Art, Open Source and E-Corps…oh my!
LEAP Academy had the opportunity to meet with two entrepreneurs who have integrated the ideas of creativity, sustainability and solidarity into their creations. Mark Donovan who lives and works here in Bali invited artist and bike builder Klaus Volkmann who has Art Bikes Bamboo in Brazil to join us for a discussion about their two companies and their processes. Mark Donovan the founder of EWABI an up and coming Bamboo electric bike company is building the company as an E-Corp. More about that from Mark’s Blog.
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’s 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
- 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.
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.
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,