We are very pleased to announce that in March of 2016 WaterSmart Software officially became a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). A Benefit Corporation is a new legal designation in 22 states so far that allows us to legally and officially recognize a purpose beyond maximizing shareholder value (as “normal” corporate status requires), by considering the public benefits of our work. In short, when we make decisions from now on we are now legally obligated to consider not just the impact on our finances and our shareholders, but also on the environment, our community, and our stakeholders including our employees, customers, and partners.
The legal designation of a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) is a recent development - the State of Delaware (where WaterSmart and about half of all US companies are incorporated) made this designation available in 2013. The importance of this designation shouldn’t be understated and it’s not getting nearly as much attention as it should. The obligation to take into account and even prioritize the impact that a company’s decisions have on the environment, customers and employees is an ENORMOUS change from the corporate status quo. In most corporate structures, profit (or in much of Silicon Valley, the hope of future profit) is king, and priority is given to maximizing shareholder value. While many corporations talk about their values, when push comes to shove they may find it challenging to stay true to those values if shareholder wealth creation is perceived to be at risk.
WaterSmart’s dedication to having a positive impact goes back to our mission-driven founding in 2009. Long before our decision to become a PBC, we were certified as a B-Corporation (a precursor to the legal Benefit Corporation status) that includes a bi-annual assessment of our corporate practices and public display of those scores. We’ve always done fairly well on the environment and governance scores since first being certified in our first year of operation in 2011), but the assessment also helped us to identify areas for improvement. We’ve built out our parental leave benefits and worked on being more inclusive in our hiring. To support our communities, we are now designing a more comprehensive volunteer service program.
We’ve also set our goals high in terms of impact. Recently, WaterSmart made a commitment as part of the first-ever White House Water Summit to expand our utility partnership community to reach more than 45 states and over 5,000 water utilities with our digital customer-engagement technologies over the next ten years. We estimate that as a result of this expansion, we can help utility partners save more than 128 billion gallons of water (the equivalent annual water use of 1.2 million households) and more than 1 million metric tons of CO2e.
At WaterSmart, our values are the core of what we do, which is why we jumped at the chance to become a PBC. Our mission is to change the way the world uses water. This is a pretty lofty mission, and our team is dedicated and excited to striving to achieve it. Our passion to work on such a critical issue never wanes because we are constantly reminded of the importance of water by the millions of people in developing countries who have little access to clean water, by what’s happening in Flint, by the impact of drought on water supplies from California to the Mediterranean. We’re really proud of the work we do with water utilities and our results (almost 4 billion gallons saved already), but we also know we are just getting started, and we’re excited about how our new status as a PBC will give us even greater power to reach our goals!