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Bolagsordningens syftesbestämning för aktiebolaget - En studie av vinstsyftets ställning i aktiebolagsrätten och dess förenlighet med Corporate Social Responsibility

Thorslund, Gustav LU (2013) JURM02 20131
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, är ett begrepp som skapats vid diskussioner om att bolag bör ta ett bredare samhällsansvar. Debatten om huruvida ett aktiebolag kan och ska ta ett bredare samhällsansvar utöver att sträva efter vinstmaximering för dess aktieägare, har blivit alltmer intensiv på senare tid, inte minst pga. den globalisering som sker av aktiebolagens verksamheter. CSR fokuserar på bolagens externa förhållanden till sin omvärld och anknyter till frågor som rör bolagsledningens rättsliga förutsättningar att fatta beslut inom ramen för sitt uppdrag. Det blir mot bakgrund härav relevant att undersöka huruvida CSR är förenligt med de grundläggande principer som finns beträffande svenska aktiebolag.

En aspekt som är viktig... (More)
CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, är ett begrepp som skapats vid diskussioner om att bolag bör ta ett bredare samhällsansvar. Debatten om huruvida ett aktiebolag kan och ska ta ett bredare samhällsansvar utöver att sträva efter vinstmaximering för dess aktieägare, har blivit alltmer intensiv på senare tid, inte minst pga. den globalisering som sker av aktiebolagens verksamheter. CSR fokuserar på bolagens externa förhållanden till sin omvärld och anknyter till frågor som rör bolagsledningens rättsliga förutsättningar att fatta beslut inom ramen för sitt uppdrag. Det blir mot bakgrund härav relevant att undersöka huruvida CSR är förenligt med de grundläggande principer som finns beträffande svenska aktiebolag.

En aspekt som är viktig att beakta vid diskussionen rörande CSR och aktiebolaget, är att bolagsledningen till följd av bestämmelsen 3 kap. 3 § ABL ska sträva efter vinstmaximering, om inte annat anges i bolagsordningen. Aktiebolaget drivs enligt bestämmelsen med ett vinstsyfte. Lagstiftaren har i förarbeten till ABL uttalat att en anpassning av ett bolagets syfte till att ta ett bredare samhällsansvar inte ska ske genom lagstiftning, utan att det är aktieägarna och bolagsledningen som ska styra verksamheten efter CSR-normer. Vidare har lagstiftaren öppnat upp för att aktiebolaget ska kunna drivas helt eller delvis utan ett vinstsyfte.

Vinstsyftet enligt 3 kap. 3 § ABL spelar en betydande roll för förståelsen av aktiebolaget som bolagsform. Vinstsyftet utgör en grundprincip i ABL och fungerar som ett aktieägarskydd såtillvida att bolagsledningen inte ska överträda syftet vid handlandet för aktiebolaget. Vinstsyftet har vidare en stark påverkan på ABL, speciellt på kontrollinstrument av bolagsledningens agerande enligt 17 kap. ABL, 29 kap. ABL. Revisionen av bolagets ekonomiska förhållanden genomsyras också av vinstsyftet. ABL bygger på att det skapas ekonomiska värden för bolaget och uttrycker dess nytta i ekonomiska termer, vilket förstärker att vinstmaximering är en grundprincip för svenska aktiebolag.

När förändringar sker i bolagsordningen förändras aktiebolagets konstitution. Bestämmelserna i bolagsordningen utgör den ram inom vilken bolagsledningen ska förhålla sig vid bedrivandet av bolagsverksamheten. Syftet och verksamhetsföremålet spelar här en avgörande roll. Förändringar av bolagsordningen så att bolagets verksamhet anpassas efter CSR-målsättningar bidrar till bolagsledningen ges utrymme att beakta CSR i större utsträckning vid sitt beslutsfattande.

Det är mot bakgrund av förarbetsuttalandena och vinstsyftets betydelse för regelverket i ABL intressant att diskutera vilka förändringar av bolagsordningen som leder till att aktiebolaget kan ta ett bredare samhällsansvar, samt hur dessa lösningar är anpassade till aktiebolaget som associationsform. Ett aktiebolag som bedrivs med ett renodlat vinstsyfte har begränsade möjligheter att genomföra transaktioner av CSR-karaktär om det inte kan påvisas en affärsmässig nytta för bolaget. En modifiering av vinstsyftet att antingen bedriva verksamheten med pluralistiska målsättningar dvs. vinstsyfte i kombination med samhällsnyttomaximering, eller bedriva verksamhet där vinstsyftet helt har övergetts ger främst upphov till kontrollsvårigheter av bolagsledningens handlande. Sådana lösningar är svåra att förena med aktiebolaget som associationsform pga. bestämmelserna i främst ABL, men också i andra regelverk som är tillämpliga på svenska aktiebolag.

