What is an E-CORP (Earth Corporation)?

At some point in time we got this crazy idea that we have some kind of right to own the earth and extract it contents for our own commercial and personal benefit.  This is a flawed paradigm which has led to much injustice and inequity throughout the world.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  We are indebted to the earth and the sun which provide us with everything we need to live.

The concept of the Earth Corporation was born to start to reverse this great injustice.  The simple idea is that the Earth owns the business.  Say what???  That’s right, the Earth owns the business.

[Dramatic pause to let it sink in]

When I first tell people about this idea I get that look.  You know that look.  It’s a sort of bemused expression.  Did he just say the Earth owns the business?  He must be off his rocker.  And there just may be some truth to that.  Anyway, I go on to explain that I had this crazy idea to eliminate the concept of shareholder equity by transferring the shares of EWABI, a new electric bamboo bike company, to the Earth.  How will I do that you ask.  Hell if I know.  Honestly, I am not exactly sure yet what form this transfer will take but that is not deterring me in the least.  I figure that an idea this powerful is unstoppable.  I will just will it and work it into existence.  I’ll reach out to the best legal minds in the world who are working on environmental, social and economic justice.  I’ll contact the folks over at B-Labs and see if they are ready to take the B-CORP up to the next level.   I’m self financing EWABI with my own money so I am not putting anyone else’s capital at risk so far with this amazing experiment.  I’ve already been told that at the very least I should be able to place the shares into a trust and name the Earth as the beneficiary.  I also already have a commitment from Craig Calfee, the inventor of the modern bamboo bike, to be on the board of trustees for EWABI.

Now as if the Earth owning a business and electric bamboo bikes were not enough excitement for one post, the E-CORP concept goes much deeper.  The foundational concepts of an Earth Corporation seek to nurture the Earth while also supporting social and economic justice.   The following defines an E-CORP…

  • The enterprise is owned in trust by the Earth.
  • Green bonds are used for startup funds and working capital
  • Profits are shared with employees up to 20%
  • Net Positive Resource Use
  • Zero to Landfill
  • Minimum Wage Plus
  • Defined Maximum Wage
  • Transparency
  • Open Books

This blog will explore the details of these concepts while also tracking the actual progress of EWABI.  It will serve as a means to both articulate and communicate the ideas to a broader audience but more importantly to seek feedback, guidance, support and participation as this movement gains momentum.    I’ll give a brief overview of each point this week and then go deeper in future posts.

The Enterprise is Owned in Trust by the Earth

The Earth owns the business.  I know, I’ve already said that numerous times but it is just so cool and fun to say.

Believe it or not, there are a few legal precedents where inanimate object have been conveyed rights.  Ecuador for instance included Rights of Nature language in their 2008 constitution.  New Zealand’s Whanganhui River was legally declared a person with the ability to bring legal action, via guardians, to protect its interests.  Christopher Stones “Should Trees Have Standing” and the dissenting opinion of Justice Douglas in the 1972 Sierra Club vs. Morton case also inform this topic.

We are registering EWABI in Indonesia as required by current law and are creating irrevocable clauses in the by-laws to make the commitments listed above binding.

Green Bonds are used for Startup Funds and Working Capital

The start-up money and working capital is funded by debt, specifically “green bonds” paying 5% interest.  Once the business starts generating positive free cash flow the debt is to be paid off and then the “equity” is owned by the earth.  There will be a board of Trustees to oversee that the business follows the Earth Corporation charter and also to establish and maintain parameters for how the “earth equity” is to be used.  It could be to grow the business, buy green bonds in other emerging E-CORPS or invest in the Earth (land preservation, conservation, etc.)

Profits are Shared with Employees up to 20%

This one is pretty self explanatory.

Net Positive Resource Use

Generate more of any particular resource than you use.   For instance EWABI is already generating more electricity each day than it uses.  It will grow more bamboo than it harvests.  It will collect more rain water than it uses.  The expectation is not to achieve all of this immediately.  In fact it may be difficult if not impossible to achieve for some resources, however as an E-CORP you strive daily towards this goal and post results publicly on a monthly basis.

