The roots of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship sprouted from recognition in the early 1980s that expectations of the relationship companies have with communities were changing. In the words of Center founder Edmund Burke, involvement of companies in communities “shifted in response to changing community expectations from checkbook philanthropy to a principle about the way a company should behave in a community.”
In response to the changing times, Dr. Burke organized a training program guided by community affairs people in the Boston area. The Institute on Community Relations began June 13, 1983, as a summer program under the auspices of the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. It provided training in tools and strategies for carrying out community relations programs and resulted in a flood of requests from companies.
With growing demand from companies for training and guidance and a concept fully embraced by then-Boston College President J. Donald Monan, SJ, the Center for Corporate Community Relations began operations Sept. 16, 1985, as a full-service education and research facility, with an advisory board composed of chief executive officers, corporate community affairs managers, university faculty and public policy leaders.
By 1986 the Center offered its first certificate program and one year later held its first conference in Washington, D.C. The training provided by the Center legitimized the work of community relations professionals both in the community and in the company. It helped them understand community organizations outside the company and gave direction on how to operate a successful community relations program from inside the company.
A real milestone in the Center’s work came in 1990, when Dr. Burke originated the concept of “neighbor of choice.” Along with the permits and municipal approvals that companies collect to build their factories and office buildings, Dr. Burke explained, they also must obtain a metaphoric “license to operate.” This license to operate, according to Dr. Burke, might include company workers participating in community events and fund-raisers. Interaction between workers and neighbors, he said, builds a kind of trust that was absent in years past, when a corporation might simply write a check once a year and donate to a local charity.
Another of the Center's high-profile achievements came in 1993 with publication of the Standards of Excellence in Community Relations. The standards cover a range of areas, from CEO involvement to policies and procedures to the adoption of a social vision. They present a comprehensive plan by which a corporation can be responsive to its host community and they also serve as a tool for planning and goal setting. In 2009 the Center engaged a group of senior community involvement leaders to review this seminal work and revise it to meet the needs of companies in the 21st century.
In 1995, the Center unveiled a two-phase initiative to pursue more aggressive strategies and broaden its services, research and position as a leading educator and trainer of community relations professionals. This broadened approach also brought, among other things, the Center's shift to the Carroll School of Management.
Dr. Burke served as the Center’s executive director until his retirement in 1997. He continued to remain active with the Center as a writer, lecturer and consultant until shortly before his death on Nov. 3, 2008, at the age of 80. (Read more about Dr. Burke here.)
Bradley K. Googins, Ph.D. succeeded Dr. Burke as executive director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations. This change came as the Center began to broaden its research agenda, and its counseling and consulting resources became more formalized and project-specific.
In 2001, the Center reflected its broader focus with a change to its name and became the Center for Corporate Citizenship. The broader focus was contained in the new mission statement: “To provide leadership in establishing corporate citizenship as a business essential, so that all companies act as economic and social assets to the communities they impact by integrating societal interests with other core business objectives.”
In tandem with strengthening its research and training credentials, the Center also grew into one of the most vibrant communities of companies seeking to share best practice and learn from each other. The power of this community was evident on September 11, 2001 when dozens of companies turned to the Center for guidance on how to respond to the tragedy that had rocked the United States. From this collective need, the Center quickly organized a teleconvening for companies to share experiences and brainstorm. It was from this effort that the Center’s successful webinar program grew and the membership proposition of “in good company” was firmly established.
The evolution of the Center’s mission expanded its training and research beyond the individual community relations professional’s competencies as it began to look at how a business behaved as a “corporate citizen.” In 2001, the Center received a grant from the Ford Foundation to study the economic development opportunities that business can create in partnership with nonprofits. This resulted in an influential series of research reports and case studies.
In 2002 The Hitachi Foundation also played a very important role in building the research capacity of the Center when it funded the first biennial State of Corporate Citizenship in the U.S. survey. The first survey, published in 2003, provided a baseline of how executives in small, medium and large U.S.-based companies manage corporate citizenship. The three surveys that have followed provide the only source for a comprehensive examination of the evolution of the role business plays in American society.
In 2006, Center researchers published the Stages of Corporate Citizenship, a developmental look at the stage-by-stage process in which a combination of internal capabilities applied to environmental challenges propels companies’ development of corporate citizenship forward from the first elementary stage to a fifth and final transforming stage. This complemented extensive research done on how corporate citizenship was being managed inside companies as reflected in the report “Integration: Critical Link for Corporate Citizenship” published in 2005.
Having established a destination for companies aspiring to practice corporate citizenship at its best, researchers started to look at how a company might manage corporate citizenship to integrate it across functions like any other aspect of business. The result, developed from more than 20 years of experience working with companies, was the Corporate Citizenship Management Framework (CCMF), unveiled in 2007.
The framework approaches corporate citizenship from a business perspective that considers the risks, opportunities and value creation that drive business strategy.
The CCMF outlines four domains of the business to be considered in corporate citizenship management:
- Corporate Mission, Values and Governance - Integration and Accountability
- Community Engagement - Addressing Social Challenges
- Operations - Responsible Business Practices
- Products and Services - Market Strategy
The CCMF is complemented by a Corporate Citizenship Assessment Tool, which provides a quick overview of how well corporate citizenship is integrated into a company's management systems and practices. It provides a real-time snapshot of a company’s current state of corporate citizenship management.
In 2007, the Center’s body of research was presented in the book “Beyond Good Company: Next Generation Corporate Citizenship” written by the Center’s Executive Director Bradley K. Googins along with Philip H. Mirvis and Steven A. Rochlin.
Today the Center continues its work to help both individual professionals and companies as a whole advance their practice of corporate citizenship. The Center plays an important role globally as the founder of the Global Education Research Network, which has developed into an influential network of academic centers around the world that work across sectors to advance the positive role business plays from the very local to the global level.
In the years ahead the Center looks to broaden its mission even further as it examines the changing role of business in society and seeks to work with the business sector to address some of society’s greatest problems.