Setting Standards For The Global Marketplace: Boston College's Center For Corporate Citizenship

Thursday, January 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Bradley Googins, Executive
Director, and Cheryl Yaffe Kiser, Marketing Director, The
Center for Corporate Citizenship of Boston College's Carroll School of
Management.

Editor: Please tell us about The Center for Corporate Citizenship.


Googins:
The Center for Corporate Citizenship ("CCC") was
founded some eighteen years ago at the Wallace Carroll School of Management at
Boston College to provide a resource on corporate citizenship. Its mission is to
establish corporate citizenship as a business essential. No corporation
functions in a vacuum. It is a member of a larger community - it is a citizen -
and it functions as an economic and social force that touches both individuals
and organizations within that community. As a consequence, a corporation has a
responsibility, we at CCC believe, to take an active role in addressing social
and economic and community concerns. CCC advances its mission, as a practical
matter, by trying to convince business enterprises that their success depends
upon acting as responsible citizens and as members of the communities and
societies in which they operate across the world. CCC is a membership
organization with about 350 corporate members, most of which are from the
Fortune 500. It is these member companies that are the standard-bearers for the
concept of good corporate citizenship, and they carry the CCC message to a
worldwide audience.

We carry out the mission of the organization in a
variety of ways - all within the educational framework of Boston College's
Carroll School of Management - as a teaching institution, as a provider of
consulting services, as a forum for discussions on corporate citizenship and as
a research institution. Our research function, incidentally, is practical in
orientation and results in the development of a variety of diagnostic tools,
such as the interactive version of the framework we use to manage a company's
corporate community involvement.

In what we call "convenings" we offer
our members an opportunity to discuss with their peers the current corporate
citizenship issues on an ongoing basis. These include our Standards of
Excellence Forums, which are meant to provide a framework within which to
connect a corporation's community activities with its core business goals, and
our focused roundtables, which are candid and intense discussions on key topics
by corporate leaders. In addition, our convenings include an annual conference,
the International Corporate Citizenship Conference, which involves seminars and
workshops and brings together several hundred corporate executives and
professionals, the people who shape the field of corporate citizenship and the
practitioners who make it a reality. Finally, we carry on a teleconvening
function, which involves telephone conferences on a specific topic under the
direction of an expert moderator.

Editor: How does CCC's basic
philosophy fit in with that of Boston College?

Googins:
As you
know, Boston College is a Jesuit institution. The mission of CCC parallels that
of the College and, indeed, the fit is very good. The Jesuits have developed a
value structure that recognizes the need for justice and for individual and
collective responsibility as foundation blocks for a good society. That is
precisely the value structure that CCC hopes to build.

Editor:
How are CCC's corporate members represented in the organization's
structure?

Kiser:
CCC's International Advisory Board is a very
active part of our organizational structure and provides us with a tremendous
resource for the development of an up-to-date and incisive curriculum. It
includes representation from Prudential, Kaiser Permanente, Merck & Co.,
UPS, Levi Strauss, FedEx, Hewlett Packard, Texas Instruments, Dow Chemical, FMC,
Bristol-Myers Squibb, J.P. Morgan Chase and a number of other enterprises of
similar magnitude, as well as Boston College. I should also mention the fact
that a number of Boston law firms, including Mintz, Levin and Hale and Dorr,
have worked with us as a consequence of their strong commitment to the
community.

Editor: How do you keep your corporate members
updated?

Kiser:
We have a number of ways. Our website delivers
our newsletter to members, and the newsletter includes an interactive feature
which permits members to respond to the articles comprising the newsletter's
content. The interactive feature also permits the reader to ask questions, which
may then be referred to other members. Questions may also result in a member
being directed to a particular site on our website. The newsletter includes
links to the website which permit members to access all of the information we
have online. This is the website's knowledge transfer area, which stores our
case studies, our best practices and our research data.

Another way in
which we communicate with our corporate members is through our monthly
teleconvenings. As our Executive Director indicates, these teleconvenings are
among the most successful ways in which CCC accomplishes its mission. We bring
in an expert, or a team of experts, in a particular area, and they participate
in a series of conference calls. During the day as many as 200 people may be
involved. Following its conclusion, the discussion is transcribed and turned
into a report for publication on the CCC website, where it is accessible to all
of our members.

Editor: Do you host face-to-face convenings as
well as teleconvenings?

