Change.org's Ben Rattray on Why the Tech Industry Holds the Key to Renewing Capitalism

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“One of the most important vehicles for advancing social change is business,” says Ben Rattray, who is CEO and founder of Change.org, an online petition site that has attracted over 45 million users since launching in 2007. “We passionately believe in this idea that the short-term economic returns that people think drive a lot of public companies actually undermine both social good and economic good.”

Rattray, who was named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people under 40 in 2012, grew up wanting to be an investment banker in the mold of Gordon Gekko. But after his younger brother had an emotional coming out as a gay man, Rattray decided to switch career paths and focus on social change.  

“It’s not that money doesn’t matter,” states Rattray. “It’s that it’s in service of something much bigger. And I think people are happiest when they are part of a meaningful organization where they feel like they are making an impact.”

So why are companies in the tech sector leading the way in the social empowerment movement? Rattray believes it is due in part of the very nature of tech platforms that are inherently designed to empower their contributors, thus making them more responsive to their needsâ€"a movement he says that will revive capitalism by making businesses more beholden to their consumers’ demands. 

Rattray cites the massive online consumer mobilization trend as an indicator of this and states that it is the reason why so many companies are now focused on including social changes goals within their organizational structures. 

One of the ways businesses are demonstrating this is through attaining benefit corporation status. Benefit corporationsâ€"also known as b corporationsâ€"are a new class of for-profit corporations that voluntarily meet higher standards or corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. Since Maryland became the first state in 2010 to pass benefit corporation legislation, 22 states have signed similar legislation into law and there are nearly 1,000 certified b corporations worldwide. 

Rattray, who was one of the early adopters of b corporation status, believes more companies will follow suit. “It’s a real opportunity from a brand perspective to gain trust in the community. And the people that are not doing it don’t feel so much pain, however, once you hit a critical mass and it starts gaining momentum, companies that are not b corporations will look more suspect.”

Approximately 6 minutes.

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Paul Detrick and Todd Krainin. After effects graphic by William Neff.

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