En lösning kan vara att vinstutdelningsbestämmelserna i bolagsordningen modifieras på så sätt att bolaget delar ut vinstmedel till en tredje part som inte är aktieägare, exempelvis kan bolaget dela ut vinstmedel till organisationer som stödjer sociala syften. Lösningen innebär att vinstsyftet fortfarande är styrande som rättslig norm för aktiebolaget. Enligt min uppfattning är en sådan lösning därför mer lämplig för ett aktiebolag som vill ta ett CSR-ansvar, eftersom förändringen enbart påverkar vem som är mottagare av vinstmedel i bolaget men inte vinstsyftet som rättslig norm. (Less)
Abstract
The debate on CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, and whether a corporation should take a broader social responsibility beyond striving for profit maximisation for its stockholders, has received an increasing interest during the last years. The globalization of the companies business operations has an important role on the impact regarding the debate. The question about CSR and a broader social responsibility of the companies focuses on the external relationships between the companies and their stakeholders. The debate also relates to matters concerning the legal ability for the management of the corporation to make decisions within the scope of its operation for the company. It is against this background relevant to examine whether CSR... (More)
The debate on CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, and whether a corporation should take a broader social responsibility beyond striving for profit maximisation for its stockholders, has received an increasing interest during the last years. The globalization of the companies business operations has an important role on the impact regarding the debate. The question about CSR and a broader social responsibility of the companies focuses on the external relationships between the companies and their stakeholders. The debate also relates to matters concerning the legal ability for the management of the corporation to make decisions within the scope of its operation for the company. It is against this background relevant to examine whether CSR is compatible with the fundamental principles concerning Swedish corporations.

One aspect that must be reflected during the discussion of CSR and the limited company’s scope for taking these measures in to account is the profit motive. The management of a company shall, as a result of Chapter 3, Paragraph 3 in the Swedish Companies ACT (“Aktiebolagslagen” [2005:551]), strive for the maximization of profits, unless otherwise is specified in the Articles of Association. As a result of the regulation, the corporation operates with a principle of profit maximisation. The legislature has in the legislative history to the Companies Act stated that an adaptation of a corporations purpose to take a broader social responsibility should not be created through legislation. The legislature states that it is the shareholders and management of the company to control its activities after quality standards of CSR. Furthermore, the legislature has opened up for the possibility to operate a corporation with wholly, or partially, without a profit motive.

The principle of profit maximisation plays a significant role in the understanding of the corporation’s ways of conducting business. The profit motive constitutes a fundamental principle of the Swedish Companies Act, and serves as a protection for the shareholders that the management of the corporation does not violate the purpose when conducting their assignment for the company. The profit motive has furthermore a strong influence on the regulation in the Swedish Companies Act, especially the monitoring instrument of management's actions under Chapter 17 and Chapter 29 of the Swedish Companies Act and the audit that is to be made by the corporations financial condition, are permeated with profit motive. The company legislation is based on generating economic values for the corporation and expresses its utility in economic terms. These facts reinforce the profit maximisation as a guiding principle for Swedish companies.

If the shareholders votes for changes in the Articles of Association, they change the corporation’s constitution. The provisions in the Articles of Association are the frameworks, within which the conduct of the management should comply. The purpose and the object of the company’s business in the Articles of Association play a vital role for the governing bodies in the company. Changes of the Article of Association, to be adjusted according to pursue CSR-objectives contribute to that such questions would have a wider impact on the decision making in the company by the management.

It is against the background of the legislatures statements in the legislative history to the Companies Act, and the significance of the principle of profit maximisation for the regulation in the Swedish Companies Act, interesting to discuss which changes of Article of Association that leads to the taking of a broader social responsibility by the corporation, and how these solutions are designed for the stock company as legal form. A limited company which operations is to be conducted with a purely profit-making has limited opportunities to conduct transactions of CSR character, if commercial benefits can’t be shown for the company. A modification of a companies purpose to either operate with pluralistic goals i.e. profit motive in combination with social utility maximization of any kind, or operating a business where profit objective has completely been abandoned, increases the problems of determination, measuring and monitoring of the management's actions. The solution of modifying a limited company’s purpose to an alternative purpose are difficult to reconcile with the idea of the corporation as the legal status due to the regulatory the corporation operates within.

