Because of the widening ethics scandals that have rocked corporate America over the past year, the Haas School of Business is launching a major expansion of its already significant activities in the area of corporate social responsibility and business ethics. Dean Tom Campbell said the effort would be a top priority for the nation’s oldest public business school.
“The country and the world are demanding to know if recent lapses in business ethics are symptomatic of a system-wide failure,” said Campbell. “Our great universities and business schools must play a major role in answering this question and in leading the effort to discover ways to correct the problems.”
The newly enhanced effort, called the Socially Responsible Business Leadership Initiative (SRBLI), is being supported by gifts from actor/philanthropist Paul Newman and Haas School alumnus Michael Homer, with other major gifts to be announced. The new director of SRBLI is Kellie McElhaney, who was hired from the University of Michigan Business School where she was a faculty member and the managing director of the Corporate Environmental Management Program.
McElhaney, who is one of the nation’s leading thinkers and practitioners in corporate social responsibility, also holds the John C. Whitehead Fellowship in Corporate Responsibility. This new fellowship was funded by a gift from Newman in honor of John Whitehead, formerly the co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and the US deputy secretary of state, and a leading force in corporate social responsibility.
SRBLI will coordinate the Haas School’s teaching, research, and public service activities in the areas of corporate social responsibility, ethics, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and environmental management.
“The Haas School’s long tradition of exploring the impact of business on society provides tremendous credibility and momentum to this new initiative,” Campbell added.
Among the planned and ongoing activities for SRBLI are:
- Planned visits by Haas students to correctional facilities to allow them to learn how white-collar criminals fell short and impress upon the students the consequences of doing so;
- A new, required MBA course, “Global Business Citizenship,” begun this fall;
- Innovative elective courses, including a new student-initiated MBA course in Socially Responsible Leadership and a hands-on course, taught by McElhaney, combining winning business practices with corporate social responsibility;
- An expanded lecture series in ethics that will feature speakers such as Enron whistle-blower Sherron Watkins;
- The National Social Venture Competition, the first national business plan competition of its type to reward businesses that generate both financial return on investment and social return on investment;
- A new SRBLI Advisory Board, made up of practitioners and corporate social responsibility leaders in the business world.
The Haas School’s commitment to exploring the relationship of business and society began at the founding the school in 1898, with a course examining the ethical issues of commerce. In the late 1950s, Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit laid a scholarly foundation for the study of the impact of business on society through his research and teaching, and by organizing the first national symposium on this subject, which was held at UC Berkeley.
The initial gift to fund the SRBLI came from alumnus Michael Homer, BS 81. Homer is the chairman of Kontiki, a California software company formerly known as Zodiak, and invests in young companies in Silicon Valley, including Loudcloud, Tellme Networks, Palm, and TiVo.
Newman has a long trackrecord in philanthropy. His business – Newman’s Own, Inc. – has given away more than $100 million in profits from his famous line of widely distributed food products.
McElhaney previously taught at Michigan’s Business School. She earned her Ph.D. in higher education (with a business cognate) at the University of Michigan and an MA in organizational behavior at Ohio University in Athens.
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