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Celebrity mainstream economist endorses “benefit corporations” and has even more “un-mainstream” ideas on business/non profits

You’re probably familiar with Robert J. Shiller, especially if you care about home prices. Now he is offering advice on morphing business and social organizations.

Professor Shiller, widely-known for the highly regarded S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices Methodology on home valuation, has just offered these comments in The New York Times:

“We might benefit from the so-called benefit corporations … A benefit corporation is halfway between a for-profit and a nonprofit. It has two purposes: to provide profits to shareholders and to achieve an announced social goal. The law obligates the corporation to achieve both and ensures that it doesn’t exist only to make money”.

There a now reportedly some 1,045 B Corporations established in 34 countries (in the U.S, they are legal in about half of the states), and in 60 industries. Although most of the B corporations are not household names, some of the more popular brands in this form of capitalism are Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Ogden Publishing.

Professor Shiller’s opinion on the future of the benefit corporation: “My guess is that it will be a big success, because it can inspire loyalty, co-operation and real purpose, which helps create profits. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experiment with other corporate forms to encourage giving.”

And he has suggested such forms in his latest book: “Finance and the Good Society”, Princeton 2012.