IFC asked the question a few years ago: Is the idea of a "for-benefit" corporation a hot new business model or just a passing fad?
While I don't think that for-benefit companies will be taking over Wall Street in the immediate future, it does seem clear that the idea is here to stay. And a number of states (California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Vermont) are willing to accommodate the idea with legal protections designed to distinguish them from for-profit companies.
I try to keep an eye on the progress of laws to protect for-benefit companies. I think we can all agree that entrepreneurship is good for our economy. For-benefit companies create a motive for entrepreneurship beyond simple profit. I know people who will argue that that's silly – that no motive beyond profit is necessary. They're wrong, of course. And protecting for-benefit companies will provide fertile group for innovation, too.
The biggest threat to the success of for-benefit companies is that they will become profitable and succeed – at which point they must usually give up their for-benefit status (Ben & Jerry's is the classic example). Unless new laws are put in place to protect the for-benefit motive for entrepreneurship…