Kiser:
Our Executive Director referred
to CCC's annual International Corporate Citizenship Conference. This event
showcases the organization, and it is also indicative of how interest in
corporate citizenship is growing, in both its depth and breadth. This annual
convening draws about 350 corporate representatives. CCC brings in a number of
keynote speakers and conducts a number of different dialogues in the form of
workshops, breakout sessions, seminars and so on. In addition to being an
impressive learning experience, the conference is a wonderful networking
opportunity for our members. We believe that this is the finest conference in
the field. This coming year it is going to be in San
Francisco.

Editor: Please give us examples of those CCC projects
that might be of interest to global corporations.

Googins:
Our
global strategy involves the development of partnering relationships with
like-minded organizations overseas. We are in the process of implementing a
number of such arrangements in various parts of the world. In addition, we are
working with our corporate members in the development of their own global
strategies. I think it is generally recognized today that corporations must
think of their corporate citizenship on a global scale. In doing so, typically,
they establish a cross-functional team, which might consist of representation
from the legal, community affairs, environmental and human resources
departments, to spearhead some global initiatives. These are very complex
undertakings because, of course, corporate citizenship is concerned with
behavior that is both ethical and lawful and, at the same time, concerned with
the social consequences of that behavior. The good corporate citizen desires to
obey the law and behave in an ethical way and support social initiatives that
benefit the community. CCC is in a position to help with such efforts by
providing the appropriate executive education resources for the project, as well
as research materials covering the countries or regions in which the
organization proposes to conduct its activities. CCC recently concluded a
project involving some twenty corporations, half American and the other half
European, in the development of benchmark data on global corporate
citizenship.

Editor: To what extent is corporate counsel involved
in the implementation of a strategy of global corporate
citizenship?

Googins:
Our membership is a corporate membership,
so anyone in the organization, including corporate counsel, has access to all of
our services and resources. In the past, I think corporate counsel has not
played as large a role in the implementation of a global strategy on corporate
citizenship as other functional areas. I am thinking of community affairs,
public relations, human resources, the environmental group and so on. Executives
from these areas, at least in the past, have utilized the legal department to
respond to crisis situations. I hasten to add, however, that corporate counsel
has a primary role in defining the character of the company's behavior as a
citizen, in establishing that behavior in a legal - and consequently ethical and
social - context. I suspect that the recent corporate scandals, Enron, WorldCom
and so on, have contributed to a changing attitude toward the role of corporate
counsel in the good corporate citizen. We have a group of some nine corporate
members who are committed to the development of an integrated strategy on
corporate citizenship that draws upon the talents of everyone within the
organization, across all disciplines and functional areas. What is called for
today, I think, is a much closer relationship between general counsel and the
legal department and the other functional areas of the enterprise in the
development and implementation of a global citizenship strategy. In a given
area, environmental concerns may be at the forefront; elsewhere, employment
opportunities may be crucial. The point is that no one formula will work in all
locations. People are called upon to play a supporting role in one situation, a
leading role in another. The closer integration of corporate counsel into the
global strategy makes for a more inclusive, more flexible, indeed more
integrated strategy.

Editor: What is the relationship between
corporate citizenship and the law?

Googins:
I suppose it is
CCC's proposition to do as much good as possible and to avoid doing harm. This
is a proposition that the laws of every society recognize, and I would suggest
that the responsibility of a corporation to be a good citizen grows out of a
recognition that the corporation's place in society - as the driving engine of
the economy - requires it to do more than generate wealth for its shareholders.
Today corporations are under a great deal of scrutiny. There are increasing
demands - from government, from the academic community, from shareholders, and
from the general public - for corporate transparency, for integrity in the board
room and for commitment to contributing to the welfare and well-being of the
society that provides the financial grounding, the legal framework and the
markets in which these organizations operate.

Kiser:
Accountability is the term you hear so much these days. Good corporate
citizenship constitutes an exercise that validates the organization in this
regard. The good corporate citizen is invariably the corporation that is
accountable to all of its constituencies.

Editor: How does good
corporate citizenship connect to good business?

Googins:
The
corporation that practices good citizenship has a long-term perspective on what
is necessary to meet the expectations of its customers, its employees and the
communities in which it operates. There is a clear recognition that good
corporate citizenship is fundamental to good business. It builds brand loyalty.
It attracts and then helps to retain good employees. It appeals to a growing
number of socially responsible investors. It enhances the organization's public
image and reputation and thereby opens doors to new markets across the world.
Good corporate citizenship is the future of business organizations here and
abroad.