One of the key arguments regularly levelled against anyone who openly critiques capitalist structures is that viable alternatives are hard to come by. While this argument is often poorly targetted as there is a legitimate role for many in calling out the failings of existing systems, one strong theme in much anti-capitalist activity over recent years has been that a single overarching alternative is not what is needed. Instead, many argue, we should be looking for a finer grained approach to socioeconomic structures that empowers communities to find what works best for them, and then thinking how those systems can work together.
But despite the deficiency of the charges levelled against ‘anti-capitalists,’ there is always space for more exploration of what new (or at least transitional) structures we can put in place to help society transition to more life-affirming ways of being.
I was pleased to read on Francis Irving’s blog about a new business structure being added to the UK’s legislative structure next month. Community Interest Companies will be similar to Limited Liability Companies (LLC) but with various criteria to measure whether their work is in the interest of ‘community’ (however that may be defined) and protections to ensure that the core values on which the company is founded are protected even in the case of corporate buyout or floating on the stock exchange.
So is this thing useful? It allows normal competitive trading, and has a light regulatory touch. It doesn’t prevent corporate buyout or floating on the stock exchange. But it makes sure that if either of those things happen, the goals of the company have to stay the same, and any profit can’t be sucked out of it. Perhaps this is the new corporate form to take over the world. A cautious thumbs up.
I’d have to agree. While we have yet to see how they work in practice, how effective the criteria are, or what loopholes predatory corporations can find, CICs seem like a giant leap in the right direction.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this for me is the move away from the dominant mantra in recent years that responsibility to shareholders is the most sacred notion in business, an idea that generally leads to single-bottom-line profit being the sole goal. The existence of stock exchange-floated organisations who do not have responsibility to shareholders as their central tenet, but who must balance that responsibility with responsibility to a broader (less wealth-defined) community is something of a paradigm shift and is long overdue.