Realizing a Social Purpose Over Maximizing Shareholder Profits

Michael Hannigan was the keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual Stakeholder Dialogue on April 23, 2015, at the University of St. Thomas. Hannigan is the co-founder and president of Give Something Back, Inc., a California-based office supply company, and one of the first companies in California to incorporate as a benefit corporation.

As a benefit corporation, Give Something Back, Inc. is a for-profit firm and their executive and directors commit to pursuing a social purpose. Hannigan discussed his firm's philosophy and the innovative ways in which the company commits to realizing its social purpose instead of maximizing shareholder profits. In addition, he shared his insights on the challenges and rewards of pursuing the benefit corporation business model.

A response was offered by Dr. Patricia Werhane, Ph.D., professor and Wicklander Chair Emeritus of Business Ethics at DePaul University. Dr. Werhane discussed this form of business structure relative to others and provided an interesting historical perspective. The panel discussion was moderated by David Rodbourne, vice president of the Center for Ethical Business Cultures at the University of St. Thomas.

In January, 2015, Minnesota joined a growing list of other states that have passed public benefit corporation legislation. This made the discussion about benefit corporations relevant and engaging to the audience, which included several founders of Minnesota-based public benefit corporations.

The program was introduced by Dr. Daryl Koehn in the Ethics and Business Law Department and co-sponsored by the Koch Endowed Chair in Business Ethics, the Veritas Institute, and the Center for Ethical Business Cultures, all based at the Opus College of Business.