Future-Forward: Innovations for a world that does not yet exist

Mission-Centric Businesses Rise in the Midst of Shareholder-Centric Crisis

“It is the entrepreneurial spirit that has always led the evolution from one age to the next” -M. Thomas

A little-appreciated but powerful for-benefit model is emerging in mainstream business, found among companies that manage to be publicly traded while keeping control in mission-oriented hands. Interface, for example, a Fortune 100 flooring company with revenues of $1.1 billion, is well on its way to being the first company that “shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions.”

Other publicly traded companies have tried to make this kind of long-term commitment, but have had to soften the goal through the ups and downs of the stock market. What supports Interface’s mission is a rarely mentioned but vital element in its social architecture: a dual-class governance structure that allows the company to be a mission-controlled enterprise, one whose governance structure reflects both the need for ongoing sufficient profit and a broader social priority.

Mission control allows capital to trade freely, even as it ensures that the mission is not for sale. It allows leaders to focus the company so that mission becomes the focal point while profits are energetically pursued. The critical success factor is that these companies do not set making money apart from other goals; there is no false choice between making a profit and fulfilling other missions. This is one of several new hybrid business models emerging across markets worldwide over the past decade.

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