As of January 16, 2012, Dharma Merchant Services became one of the first Benefit Corporations in the state of California, which is a new corporation subtype that was adopted into law on January 1 of that year under the California Corporations Code. The intention behind this new business form was to free the directors from the sole (and legal) pursuit of bottom line financial performance for its shareholders and to shift the directive towards creating a company that takes into consideration the greater benefit of the public with some positive material impact on society or the environment. The new law authorizes that the organization’s articles of incorporation be altered to reflect this basic difference. Benefit corporations must find a balance in pursuing public benefits with the financial health and obligation to their shareholders while considering the impacts of actions across the spectrum of stakeholders such as employees, customer, vendors, community, the planet, and so on.
Dharma Merchant Services was conceived with these very ideals in mind and openly welcomed the opportunity to become one of the very first California Benefit Corporations. One of the requirements for becoming such an entity is to pass rigorous social performance requirements by a recognized certification entity, which Dharma first achieved using the B Labs’ impact assessment in August of 2009. In compliance with the new Benefit Corporation legislation transparency guidelines, we are required to publish an annual report on our website with an assessment of accountability which follows here for the year 2016.
Dharma Merchant Services has since re-met the requirements of a California Benefit Corporation by re-certifying as a B Corporation in 2011, in Q1 of 2013, in Q3 of 2015, and most recently Q4 of 2017. In keeping with the principal tenets of the company, Dharma Merchant Services donates a portion of its year-end profits to a variety of charitable organizations that are selected from five primary categories, with discretionary contributions made to a number of others, all of which can be found by on Dharma’s Giving Back website page. The total amount of donations in 2014 was $68,195, for 2015 – $92,570, and for 2016 – $108,000. The policy of identifying and qualifying organizations that meet the criteria set by the company will continue in 2017.
For other public benefits, our staff continues to participate with a number of organizations fostering social change and corporate responsibility. The founder and president, Jeff Marcous, is an advisory board member with the Conscious Capitalism of the Bay Area chapter, which organized at the end of 2013 and continues to host monthly events around the topic of sustainability. Jeff is also on the Board of Directors for Washington DC-based Green America, the country’s largest group dedicated to harnessing the economic power of its stakeholders to promote ethical consumerism. Dharma also participates in community events such as volunteering to answer telephones during pledge drives at KQED Public Radio, walking in the annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention event, as well as loaning processing equipment to charities for fundraising events.
Dharma Merchant Services’ sole shareholder is Jeff Marcous who is joined on the Board of Directors by Nick Bencivenga, its COO. Dharma currently offers staff members with at least two years of tenure a stock incentive ownership program, which will reward employees upon transition of the company. In addition, all employees participate in company-paid health, dental, vision, and long term disability insurance benefits with maximum annual HSA contributions, paid commuter passes, paid gym memberships, company lunches and quarterly social outings, and generous annual bonuses.
Dharma Merchant Services has done diligence in determining that their supply chain has also been following socially responsible practices and has ongoing relationships with the following certified B Corporations: