October 11, 2010

Bill Clark Quoted in Esquire Magazine

Philadelphia partner Bill Clark gave an interview to Esquire magazine for an article on the future of capitalism, and why “benefit corporations” might be the way forward. Bill, a partner in the Corporate & Securities Practice Group, works with B Lab, a Berwyn-based nonprofit striving to create a new type of business corporation. Since 2007, B Lab has been signing up and certifying companies that agree, voluntarily, to respect a "triple bottom line" that includes community and worker benefits as well as profits. These benefit corporations are legally allowed to consider the impact their decisions will have on their workers, their community, their country, and the earth -- not just shareholder impact.

Bill recalled the wariness that existed over getting involved with B Lab: "[w]hen we decided to do this, people said, 'We're a big corporate law firm, how will our clients respond?' We concluded there would be no problem. In fact, a lot of people are very happy that Drinker Biddle is actually leading this effort."

He noted that benefit corporation law is the latest evolution of the idea that you can't just leave people completely to their own devices. "I think a lot of people when they stop to think about it actually believe it's the right thing to do. We're all more focused on the state of the planet than people used to be — the rise of the environmental movement, concerns about being wasteful and not being good stewards. And in a way, it's a very conservative notion. We're not pushing the government to get involved. We want the business community to work out the answers," he said.

When asked why a company would choose to “hobble” itself in this way, Bill noted that after having the same reaction, he “learned there is a remarkable constituency of people who are driven to do business in this new way — this is driven from the bottom-up.” Bill further noted that the concept of a benefit corporation is not all idealism – while companies involved in this movement want to move away from the pure focus on profit, they also have "a strong belief they actually will prosper by behaving decently."

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