California, like many other states, has enacted legislation allowing for the formation of benefit corporations. Cal. Corp. Code § 16400 et seq. Technically, a benefit corporation is a corporation formed under the General Corporation Law that has elected to be governed by the Benefit Corporation Law. One requirement of the Benefit Corporation Law is that the corporation provide an annual report to each shareholder that, among other things, includes an “assessment of the overall social and environmental performance of the benefit corporation, prepared in accordance with a third-party standard applied consistently with any application of that standard in prior benefit reports or accompanied by an explanation of the reasons for any inconsistent application. The assessment does not need to be audited or certified by a third party.” Cal. Corp. Code § 14630. Several companies have posted their annual reports online, including 3Degrees and Amp Your Impact, Inc.
I was more intrigued by this annual report published by a New York benefit corporation. Cape Commons Brewing Co. claims to be the first ever brewing company to incorporate as a benefit corporation. What’s the benefit to society and the environment? Here’s the company’s answer:
Considering the overall purpose of CCBC is to in fact brew beer, something we did so little of in 2013, it’s difficult to assess what general public benefit we created other than saying, “we benefited society simply by trying to exist as a company.” Which is pretty lame way of putting it, but when your daily grind consists of starting up a company, this is the best you can do.
A key ingredient in most beers is the flowers of the hops plant. The scientific name for hops is Humulus Lupulus and it is a member of the Cannabaceae plant family. If that family name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Cannabis Sativa, which is better known as marijuana. Cannabis is the Latin form of Κάνναβισ which is the ancient Greek word for hemp. Sativa is a Latin adjective meaning something that is planted or cultivated.
The famous historian Herodotus described how Hemp was used by the Scythians used Κάνναβισ (hemp) in vapor baths:
ταύτης ὦν οἱ Σκύθαι τῆς καννάβιος τὸ σπέρμα ἐπεὰν λάβωσι, ὑποδύνουσι ὑπὸ τοὺς πίλους, καὶ ἔπειτα ἐπιβάλλουσι τὸ σπέρμα ἐπὶ τοὺς διαφανέας λίθους τῷ πυρί: τὸ δὲ θυμιᾶται ἐπιβαλλόμενον καὶ ἀτμίδα παρέχεται τοσαύτην ὥστε Ἑλληνικὴ οὐδεμία ἄν μιν πυρίη ἀποκρατήσειε. οἱ δὲ Σκύθαι ἀγάμενοι τῇ πυρίῃ ὠρύονται.
When the Scythians take the hemp seed, and diving under the woolen mats, throw the seed on to the red hot stones in the fire: it burns producing vapors and it gives off so much that not one of the Greek vapor baths could surpass it. And the Scythians, admiring the fire, howl like dogs.
Herodotus, The History, Book 4, Ch. 75 (my translation).