What Would the Founding Fathers Do about Corporate Persons?

crowd cheeringMy friend Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How, told me that the real purpose of her book on collaboration didn’t become apparent until she started to give author talks. She noticed that all of her audiences asked the same question: how could they transform their top-down approach to strategic planning and execution into collaborative “stratecution” Her book was really about Stratecution. Nilofer’s advice was to let my book sit, unpublished, for a year to allow its deeper purpose to surface.

Just as Nilofer suggested, a deeper purpose has begun to emerge through speaking engagements. HULT International School of Business recently invited me to give a TEDx talk about benefit corporations. The Angels Forum and Nichols Investment Advisors had invited me to talk to their groups about my book, and I used these speaking opportunities to dry run elements of the TEDx talk.

Preparing for these talks made me realize that the benefit corporation provides one answer to the fundamental philosophical question never answered by the Founding Fathers: What are the rights and moral responsibilities of our corporations? This unanswered question lies at the root of the collective angst expressed by Occupy Wall Street and the 99%. It is also the question suggested by Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This question is especially pressing in an interdependent global economic system dominated by multinational corporations.

Benefit corporations answer this question by requiring for profit corporations to also provide a material positive impact on society and the environment, which creates a formal legal architecture to activate a corporate social conscience. I think the Founding Fathers would approve of this new corporate entity.

What is emerging from these talks is that Great from the Start also suggests an answer to this fundamental philosophical question that the Founding Fathers did not address in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The book suggests how to build companies that awaken a planetary conscience that protects not only their shareholders but also society and the environment by applying the business secrets of Silicon Valley.

How many other authors have had similar experiences with their books?

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