The B Corp movement, gaining ground in North and South America, faces a new challenge as it arrives in the UK

James Perry is a man on a mission. The chairman of Cook, a manufacturer of quality ready meals, is determined to use his business as a force for good – but has struggled for many years to find the right way to express his commitment.

“We always had a view of the business that was broader than just making money,” says Perry. “But the idea of using the business as a force for good was confusing for people. Even our management team couldn’t get behind the idea – they thought there was no substance behind it.”

All that changed in 2010, when Perry met Jay Coen Gilbert at a social business conference in San Francisco. Gilbert and his business partner Bart Houlahan discovered the limits of the traditional corporation in 2005, when they tried to sell their sports clothing business to a buyer who shared their values – and discovered that their legal obligation to maximise shareholder returns meant that they were forced to sell to the highest bidder.

Arguing that current corporate forms are too narrowly focused on maximising shareholder returns to be a real force for social good, they developed the benefit corporation, or B Corp – a new type...

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