Center for Corporate Citizenship Director Bradley Googins (right) chats with his predecessor, Edmund Burke (left), and University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, during the center's 20th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Sharon Sabin)
Celebrating 20 Years of Corporate Citizenship
By Reid Oslin
Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship last week celebrated its 20th anniversary with a three-day conference that indicated just how far the center has come since it began in 1985 as the Center for Corporate Community Relations.
The conference, held April 3-5 at Boston's Hynes Convention Center, drew more than 500 participants from 40 states and 23 nations. Major speakers at the event included Starbucks Coffee Co. CEO-designate Jim Donald, Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, ImagineNations CEO Rick Little, futurist and author Andrew Zolli, and Tom McCoy, executive vice president for legal affairs and chief administrative officer of AMD.
"It all reflects what has happened to the whole issue of corporate citizenship, not only in this country but all around the globe," said the center's executive director, Bradley K. Googins. "Not only did we have two-dozen countries represented at our conference, we easily have 20 or 30 countries that have come here to say, 'Can we take what you are doing here and bring it home to our own country?'
"The center has become a focus globally as much as nationally," Googins said.
Besides its primary mission of promoting corporate citizenship as an integral part of business strategy, the center has also become a beacon of research in the field, says Googins, who has headed CCC since 1997.
"We have the largest group of researchers under one roof that focus on corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship. Our core of competency was in the training courses, the educational courses that we offer, and people still look for that now. But they are also looking to us for research and leadership and that has made a major change in our strategy."
The center opened on a much smaller scale. Edmund Burke, who had taught community organization in the Graduate School of Social Work since 1965 and served as GSSW's dean from 1976-80, had spent two years in Washington, DC, as a member of President Jimmy Carter's Domestic Policy Commission. While working at the White House, he helped introduce strategic planning into state government organizations and headed up the first national presidential conference on strategic planning.
"When I came back to campus, we started working on things relating to social work and industry," Burke recalled. "Ronald Reagan had come in as president and implemented budget cuts in social services and education, and he called upon the business community to pick up the slack and become involved in their communities.
"The next thing you know," Burke said, "there was a lot of activity in this area. I talked to a lot of people and found that many of the companies were at a loss as to how to manage this. We decided that we would run an institute that was guided by community affairs people in the Boston area."
Burke prepared a curriculum for an institute that debuted in the fall of 1983. "We thought we would run this once a year. If we were ambitious we could do it twice. We were flooded with requests.
"So the next thing, we decided we would form a center," Burke said.
BC's then-president, Rev. J. Donald Monan, SJ, embraced the idea. "We recognized it as a first-class idea right from the start," said Fr. Monan, now University chancellor, who along with Burke enlisted the assistance of a number of top corporate executives and government officials to form an advisory committee for the new organization.
"We just caught a huge wave," said Burke. "And it worked."
Burke served as center's director until 1997 when he retired, but still serves the organization in an advisory capacity. "Brad picked up the corporate citizenship wave - that was the second one," Burke said. "Now a third wave is on the horizon, integrating all of this into the operation of a company."
Googins agrees. "We are working much more deeply with companies now trying to develop the next model of organizational citizenship," he said. "Our mission is much different now than it was 10 and certainly 20 years ago. We believe that businesses are in a position, because of globalization and because of their power, to really make some substantial contributions to a just and sustainable world.
"That's part of our Boston College heritage," Googins added, "and it's also part of our reputation that we have both the highest quality education and research, and we stand for something, too."