April 06, 2005
Globalizing Corporate Citizenship: An Interview with Center for Corporate Citizenship Executive Director Bradley Googins
by Mark Thomsen
At the recent CCC annual conference in Boston, SocialFunds sat down with Dr. Googins to survey the
roadmap for increasing the uptake of corporate citizenship.
At the ripe old age of 20 years, Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship (CCC) is an elder statesman of sorts with
regard to expertise on corporate social performance. CCC was founded on the realization that in
spite of the fact that communities are important corporate stakeholders, many companies lacked
expertise in managing the relationship. The insight of CCC's founder, Ed Burke, was to try to
develop, through courses and training, the capacity of companies to engage communities more
effectively for mutual self-interest.
Bradley Googins, a Boston College graduate
with a Ph.D. in social policy from Brandeis, took the helm of CCC in 1997 and has since been
steering the organization gradually to address all the issues that fit under the corporate
citizenship umbrella, not just community relations. In an interview with SocialFunds.com, Dr.
Googins explains how CCC is expanding both its focus and reach in order to help redefine what it
means to be a good corporate citizen.
SocialFunds.com: How much has the Center changed
since you took over as Executive Director?
Dr. Googins: What we have been about for the
last five to seven years is investing in the transition from focusing on community relations and
communities to the broader concept of citizenship, of which communities relations remains a
This investment has been in our competencies, which are education and
research. CCC has the largest group of researchers in the world focusing on corporate citizenship
now. We have purposely invested in that, because we feel as a university and as a school of
management that is one of the areas where we can make a significant contribution. We find there is
a big thirst inside companies for data and evaluation metrics.
Even more important is our
ability to be a platform that links in to what is happening globally. We believe that corporate
citizenship has been supplanted by global corporate citizenship. And yet the concept of global
corporate citizenship has really not taken hold in most US companies. One of our next initiatives,
which we are preparing for now, is to develop competency in helping companies become global
corporate citizens, not just being corporate citizens in the US.
SF: How is this
competency taking shape?
BG: We are building a global network of business schools, NGOs,
and companies, and we are basically going to give away some of our intellectual capital with regard
to education. We are giving away our courses and curriculum and helping train the trainers as a
way of strengthening the network. We believe this will be of great value to our members because
they will then have partners around the globe who can help them get the answers they need.
The fastest-growing area of education for us is custom training, where companies say "Could you
guys come in here so we can train whole pieces of the company?" We are very interested in doing
that, and our research is focused on exactly that issue. How can you develop an integrated
strategy, how can you align citizenship with business, how can you institutionalize this throughout
the company? That is really where we are heading.
SF: Is it possible to characterize a
typical CCC member in terms of where they are on implementing corporate citizenship?
People ask me who is the best company in terms of corporate citizenship; there really is not
anybody. There are some who do a piece of it well, but no one is that far along right now because
corporate citizenship is still groaning and creaking at the edges with companies trying to figure
out what it means for them.
Many companies say, "We are a great citizen, we have a
foundation." We say, "Well, that is not our definition, but that is where you are and that is
where we will start." One of the beauties of the Center is that it almost forces a company like
that to sit around the table with other companies at one of our courses. Or to come to our
conference like this and say, "Oh, are we behind?" No company wants to be too far behind the
curve. And that is why we are trying to work with leadership companies to raise the bar because
our belief is that others will follow if the bar is raised.
SF: Where do you see CCC in
five to ten years?
BG: Certainly we are going to move forward on working on a global
level. One of the decisions we will look at is to what extent are we going to get involved in
business school education. We feel that most business schools are quite deficient in terms of
corporate citizenship education.
Another area we are looking at is public policy.
Companies are increasingly going to be involved in public policy in a different way. Take
education, for example. Many companies can point to successful education investment programs that
have been running for 20 years. What interests me is that in spite of these worthy programs, the
indices of education in this country are going in the opposite direction. If companies continue
doing these things individually, whether it is healthcare, pensions, or whatever, we are going to
see an expectation that companies should be doing more. The alternative is for companies to build
linkages with public policy. I would like the Center to be better positioned in the public policy
arena so that we can begin to make an impact there.