Taiwan benefit corporation legislation proposals

We last wrote about benefit corporation legislation in Taiwan back in 2017, and since then there has been some movement on this topic. On 6 July 2018, the Legislative Yuan requested that the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) coordinate with stakeholders to evaluate whether a special chapter covering social enterprises and benefit corporations should be added to the existing Company Act or whether separate legislation should be introduced. The MOEA was given a year to produce a report on this topic and present it to the Legislative Yuan before August 2019. A summary of the report’s key points is outlined below:

Social Innovation Enterprise as a catch-all term

In their report, the MOEA use the term “social innovation enterprise” (社會創新組職) as an umbrella term for all organizations with a declared social or environmental purpose, whether they are companies, sole proprietorships, partnerships or cooperatives.

No special chapter in the Company Act

  • The Company Act is for companies, and is unsuitable for different organizations
  • The Company Act states that a company is a profit-making enterprise and that the responsible person should give priority to the maximization of shareholders’ interests. If the interests of third parties other than shareholders are pursued, this might violate the company’s obligations
Difficulty in passing special legislation
  • Social innovation enterprises come in many forms, which agency would provide oversight?
  • How should the responsible person implement social or environmental obligations? How would violations of the law be handled?
  • Should these enterprises be required to allocate surpluses for social good?
  • Should third-party standards be used or should such enterprises be certified by a third party? As there is no consensus across industry, the MOEA believes that legislation would be difficult to implement.
Administrative guidance in the short term
  • Issuing guidance through administrative notices provides for flexibility, and could quickly be revised or updated according to the operational needs of different types of business.
  • Strengthening and expanding an existing platform for social enterprises (Social Innovation Enterprise Registration Database). This would provide resources and support for enterprises with a declared social or environmental goal, while building consensus for possible legislation further down the road.

We will monitor developments as the MOEA continues its dialogue with business and academia on benefit corporation legislation in Taiwan.

For more information on this topic, email Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com.

Written July 11, 2019 By Christine Chen, Pei-hsu Wu.