For over 40 years, we have strived to ethically and equitably pursue our mission to “Restore the Earth and Inspire Ecological Stewardship.” We did our best to maximize self-governance, continually improve our work and culture, and invest our profits in our company, team members, and allied causes. However, we did so within the confines of a traditional corporate ownership structure. And that structure has limits.
Yesterday, we broke through those limits by becoming a Perpetual Purpose Trust.
Unlike traditional business models, where profits serve shareholders, in a Perpetual Purpose Trust, profits exist to serve our larger purpose. Protecting biodiversity, adapting to climate change, and righting environmental injustices demand bold steps—including changing the way we structure business. We transitioned to a Perpetual Purpose Trust because we believe it is a life-affirming model to reimagine capitalism.
Just as we understand the need to care for and protect Earth’s ecosystems, we recognized the need to steward what we’ve created at Biohabitats so that it can never be bought or sold, and so that we can continue pursuing our mission, upholding our values, and honoring the tenets of our DNA (Wholeness, Self-Governance, and Evolutionary Purpose) in perpetuity. We refer to our new ownership structure as the Biohabitats Purpose Trust, and our team members and stakeholders–including Nature itself–will play a critical role in its governance.
What exactly is a Perpetual Purpose Trust? How will the Biohabitats Purpose Trust operate and be governed? How did we come to this decision? We will explore all of these questions and more. We’ll also provide resources to help you learn more about alternative ownership structures and the purpose economy movement.
In his own words, Biohabitats founder and president, Keith Bowers, describes why and how we decided to become a Perpetual Purpose Trust. We also provide a Biohabitats Purpose Trust FAQ with more details.
We also chat with leading experts on alternative ownership structures, Natalie Reitman-White and Elle Griffin. Natalie was a leader at the Organically Grown Company. Elle worked on Wall Street in mergers and acquisitions. Today, they lead Alternative Ownership Advisors, a company that has deftly guided us, along with many other U.S. companies, through the transition to Trust ownership.
Leaf Litter’s Nonprofit Spotlight shines on Purpose Foundation, an organization that is disrupting the typical relationship between money and power as they helping companies set up equitable ownership, governance, and financing structures.
This milestone in our journey presents an opportunity for reflection, and we do just that as we look back on Biohabitats’ 40-year history. Environmental Scientist and poet, Tanaira Cullens, shares her poem, “Purpose,” and Senior Water Resources Engineer and Practice Lead, Ted Brown reviews Tom Butler’s book, A Wild Idea.” The book tells the remarkable story of The North Face founder and Esprit co-founder, Doug Tompkins, who abandoned corporate capitalism for a life dedicated to conservation.
Speaking of purpose, Leaf Litter’s has always been to inform and inspire. We do not typically seek the spotlight, and we hope you’ll forgive this once-in-nearly-two-decades indulgence. But we also hope that you will be informed and inspired by our news and by what we share in this issue. Whether you decide to explore alternative ownership structures for your own organization or recommend them to those you support, we invite you to join us in the movement to make business a source for creating conditions conducive to life.