So far, we’ve previously talked about the broad category of Conscious Capitalism, and how being a Certified B-Corp is one form a company can take that aligns with Conscious Capitalism values.
A company can also take on another structure that further serves these values. Where being a Certified B-Corp is focused on a set of criteria set by a third-party, PayActiv also chose to become a Public Benefit Corporation which would hold us accountable to a third-party but also legally bound us to a specific set of standards.
A Public Benefit Corporation is a legal incorporation available in many, but not all, US states. These companies are for-profit corporations like any other, in that they create value for their shareholders.
However, a Public Benefit Corporation is also empowered to consider the impact of its operations on employees, customers, the community, and the environment. Public-benefit corporations are held accountable to this standard through an annual third-party review. They must also publish an annual report describing social and environmental performance.
How is all this different from a regular corporation? The answer lies in the sentence just above, which reads, “a Public Benefit Corporation is empowered to consider the impact of its operations on employees, customers, the community, and the environment.”
Aren’t all corporations required to do these things? No.
Corporations, by law, owe what is called a “fiduciary duty” to only one group: shareholders. A fiduciary duty means an obligation to act in the best interest of another party. This means being honest, disclosing all material facts, sticking to transparent accounting, obeying the orders of the Board of Directors, and exercising reasonable care and diligence….but only for shareholders.
Fiduciary duty is one of the oldest duties of loyalty and care in human contract history. It’s considered the highest duty of all. For a company to be empowered to serve other interests was, at one time, considered to be ridiculous if not outright disloyal to shareholders.
PayActiv chose the route of being a Public Benefit Corporation because we believed our duty was to everyone we directly or indirectly came into contact with. It wasn’t even an option to us. It was both natural and right.
Doing so liberated us from the necessity to serve only one small group of people. That very liberation – that freedom – was something we believed should be shared with all workers. If we needed freedom to serve others, we should be providing some kind of freedom to others.
That is the very essence of earned wage access. Access is freedom. This is the public benefit we strive to bring to you, our users.
Any business can claim to be operating “sustainably” or “consciously,” but it’s not always clear what those terms mean. Some of the companies using these labels are truly dedicated to pursuing a higher purpose, but others may simply be slapping a trendy label on their enterprise.
At PayActiv, we didn’t want there to be any confusion about who we are, what we do, and how we impact the world outside our front door. We wanted to find a way to not only specifically impact the world, but to do so positively and verifiably.
We had no interest in being trendy or having a nifty label to show off.
We wanted to be accountable to you, our users. You have a right to know who you are working with, who is providing your access to your earned wages, and to whom you have entrusted with the responsibility of getting you paid when you want to be paid.
We also wanted to be accountable to your employer, who saw the value we would bring to their ecosystem.
But we also wanted to be accountable to another standard, one that was actually written into our charter. That made us accountable to ourselves. Everybody who works at PayActiv has to feel in their heart and soul that they are doing more than just working at a company, but working at a company that changes the way the world for the better.
Becoming a Public Benefit Corporation fulfilled these goals.
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