Category: SMG Hot Topics
Carroll, A.B., Lipartito, K.J., Post, J.E., Werhane, P. H., & Goodpaster, K.E. (2012). Corporate Responsibility: The American Experience, Cambridge University Press.
Since the dawn of capitalism, nations have struggled to solve “the corporate dilemma.” On one hand, corporations–capitalism’s dominant organizational form–have proven effective mechanisms for producing wealth, meeting consumer needs, and building industries that employ millions. On the other hand, they often impose costly negative externalities on workers, communities, and the natural environment. Corporate responsibility is the “third way” between self-interest and government regulation to address this dilemma.
But to whom do corporations owe a responsibility? For what? And how are those responsibilities, once defined, to be met?
These questions have haunted capitalism throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both in the US and abroad. Although today constructive corporate citizenship is a hallmark of many leading companies, no single-volume history exists of the concept and practice of corporate responsibility. In his new book, Boston University School of Management’s James E. Post, the John F. Smith Professor in Management, aims to fill this gap. Along with a team of four senior scholars and nearly a dozen research aides, Post and his co-authors have published Corporate Responsibility: The American Experience, from Cambridge University Press.
The story behind the rise of corporate citizenship
This book tells the story of how corporate responsibility emerged as both an idea and practice in the modern firm. Says Bill George, former chairman and CEO of Medtronics and current faculty member at Harvard Business School, the work is “brilliantly researched and beautifully written.” It also a offers gallery of nearly 100 pictures, most in color, featuring seminal moments in the history of corporate citizenship.
“Brilliantly researched and beautifully written“ – Bill George, Former Chairman & CEO, Medtronics; Professor, Management Practice, Harvard Business School
“Our vision, and our hope,” says Post, “was to create a compelling historical narrative of how corporate responsibility emerged as a concept and became part of the American business psyche. It is an idea that has had a significant and enduring influence on both corporate rhetoric and behavior. Now, we offer the story of how business practice has changed as our nation (and the world) evolved, social pressures built, and companies were challenged to respond and then anticipate where these transformations would lead.”
This is no whitewash of business practice, Post explains. The book candidly covers examples of labor violence, such as the slaughter of dozens of miners, women, and children in Ludlow, Colorado in the infamous Shirtwaist Triangle factory fire; sweatshop conditions in modern factories; and the recent Occupy Wall Street movement. But it also offers inspiring stories as well, such as J. Irwin Miller’s leadership in civil rights as CEO of Cummins Engine Company; Bill Norris’ commitment to radical social innovation in Minneapolis as CEO of Control Data; General Mills’ 150 years of corporate volunteerism and community philanthropy; and the role of women as crusaders, activists, and critical contributors to industrial development and family-friendly and fair workplace policies.
Boston University’s heritage in creating corporate, and social, value
New England companies have often been in the vanguard of corporate citizenship. Post explains that “locally, many Boston University alumni will remember the role of Boston businesses in school desegregation; Polaroid’s withdrawal from the South Africa of apartheid days; and Aaron Feuerstein’s bold commitment to continue paying workers who were unemployed as a result of the great Malden Mills fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts in December 1995.” Progressive human relations practices remain a hallmark of many local companies, Post points out: Ben and Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Tom’s of Maine, and other New England-bred models of social entrepreneurship.
While belief in corporate responsibility is part of America’s cultural fabric, it is also part of Boston University’s heritage. The founding dean of the School of Management, which in 2013 celebrates its 100th year of classes, was Everett W. Lord: an activist for child labor protection, a believer in professional education, and author of The Fundamentals of Business Ethics. The book, published in 1926, challenges students and business leaders alike to view ethics and integrity as the keys to personal success. To Dean Lord and his successors, the purpose of business has always been “service to society.”
About James E. Post
James E. Post teaches in the Markets, Public Policy & Law department in the School of Management, and has been involved in conceptual and practical debates over these issues in many forums since joining the Boston University School of Management faculty in 1974. He criticized companies that engaged in questionable marketing of baby formula in the 1980s, then consulted with the World Health Organization on a pioneering international code of marketing practices. He has worked to professionalize corporate public affairs in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, has written extensively about the concept and practice of business and society, and is frequently cited in the media for his expertise. In 2010, Post received a lifetime achievement award from the Aspen Institute.
