On the morning of March 29, President Ma Ying-jeou attended the opening ceremony of the 2016 B Corp Annual ASIA Forum. In addition to praising "B Corporations" for their spirit of innovation and community service, he also spoke about what the government has done to promote social innovation and entrepreneurship, and reported on successes achieved on this front.
In remarks, the president stated that "B Corporations" promoted by US nonprofit B Lab maintain a balanced focus on organizational management, employee benefits, social concern, and environmental sustainability, and have fully developed legal accountability and public transparency mechanisms to provide greater benefits to stakeholders. There are now over 1,600 Certified B Corporations and benefit corporations in 47 nations. B Lab is actively promoting B Corporations, said the president, who praised B Lab for continuing to exert a positive force for change.
The president pointed out that there are many Certified B Corporations in Taiwan including Greenvines, DOMI Earth, and NPOchannel. A total of seven companies in Taiwan have obtained B Corporation certification since June of 2014, which means that in Taiwan, more companies have obtained B Corporation certified in a shorter period of time than in any other Asian nation. In addition, two co-founders of DOMI Earth, Corey Lien (連庭凱) and Tammy Hu (胡德琦), received the Building the Movement 2015 award from B Lab. These facts show that the spirit of B Corporation values is taking root.
Commenting on the Taiwan government's efforts to promote the development of social enterprises and its successes to date, the president stated that the Executive Yuan launched the Project for Social Enterprises Action Plan in September of 2014, under which the government has adopted four major strategies—adjusting regulations, platform building, fund raising, and nurturing of social enterprises—to provide an environment conducive to the development of social enterprises. At the same time, our government is actively working to put idle facilities to good use. Examples include the former site of the ROC Air Force Headquarters, which has been turned into the TAF Innovation Base, and the former premier's residence, which has been converted into a social enterprise hub and youth startup base, Taiwan's first one-stop business startup service center. This project provides an excellent model for how to establish win-win cooperation between the public and private sectors.
Commenting on the platform-building strategy, President Ma mentioned that the government organizes street markets, lectures, workshops, and international experience-sharing conferences in an active effort to get its message out to the public and private sectors. To prompt social enterprises to develop information transparency, the government is cooperating with the Taiwan NPO Self-Regulation Alliance on a pilot project to register social enterprises. As a strategic advocate for business incubation, the central government liaises with local governments, traditional industries, entrepreneurs who have started businesses in rural Taiwan, and local entrepreneurial communities via the Mobile Entrepreneurship Taiwan 368 Action Plan. The idea is to sow business startup resources throughout Taiwan, thereby helping young people make their dreams come true.
The president further pointed out that the government launched the HeadStart Taiwan program to fortify the business startup environment. As of March 21 of this year, a total of 30 legislative items, including 10 laws and 20 regulations, have been amended to ease restrictions. Last July, for example, the Legislative Yuan amended the Company Act to add an entire new section governing "closed companies," thus giving newly founded companies greater flexibility in their capital raising options. Commenting on the strategy of facilitating the raising of capital, President Ma noted that the government established the Go Incubation Board for Startup and Acceleration Firms (GISA) in January of 2014 to provide a capital-raising platform for non-public companies with innovative and creative ideas. As of April of 2015, the Executive Yuan's Financial Supervisory Commission allows private firms to engage in equity-based crowdfunding, and an entrepreneur visa program has been launched to attract foreign entrepreneurs to apply their technical expertise and bright ideas in setting up new companies in Taiwan. In addition, the Executive Yuan's National Development Fund invested NT$1 billion last October in a newly established Taiwanese company that successfully developed an electric scooter.
In order to bring Taiwan's business startup environment more closely in line with international practices, said the president, the National Development Fund established the Taiwan Startup Stadium in March of 2015, which has facilitated cooperation between numerous Taiwanese and foreign venture capital firms. As of the end of 2015, five investment plans involving Taiwanese and foreign partners have been approved, raising approximately US$450 million. In addition, the government has also taken steps to strengthen ties with Silicon Valley, one of the world's key entrepreneurial hotbeds, by establishing the Taiwan Silicon Valley Tech Fund and the Taiwan Innovation Entrepreneurship Center to help Taiwanese startups make inroads into international markets. All these initiatives are an indication of the vigor of technological innovation in Taiwan's domestic industries.
President Ma also commented on the ROC government's overseas community service initiatives. For example, in 2012 when he visited Burkina Faso, an ROC diplomatic ally in Africa, he noticed children rolling out blankets on the ground and using solar-powered LED lamps donated by Taiwan to do their school work. It was a very moving sight, he said.
And finally, the president stressed that the government will continue to support the development of B Corporations and social enterprises by pursuing legislative action as well as devising and implementing related policies. The government, he said, intends to provide startups with strong and reliable backing, and hopes that B Corporations and social enterprises will continue striving to propel Taiwanese startups onto the world stage.