CRB: The Early Days
By Kellie A. McElhaney, Founding Director
I want to transform business education and I want you to be my partner in crime.”
– Bob Haas, 2002
“It’s taken me a while to figure out that being involved in business shouldn’t just be about making money. It should be about giving back along the way and at the same time.”
– Mike Homer, 2002
These quotes, by Bob Haas and Mike Homer, express perfectly the early intent of the Center for Responsible Business (CRB): to inspire business students to integrate social into business—to make a profit and contribute to society at the same time. With initial funding from MikeHomer, in 2000, Dean Laura Tyson, Jay Stowsky and Bob Haas firmed the powerful triumvirate who recruited me to Haas to build something–to make the existing Socially Responsible Business Leadership Initiative into something bigger.
I moved here from the University of Michigan Business School, and within the first two weeks of being at Haas, I was overwhelmed by support for CSR and the concept of something bigger. I exclaimed to my family, “I feel like I have arrived in CSR heaven.” The support from students, companies, some key faculty, alumni, the development office, and Dean Tom Campbell was overwhelming. Ten years later, I continue to be inspired by the support and enthusiasm at Haas for CRB.
The Early Days
Our early goal was to establish corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an integrated business strategy and necessity for business success and leadership, not as a philanthropic bolt on, both within our management education curriculum and within business itself. We wanted to position the Center and Haas as the leader. Levi, Gap, Dow Chemical, and HP came in as early supporters of our efforts. Students flocked to my new Strategic CSR & Consulting course, one of the first courses at Haas to incorporate a hands-on consulting project. This course has become the model for many classes, as well as the BILD (Berkeley Innovative Leader Development) requirement of all students.
In the early days, the loudest support was far and away from the Haas MBA students, who always seem to be leading indicators of strategic critical business imperatives. I am most thankful for that group of 2000-2002 alums who used their power and their voices to support creating the Center.
Our Early Impact: Placement of Students & Socially Responsible Investment Fund
We placed graduating MBAs in CSR leadership positions at companies like Yahoo, Wal-Mart, HP, Google, E&Y (our very own Executive Director Jo Mackness, one of my first students in the early days, started at E&Y), and Autodesk. It was as if CRB was always meant to be at Haas, and companies came to us for the very best sustainability and business-trained students to lead efforts inside their companies. In 2007, Haas and the College of Chemistry developed the Sustainable Products and Solutions (SPS) Program with a five-year, multimillion-dollar commitment from the Dow Chemical Company Foundation (in 2010, Kimberly-Clark and Waste Management Inc. extended the program).
In 2007, we received $1.325M in funding from more committed alums to launch the Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund (HSRIF), a student-run fund, which now boasts a 50% return over the past five years and is outperforming its benchmarks. Our first of its kind at a top tier business school fund received front-page WSJ coverage for this innovative fund.
Haas quickly earned leadership status in the CSR space, as evidenced by our Financial Times ranking as number one in the world in 2008.
In the early days, the Center’s success was based on developing a solid strategic plan, utilizing a sense of scrappy entrepreneurialism (making an impact with limited resources), not taking no for an answer, and collaborating with staff, faculty, students, donors, alumni, and key companies. We were in the right place at the right time for bringing CSR to the corporate world.
Our Impact 10 Years Later
Today students are choosing Haas as their desired MBA degree program based on our global reputation for leading in CSR. Companies come to us to recruit the very best business minds in understanding the impact of sustainability and CSR on business strategy and value. And our recent students are coming to Haas already having led in areas of CSR and with vast amounts of deep knowledge and experience in this space.
From our early years, we have grown into a mature organization with a staff of 4, 5 professors, 10 classes offered per year and over 1,200 Haas alumni associated with CRB. Our alumni have started an amazing array of successful companies making a real difference and many of our alumni have senior operational positions with the tools and expertise to bring the lens of sustainability to their work every day. We continue to be acknowledged for our work on key rankings, including recently being ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek at #3 for MBA Rankings: Top Schools for Sustainability.
I am extremely proud of the Center and all it has accomplished and achieved. We all know we have much more work to do. We will do it, please join us.