Read more about the book Corporate Responsibility: The American Experience.
Group of MBA students traveling to Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Rio De Janeiro
As part of the annual Brazil Field Seminar trip, a group of MBA students, led by Kristen McCormack, executive-in-residence, senior lecturer, and director of the Public & Nonprofit Management Program, is traveling around the country for two weeks this January to learn firsthand about issues of sustainability, social impact, and entrepreneurship. The group is also blogging daily from Brazil about their experience.
Thus far, the 2013 trip has included several unique company visits, including Cargill’s Food Innovation Center in Sao Paulo (Cargill is the largest privately held company in Brazil) and Estre, the largest and fastest growing waste management company in Brazil. The group also had an inspiring meeting with three microcredit clients, and spoke with former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Of the meeting with the former President, student Ben writes:
On Brazil’s current leadership, President Cardoso offered his opinion on current President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor President Lula De Silva, both of whom are members of the opposition party, the more liberal workers party. President Cardoso is a supporter of business and believes that the current leadership is intervening too much. He described the popular Lula as a “pragmatic leader, who is flexible in his principles.” When asked what makes a great leader, President Cardoso said that what the world needs for great change are giants, and what makes a giant is not someone who imposes his will on the people but rather someone who can persuade others to agree.
We asked if he was pleased with his own accomplishments and with the future potential of Brazil. He said “We are making progress…my son and daughter will live better than myself.” He explained that Brazil truly can be a super power, with relatively strong growth, high exports, and huge economic potential, but the focus now needs to change from that quantity to quality: “Look at Denmark, it has a low GDP but a high quality of life.”
His final piece of advice, and my personal favorite quote of the meeting was: “Be flexible in your behavior and be consistent in your principles.”
Pictured above is the 2013 Brazil Field Seminar group with Cargill staff at Cargill’s Food Innovation Center in Sao Paulo. Photo via the Brazil Field Seminar blog.
Management students learn and lead grant-making process
A team of seven Boston University graduate students awarded a $10,000 grant from the Highland Street Foundation to Housing Families Inc. on December 6 to improve the shelter’s technology infrastructure. “As part of the Strategic Fundraising and Corporate Philanthropy class,” said David Stolow, Faculty Director of the Public and Nonprofit MBA program, “the student team operated as a small foundation. They set priorities, designed an application and review process, and conducted in-depth site visits.”
The student team received initial applications from 21 shelter providers, and selected ten to submit full proposals, before choosing Health Families to receive the grant. The student team was composed of full-time and part-time MBA students, and a student from the BU School of Social Work. “The Public and Nonprofit MBA program emphasizes authentic projects. We challenge students to apply their rigorous management skills to address urgent and complex social issues,” said Stolow. “The philanthropy project exemplifies our approach and we’re grateful to the Highland Street Foundation and its Youth Philanthropy Initiative for its generous support of this project.”
In photo: Boston University students and Highland Street Foundation members present a check to Housing Families Inc, a local shelter.
“‘Guru’ of Guru Speak Decodes 5 Game-Changing Trends for t2”
In a profile featured in Times of India, David J. McGrath, Jr. Professor in Management N. Venkatraman presented his new framework to analyze the impact of IT on business performance. His model, referred to as The Venkatraman Framework, encompasses the so-called the “five webs” and offers a vision for the future of IT and Globalization 3.0.
Professor Venkatraman also discussed these topics during his talk in February at Guru Speak 2013, an annual advanced knowledge workshop organized by the IIM Calcutta Alumni Association and The Telegraph, who dubbed him “the ‘guru’ of Guru Speak.”
Excerpts from Times of India:
Professor Venkat N. Venkatraman’s interests lie at the point where strategic management and information technology intersect. The Boston University professor, who was recently recognized as the 22nd most cited scholar in management over the past 25 years, has created a new framework to analyse the impact of IT on business performance, referred to as the Venkatraman Framework.
“[The Venkatraman Framework] is about different aspects of how IT shapes and evolves business models. In the 1980s, I focused on how IT impacts internal processes. That was during the period where most companies saw IT as driving business efficiency. Then, in the 1990s, I focused on how IT allows firms to connect externally with suppliers and customers and change business scope. Then, IT became more strategic and CEOs began to take interest in how IT could become a strategic driver.
