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Socially Enterprising Peace Coffee Files as Public Benefit Corporation

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Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie addressing the representatives of 20 companies being incorporated as the state’s first Public Benefit Corporations. Photo courtesy of the Office of MN Secretary of State.

Minneapolis-based roaster and retailer Peace Coffee joined a short list of Minnesota companies filing as a public benefit corporation on the first available day under a new state statute.

Minnesota is now one of some two dozen states that maintains some framework for incorporating public benefit corporations, which can be loosely defined in the United States as for-profit corporations that pursue general or specific public good locally and farther afield through their missions and business practices.

The popularization of public benefit corporations among U.S. lawmakers is not merely so legislators and businesses can pat themselves on the back for their good deeds — social enterprise is in many economic experts’ minds a fast-growing and critically important business segment that already affects millions of American employees and represents a significant chunk of the U.S. GDP.

As in most states, Minnesota’s statute doesn’t include any tax benefit to incorporated business nor to individuals investing in them. Incorporated businesses will be required to annually submit a public report to the Secretary of State that details how they “met their public benefit.” The public benefit of each corporation is self-defined and is proclaimed in the articles of incorporation for the purpose of transparency.

“Many Minnesota businesses are eager to file as a public benefit corporation to demonstrate to their community and customers that they want to make a positive impact on society, and not just a profit,” Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said in a Jan. 2 announcement.

Peace Coffee initially launched operations in the basement of its parent organization, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in 1996, and was a co-founder of the importing group Cooperative Coffees. The company opened its first retail store in 2010 and has aggressively expanded in recent years with nationwide grocery accounts, wholesale accounts and multiple other branded retail locations.

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