit Corporation, B-Corp companies, and new similar models in Europe.

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