Zero to Landfill

This is also fairly self explanatory.  The goal is to have nothing going to the landfill.  Everything that would be traditionally considered “waste” is somehow turned into an input for something else.  It’s easier said than done however as an E-CORP again you strive toward this goal and post results publicly on a monthly basis.

Minimum Wage Plus & Defined Maximum Wage

A wage bracket is established to maintain a defined ratio from the highest to the lowest paid person in the organization.  With EWABI we have defined Minimum Wage Plus as 50% above the local minimum wage and the Defined Maximum wage is ten times the lowest wage.  This keeps the wage gap relatively small and creates an incentive to raise the rate of the lowest paid person.

Transparency

All of the EWABI working documents are publically available in Google Drive.  It is a work-in-progress that is jumbled, incomplete and hardly ready for public exposure.  Nonetheless, we’ve decided that it is more important to share quickly and fully rather than worry about whether or not everything is in perfect order or presentable.  Some will ask why aren’t we worried about our competition taking our ideas.   We don’t view anyone as a competitor and welcome all who seek to lower the ecological and economic cost of mobility and transportation.  Like Elon Musk, we are committed to accelerating the transition to a clean economy.

Open Books

An E-CORP publicly publishes its financials.  While EWABI is just getting ready to produce its first financial statements, the startup expense ledgers are already publicly available.

Wow, you made it to the end!  Thanks for reading.  Was that too long?  Incoherent?  Awesome?  Let me know what you think.

You can participate in this movement by joining the newsletter, sharing it with friends and adding comments below.  You can also support an E-CORP or start one yourself.

Peace & Love,

Mark

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14 thoughts on “What is an E-CORP (Earth Corporation)?

  1. Not too long. I absorbed it in multiple reads. Not incoherent. I found the delivery very clear. There is lots to like.

    Questions:

    1. What does EWABI stand for? Do the letters represent words? Is it a word in itself?
    2. Profit-sharing up to 20%– equal shares or based on wage?
    3. Love the minimum/maximum wage idea
    4. Why is it important to collect more rain water than you use?
    5. Will you implement your various flex job / job sharing ideas?

    1. Valerie – Thanks for your feedback.
      1) EWABI – We found many surprising similarities between bamboo bikes and the traditional Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi. The “wisdom and beauty of imperfection” according to Taro Gold. The E represents E-Corp / Electricity / Earth / Environment / Equality / Everyone / Enjoyment / Enlightenment / Energy.

      Here are some links that may be of interest (Wabi-Sabi Research Brief, Wabi-Sabi on Wikipedia, Three Marks of Existence, Japanese Aesthetics)

      2) Profit sharing will be allocated based upon wages.

      3) Max/Min Wage – We love it too.

      4) It is important to collect more water than we use as there is a water crisis in Bali. The water tables have dropped to dangerous levels and some are already being infiltrated with salt water which can be irreversible. There is more than enough rain water if it is captured however much of it gets swept into drains and run out to sea.

      5) Yes, we will do our best to accommodate individual schedules and build flexibility into our capabilities through cross training and job sharing. We will build this upon a foundation of trust.

      Peace & Love,
      Mark

  2. Very cool concept… and admittedly what is to follow is a very, very preliminary, knee-jerk response:
    1) Succession of the trustees… hopefully the earth will outlive all of us. As such, you’ll certainly want to have a plan that protects earth’s ownership of the entity beyond the life of any one trustee.

    2) Try not to mix the mission of a particular business (EWABI in this case) with the EBBS (earth-based-business-structure). While the two can be congruent and complementary, it’s possible that as you look to apply the concept to other businesses, things like ‘zero to landfill’ may not apply, say to a purely service based business. Perhaps it’s not a great example… but again, see this is a knee jerk response.