A solution where the dividend regulations in the Article of Association are to be modified means that the corporation is given an opportunity to distribute parts of its profits to organizations that support social purposes. The solution means that the profit objective is still ruling as the legal standard for the corporation. In my view, such a solution is therefore more suitable for a corporation that wants to take a CSR responsibility, because the change only affects who is the recipient of the profits of the Company and not the principle of profit maximisation as a legal standard for the Company. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Thorslund, Gustav LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
The Articles of Associations aim of legal standard for the corporation - A study of the principle of profit maximisation's status and its compatibility with Corporate Social Responsibility
course
JURM02 20131
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Corporate Social Responsibilty, Bolagsordning, Associationsrätt, Vinstsyfte, Aktiebolagslagen, Association Law
language
Swedish
id
3802006
date added to LUP
2013-06-05 18:49:11
date last changed
2013-06-05 18:49:11
@misc{3802006,
  abstract     = {The debate on CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, and whether a corporation should take a broader social responsibility beyond striving for profit maximisation for its stockholders, has received an increasing interest during the last years. The globalization of the companies business operations has an important role on the impact regarding the debate. The question about CSR and a broader social responsibility of the companies focuses on the external relationships between the companies and their stakeholders. The debate also relates to matters concerning the legal ability for the management of the corporation to make decisions within the scope of its operation for the company. It is against this background relevant to examine whether CSR is compatible with the fundamental principles concerning Swedish corporations.

One aspect that must be reflected during the discussion of CSR and the limited company’s scope for taking these measures in to account is the profit motive. The management of a company shall, as a result of Chapter 3, Paragraph 3 in the Swedish Companies ACT (“Aktiebolagslagen” [2005:551]), strive for the maximization of profits, unless otherwise is specified in the Articles of Association. As a result of the regulation, the corporation operates with a principle of profit maximisation. The legislature has in the legislative history to the Companies Act stated that an adaptation of a corporations purpose to take a broader social responsibility should not be created through legislation. The legislature states that it is the shareholders and management of the company to control its activities after quality standards of CSR. Furthermore, the legislature has opened up for the possibility to operate a corporation with wholly, or partially, without a profit motive.

The principle of profit maximisation plays a significant role in the understanding of the corporation’s ways of conducting business. The profit motive constitutes a fundamental principle of the Swedish Companies Act, and serves as a protection for the shareholders that the management of the corporation does not violate the purpose when conducting their assignment for the company. The profit motive has furthermore a strong influence on the regulation in the Swedish Companies Act, especially the monitoring instrument of management's actions under Chapter 17 and Chapter 29 of the Swedish Companies Act and the audit that is to be made by the corporations financial condition, are permeated with profit motive. The company legislation is based on generating economic values for the corporation and expresses its utility in economic terms. These facts reinforce the profit maximisation as a guiding principle for Swedish companies.

If the shareholders votes for changes in the Articles of Association, they change the corporation’s constitution. The provisions in the Articles of Association are the frameworks, within which the conduct of the management should comply. The purpose and the object of the company’s business in the Articles of Association play a vital role for the governing bodies in the company. Changes of the Article of Association, to be adjusted according to pursue CSR-objectives contribute to that such questions would have a wider impact on the decision making in the company by the management.

It is against the background of the legislatures statements in the legislative history to the Companies Act, and the significance of the principle of profit maximisation for the regulation in the Swedish Companies Act, interesting to discuss which changes of Article of Association that leads to the taking of a broader social responsibility by the corporation, and how these solutions are designed for the stock company as legal form. A limited company which operations is to be conducted with a purely profit-making has limited opportunities to conduct transactions of CSR character, if commercial benefits can’t be shown for the company. A modification of a companies purpose to either operate with pluralistic goals i.e. profit motive in combination with social utility maximization of any kind, or operating a business where profit objective has completely been abandoned, increases the problems of determination, measuring and monitoring of the management's actions. The solution of modifying a limited company’s purpose to an alternative purpose are difficult to reconcile with the idea of the corporation as the legal status due to the regulatory the corporation operates within. 

A solution where the dividend regulations in the Article of Association are to be modified means that the corporation is given an opportunity to distribute parts of its profits to organizations that support social purposes. The solution means that the profit objective is still ruling as the legal standard for the corporation. In my view, such a solution is therefore more suitable for a corporation that wants to take a CSR responsibility, because the change only affects who is the recipient of the profits of the Company and not the principle of profit maximisation as a legal standard for the Company.},
  author       = {Thorslund, Gustav},
  keyword      = {Corporate Social Responsibilty,Bolagsordning,Associationsrätt,Vinstsyfte,Aktiebolagslagen,Association Law},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Bolagsordningens syftesbestämning för aktiebolaget - En studie av vinstsyftets ställning i aktiebolagsrätten och dess förenlighet med Corporate Social Responsibility},
  year         = {2013},
}