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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, 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. 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 critical part.

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?

BG: 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.


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