    3) one thing I found interesting about the LLC construct that may apply here, is that with an LLC you can have the ownership of the entity, the ownership of the assets held by the entity, and the voting control of the entity be three separate and distinct things (i.e., I could own 100% of the assests held by the entity, yet have no voting control of the entity. Similarly, I could own 100% of the entity and none of the held assets). Notionally, this provides a great deal of flexibility in terms of the give-get proposition of people’s contributions to the business over time. I have lots of thoughts on this, if you’re interested, but the gist is that you can essentially motivate and reward people’s contributions, at points in time, without necessarily having them be a burden on the business or vice versa, over time, in the event that their contribution is time-based or cyclic or whatever (i.e., I might want to contribute a LOT of value early on – and not so much later one – but still be interested in the business… and the business might want to pay me my pro rata 20%, as you suggest, while I’m contributing and and 0% when I’m not, just like a salary… but in terms of asset contribution to things like IP or investment, etc., you might not want my initial contribution – which might be proportionately large early on, to carry the same heft over time as other contributions get made. And while dilution can often take care of this in terms of increasing the size of the pie, it doesn’t always work that way with evolving business.) This might have bearing if you elect to use the construct for multiple different businesses or projects under the same umbrella. It might also be useful when considering the ‘new’ trustee, who might be ‘inheriting’ the business way after a lot of value has already been created…
    More later.

    1. Hi Graham – Thanks for your great feedback and thoughts.

      1) Succession of Trustees – Governance is a very important piece of this structure. How we define the mission of the entity and lock it in with irrevocable commitments is key. We are still working on the language of the by-laws and incorporation documents and will be presenting that here for a deep dive in the near future.

      2) Does the E-CORP earth-based-business-structure apply universally? This is a really interesting question. The best design principles apply across all scenarios. I’d love to explore under what circumstances this structure would not apply as is. Zero to landfill certainly applies universally. What do you think does not?

      3) The impact on motivation to act and or invest time or money will be one of the fascinating things to watch with this structure. For those who invest money in green bonds the rate of return is consistent so I’m not sure I understand the idea of dilution here. The 20% that was mentioned in the post is the maximum percentage of the profits which may be allocated to employees based upon their total wages, just in cast that was not clear. The new trustees would inherit responsibility but not actual value since that is owned by the Earth. I’d love to dig into this with you more deeply as there are some great ideas here which I don’t fully have my head around yet.

      Thanks for getting involved!!

      Peace & Love,
      Mark

    1. Hi Read – Thanks for your vote of confidence. With people like you involved we will make it work together!
      Peace & Love,
      Mark

  3. Great job Mark,

    Cannot yet articulate my mind properly but the general idea is : how to make E.Corp economically / environmentally friendly enough to swarm by itself….

    to be continued..
    thanks to put this on..
    diego

    1. Hi Diego – I would love to see this platform adopted by businesses in all sectors all around the world. Step by step. I’ll look forward to hearing further thoughts from you on how to make this happen.
      Peace & Love,
      Mark

  4. As a service based business, my initial though was: “Hey, I can be an e-corp” – then I thought about the trash can under my desk, my energy consumption, the paper in my printer, the packaging of various business supplies, my partners consumption and usage and I realized – further than I though I was. We can do better. For instance – I have no clue how my data partners use energy.

    I like it.

    1) Relating this structure to be inclusive of service based businesses feels important. Barrier to entry should be lower.

    2) How does the world begin to understand this as a measure “success” of a corp or organization beyond financial solvency? Corporations should have a responsibility to shareholders for: Social Solvency and Environmental Solvency.

    3) Also, for those who do not know “you”, your history and qualification to deliver such an idea, message? Who is Mark? Why is Mark telling me this?

    1. Hi Todd – Thanks for your great input. We can all do better. Let’s do just that together. What a difference it will make.

      1) I agree that the service sector is super important and believe that the E-CORP structure can be used there as is. What do you think? I realize this sets a very high standard. I believe that is a good thing as it creates a stretch goal to drive out-of-the-box thinking. Which elements do you think are too demanding? B-Corp status is also fantastic and less challenging. Moving in this direction, regardless of labels, is very powerful and nothing prevents anyone from doing that right now.

      2) I hope as more and more businesses form with charters that address environmental, social and economic justice that people will increasingly value and support those companies.

      3) I think the idea simply stands on its own. I’ll still add a bit more of my background information, however, like my hero Bernie Sanders says, “it’s not about me”.

      Peace & Love,
      Mark

  5. Very impressive and so well thought out… I am still in the processing it all and so do not have questions yet….
    Thank you for the being so conscientious and for the insight on such a clever and universal project !

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