Every social entrepreneur has their own unique dream of how they are going to change the world, striving to find a sweet spot where the needs of the world overlap with their skills and passion.
That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a positive impact. It will look different in every social enterprise.
Some social entrepreneurs just generally want to run their business in a positive social and environmentally responsible manner taking into account the impact they are having on all their stakeholders. We’ll call them the generalist.
The Generalist wants to be a good environmentalist by reducing waste, increasing recycling, reducing toxins and lowering their carbon footprint. She wants to be a good member of her local community by working with community organizations to help the neighborhood thrive. She treats her employees and suppliers with respect. She also seeks a prosperous relationship with her investors.
In the B Corp parlance, the Generalist is creating a General Public Benefit.
Some social entrepreneurs are passionate about a single social or environmental issue. We’ll call him them the Expert.
The Expert has a single-minded focus on an issue such as providing low-income, underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services; promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business; preserving the environment; improving human health; promoting the arts, sciences or advancement of knowledge; increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose; or the accomplishment of any other particular benefit for society or the environment.
For instance, a furniture company may wish to exclusively employ formerly incarcerated individuals or ice cream shop may wish to use only organic and all natural ingredients or a social network may wish to take extra steps to preserve their community member’s privacy.
In B Corp parlance, the Expert is creating a Specific Public Benefit.
In most states, B Corps are required to create a General Public Benefit, but selecting a Specific Public Benefit is optional. The baseline requirement is the General Public Benefit, but the social entrepreneur may wish to go above and beyond and pursue a Specific Public Benefit in addition to the General Public Benefit.
It’s worth noting that Colorado and Delaware essentially only require a Specific Public Benefit.
Whether you are creating a General or Specific Public Benefit, and regardless of the state you select, you will have to measure your social / environmental performance and publish those results in your annual benefit report.