In the United States, directors of for-profit companies are required to act solely for the ultimate purpose of maximizing the financial returns to shareholders. While corporations generally have the ability to engage in any legal activities, including those that are socially responsible, corporate decision-making must be justified in terms of creating shareholder value. Mission-driven and other socially conscious businesses, impact investors and social entrepreneurs are constrained by this inflexible legal framework that does not accommodate for-profit entities whose mission and impact is central to their business model.
Benefit corporations expand the obligations of boards, requiring them to consider environmental and social factors, as well as the financial interests of shareholders. This gives directors and officers the legal protection to pursue a mission and consider the impact their business has on society and the environment.