History of Social Impact at Berkeley Haas

Institute for Business & Social Impact

The Early Beginnings of Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas

Our tradition of educating UC Berkeley business leaders on social issues dates back over 100 years. The school's first female instructor, Jessica Peixotto, strongly influenced Walter A. Haas, Sr.'s views on social welfare and public affairs during his time as an undergraduate in the early 1900s. Haas Sr., BS 1910, for whom the school is now named, often said later as CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. that the company "owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business."

In 1959, the Berkeley business school dean Ewald Gether formally introduced a class in corporate social responsibility and business environment, pioneering a new field of study on the UC Berkeley campus. "The course became a model for other leading business schools and was instrumental in the emergence of the business and public policy field at Berkeley and nationally," recounted Earl F. Cheit, UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor, who helped to launch it.

Summit in Berkeley and Growth of Social Impact

In order to develop the field further, Cheit applied for and received a grant from the Ford Foundation to hold a symposium at Berkeley in January 1964. It became known as the Summit in Berkeley. He invited "some of the best people" in the United States and abroad to write essays on subjects that would inform the work in the area of social and political environment of business.

Later, Cheit moved into administrative duties as opportunities came up-he was dean of Berkeley's business school from 1976 to 1982, Acting Dean from 1990 to 1991, and Executive Vice Chancellor of Berkeley from 1965 to 1969.

Throughout his Berkeley career, Cheit did many things to strengthen the business school's identity in social impact, supporting the work of professors such as Dow Votaw and Edwin Epstein. "People have done such great work over the years," Cheit said. "And I'm delighted when others think of Berkeley and Haas as a place of social impact and social change."

Expansion of Social Impact at Berkeley Haas and IBSI

During her tenure as dean (1998-2001), Professor Laura Tyson revitalized the school's efforts in the area of social responsibility. In 1999, a group of Berkeley Haas MBA students launched the Haas Social Venture Competition and Tyson was one of its first champions, along with the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, working to raise funds and being key to the establishment of partnerships with Columbia and London Business Schools to grow it into a global competition.

Tyson also formed the Forum on Corporate Philanthropy, inaugurated by an event in 2000 with actor/philanthropist Paul Newman and secured funding from Newman and Haas alumnus Michael Homer, BS 81, to expand the Forum into the Socially Responsible Business Leadership Initiative (SRBLI).

As Cheit looked back at this legacy, he was very impressed with how the field has flourished, particularly in newer areas such as the environment and sustainability. During IBSI's founding he commented: "Given the rapid growth and expansion of work in this field, I think the Institute for Business & Social Impact will bring broader scope and coherence to our own work at Haas and to the field at large."