Regulations, laws and requirements for an activity in constant movement
There is nothing new about wise firms paying attention to the social implications of their own business. Even if it has only recently come into focus within good management, what is now called Corporate Social Responsibility has, in fact, been known (if by other names) by a large portion of the Italian industrial system, and beyond. Vittorio Traversa, with his thesis ‘I “fini sociali” dell’impresa. Dall’impresa sociale alla società benefit’ (The ‘social purposes’ of companies. From the social firm to the benefit corporation), defended at the University of Turin, is an attempt to organise a chronology regarding the topic of the social effects of business activities, starting from an observation: what is called social business ‘occasionally runs the risk of assuming a generic and atechnical meaning and it is therefore useful to make a few things clear’.
Traversa starts with an analysis of the ‘social firm’ example provided by microcredit. He then moves on to discuss more sweeping subjects, the very definition of ‘social firm’ and the new structure of the so-called ‘benefit corporation’, before returning to an in-depth discussion on aspects of corporate social responsibility. He concludes his work with two chapters on the financing and budgetary aspects of companies with social purposes.
When he addresses the topic, Traversa uses legal interpretation schemes, but his reasoning is applicable even in general terms. The whole work helps us understand how the culture of a company with social purposes advanced beyond the legal and budgetary rules that were built around it, thus creating a situation of risk for the very activity that they are intended to regulate and stimulate. ‘As regards laws on the social firm,’ Traversa explains, ‘we can affirm that the results are not entirely satisfactory. (…) the lack of specific fiscal benefits, at least when it comes to undistributed profits, runs the risk of discouraging the adoption of the social firm scheme.’ However, Traversa then adds: “These limits, nonetheless, more than warranting an overall negative judgement, rather confirm how hard it is to blend business and social purposes, which until now have been kept well apart in the world of law.’
Vittorio Traversa’s work is a frank panorama of the overview of the social implications of business activities seen from a legal angle; it is also a useful approach for greater and better understanding of something that is complicated and in continual movement.
I ‘fini sociali’ dell’impresa. Dall’impresa sociale alla società benefit (The ‘social purposes’ of firms. From the social firm to the benefit corporation)
Thesis, University of Turin. Department of Jurisprudence