I've long had an interest in various companies that take a "socially responsible" approach to business in various sectors. However, many such companies are often very small, at least in part, I perceive, due to fear of being acquired by a larger company that won't respect the company's "social" goals.
Stonyfield is a counter-example mentioned in the documentary film Food, Inc. They were acquired (well, 85% of shares, I believe) by Danone, which has allowed Stonyfield to retain their management, and their social goals.
But many other companies tend to lose their social zeal when acquired--or even with a change of management.
Are there any legal options or vehicles (specifically in the U.S.) that can be used to ensure that a company retains specific core guiding principles even after going public?
A possible scenario would be a company that starts with the goal of, say, selling 100% organic recycled and hormone-free toilet paper. They do such gangbuster business, that they want to expand, so they do an IPO, and now the stockholders vote to replace management (or existing management retires, dies, or is otherwise replaced), and the new management decides that hormones are an awesome addition to toilet paper.
Is there anything the founder might have done differently before going public, and giving power over to his stock-holders to add hormones to his toiletry products?
Of course, I realize that as any stock holder would be loathe to not have the power to change the direction of a company they bought... but if they knew before they bought stock that the rules for hormone-free paper products were set in stone, they might not have bought the stock, right?
Other examples of "socially-conscious" efforts that I can imagine a founder might want to ensure will remain in tact after their tenure:
- Open books / financial transparency
- High standards for employee treatment (wages, working conditions, vacation policy, etc)
- Vendor standards (only buy locally, etc)
- Distributor standards (only sell locally, etc)
- Product quality standards
- Environmental standards
- Philanthropy or charitable contribution of a portion of profits