“As the Internet became more central and important in the early 21st century, I started focusing on the role of the web. Right now, my framework is focused on what I call five webs: mobile web, social web, media web, real-time web and machine web. These are not separate webs but are interconnected. They impact companies all over the world-although their effects may be different. I believe these webs taken together lay the foundation for the emerging digitally connected business infrastructure that could alter the basis of competition in the coming decade.”
Excerpts from The Telegraph (Calcutta):
Will BB10 be happy with fourth place? Will Bring Your Own Device become popular in India? Management strategy expert Venkat N. Venkatraman, professor in management at Boston University’s School of Management, has the answers [offered below]….
Samsung vs Apple
Both are focused on design and user experience. The key difference is software. Apple iOS is not yet big in India (despite the popularity of iTunes and iPods)….Google is well positioned in India and Samsung is positioned with TVs (and appliances). So, the combination of Google plus Samsung is unbeatable in India….
Just as IBM felt secure with their mainframe architecture, RIM (Blackberry) felt secure in the belief that they defined the enterprise mobile worker market with their mobile phones. The advent of two new entrants from outside the traditional industry boundaries –– Apple and Google –– has seriously challenged Blackberry and upset the industry equilibrium…The mobile game is now a two-horse race with Apple and Google. The jockeying for the third place is between Microsoft (Nokia) and BB….
Social media network
…I expect that more businesses in India will embrace social media more formally and aggressively as part of the marketing campaigns. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter should seek to find examples of application of social media in India that have broader applicability….
Read more coverage of The Venkatraman Framework and the professor’s talk at Guru Speak from the Business Standard (India)
Entrepreneurial Success Starts With a Strong Pitch
Would you shop at a natural products convenience store? Can you think of a way to use a portable hologram projector? These were two of the 25 new business ideas proposed at the Pitch & Pizza event on October 26, the first stage in the three-part 2013 New Venture Competition. Open to the public, the New Venture Competition features BU students and alumni competing for the opportunity to win a spot in BU’s Startup Summer Camp and a package of startup legal consulting worth $10,000.
From October’s Pitch & Pizza, eight teams or individuals advanced to the semifinals in March (listed below, and pictured in the video above).
BU students and alumni with a business idea are invited to enter the next round of Pitch & Pizza on Friday, February 1, 2013. Applications will open in January.
The first stage of the New Venture Competition, Pitch & Pizza, is simply a 60-second verbal pitch for a new business. The judges allow visual aids, but no PowerPoint. In the semifinals (Friday, March 1, 2013), the deliverable is an executive summary and presentation to a panel of experts. At the finals (Wednesday, April 3), teams will deliver a five-minute presentation and executive summary to angel investors.
Executive-in-Residence, Lecturer, and event director Beth Goldstein said, “[The judges] were all impressed with the range of business concepts presented at Pitch & Pizza I, and we look forward to seeing more at Pitch & Pizza II in February and how all the winning entrepreneurs move forward with their projects. To support their efforts, we’ve developed a new program called our Terrier Track New Venture Workshops, which we’ll begin rolling out as soon as students return for their spring semester in January. These will be 90-minute intensive workshops every Friday afternoon, led by experts in launching businesses. Anybody can participate and we’re planning on offering this on the cloud so our alumni can also watch.”
The New Venture Competition is sponsored by the Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (ITEC), housed in Boston University School of Management, and first stage judges include SMG entrepreneurship faculty, invited alumni, and sponsors from the venture capital, legal, and entrepreneurship worlds.
The eight October 26 Pitch & Pizza teams that will advance to the March semifinals are:
- Consumer Website Help, Peter Smith (BSBA’13)
- Customized Cupcake Bar, Jill Acquarulo, (BSBA’13), Soleil Schwabe (BSBA’13), and Emily Burdett (BSBA’13)
- DiagnosQuick (People’s Choice Winner), Timothy Chanoux (BSBA’13)
- euMetrica Project, Dmitri Boulanov (ENG’10)
- I.Deal.Lokal, Sinisa Baranac (BSBA’13)
- NineBrain, Inc., Arun Rai, (MED’14) and Ruby Kandah
- Read Ahead, Matt Uvena (MS·MBA’14)
- TownRally, Asad Butt (MBA/MS in Media Ventures ’12)
Torres-Palma is cofounder of OoOTie, Boston’s only online bow tie boutique
Excerpts from BU Today:
Dressed in a blue oxford shirt and neatly pressed khakis, Diego Torres-Palma looks like any other MBA student. But what sets the 26-year-old entrepreneurial engineer apart is his choice of neckwear. On this particular day, it happens to be a butterfly style, three-inch paisley silk bow tie.
