Perpetual Purpose Trust and Organically Grown Company: Rethinking Corporate Ownership for the Future

by Laura Tyson, Steen Thomsen, Robert Strand, Emily Pelissier, Eva Gurfein Borge

Is steward ownership the solution for mission-driven businesses facing the trade-off between purpose and profits? Organically Grown Company (OGC), a pioneering organic produce distributor in Oregon, transitioned from a nonprofit to a grower-owned cooperative to an S-Corporation with an Employee Stock Option Plan, to a Benefit Corporation owned by a Perpetual Purpose Trust - becoming the first US company to adopt this model. Steward ownership allowed OCG to separate economic benefits from voting rights and support its founder’s dual commitment to shared representation and independence. A committee of stakeholders ensures OCG upholds its mission to distribute profits to investors and employees.

Learning Objectives

1. Assess how an organization's corporate ownership and governance structure may need to evolve to accommodate growth, adapt to changes in strategy and/or uphold its values.
2. Explain the history of steward-ownership in Europe and the United States and how it relates to concepts of stakeholder capitalism and shareholder primacy.
3. Evaluate the decisions of the Organically Grown Company to understand the potential application of Perpetual Purpose Trusts for businesses with social/environmental missions.
4. Explore the pressures faced by sustainable food and agriculture companies caused by widespread consolidation in the CPG industry.
5. Assess the benefits and downsides of various alternative ownership and governance structures, such as cooperatives, Benefit Corporations, and ESOPs.


Pub Date: July 1, 2024

Discipline: Entrepreneurship

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, Business Model Innovation, Environmental stewardship, Stewardship

Product #: B6060-PDF-ENG

Industry: Farming

Geography: United States, Oregon

Length: 9 page(s)

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