As cofounder of OoOTie, Boston’s only online bow tie boutique, Torres-Palma (GSM’13) is an ambassador for what has become one of the hippest accessories in men’s fashion. In 2010, he and friends Matthew Pearlson and Adrian Rodriguez (both MIT grads) set out to hatch a business. They noticed that bow ties were showing up more often in fashion magazines and on celebrities, and knew they had their product. The company launched that year with only an iPhone app and a smattering of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
OoOTie sold some 600 bow ties last year, many of them custom orders for weddings and bow tie diehards. The three-year-old business is projected to sell 1,000 bow ties this year.
Read the full story and see more videos on BU Today.
Ren’s “How to Compete in China’s E-Commerce Market” Appears in Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012
In the most recent edition of Sloan Management Review (SMR), Xin Wang and Z. Justin Ren explore the world’s largest e-commerce market—and the failure of America’s most successful companies to crack it successfully.
Ren is an associate professor of operations and technology management and Dean’s Research Fellow at Boston University School of Management, as well as a research affiliate at MIT Sloan School of Management. Wang is an assistant professor of marketing at Brandeis University International Business School.
On the history of corporations reproducing their domestic successes abroad, Ren comments, “Big e-commerce companies often focus on scalability upon entering foreign countries and tend to undervalue or neglect local specifics that often clash with their business models at home. It is a fine balance they have to strike.”
Ren and Wang address this challenge in their SMR article “How to Compete in China’s E-Commerce Market.” “With more than half a billion Internet users,” the authors write, “China boasts the greatest number of Internet users in the world. Its online shopping market hit 766.6 billion yuan in 2011,” while by 2012, its e-commerce market is expected to be worth 2 trillion yuan, the approximate equivalent today of $320 billion.
“Big e-commerce companies often focus on scalability upon entering foreign countries and tend to undervalue or neglect local specifics that often clash with their business models at home. It is a fine balance they have to strike.” – Z. Justin Ren
So why, they ask, have companies such as Yahoo!, Groupon, and eBay failed to create the same successes in China as they have at home, or in other international markets? “After years of effort and millions of dollars spent, armed with the most sophisticated technology and premium brand names,” the authors write, “these Internet giants have all failed to claim a leadership role in China’s e-commerce.”
Wang and Ren address this market mystery by combining industry analysis, case studies, and insight from leaders in China’s e-commerce industry, with an examination of high-profile entry players in the Chinese e-commerce arena. “We identified four key ways,” they write, “in which U.S. e-commerce companies proverbially hit the Great Wall when they tried to enter the Chinese market.”
These fatal blunders include:
- a failure to modify the business model for Chinese customers,
- insistence on a standard global technology platform,
- a habit of overlooking the competition, and
- an inability to address challenges from Chinese authorities.
Tapping lessons from their research, the authors then offer practical advice to counter these errors and build success in the Chinese e-commerce market.
Banner image courtesy of flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com.
Nathan Bernard (BSBA’12) delivered his elevator pitch for Boston University Urban Business Accelerator
Nathan Bernard (BSBA’12) visited MSNBC’s “Your Business” as part of their elevator pitch segment, where he delivered his entrepreneurial pitch for feedback from guests Beth Goldstein (Senior Associate for Distance Learning, Boston University Institute for Technology and Entrepreneurship Commercialization) and Jarrod Barood (Executive Director, Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University).
Bernard, who prepared and refined his pitch with the help of SMG faculty and staff, founded the BU Urban Business Accelerator (BUBA), which pairs student teams hungry for experience with local businesses in need of assistance in organizing their financials. BUBA had a successful pilot this past summer with two student teams and local businesses, and has six new client businesses this fall.
Seminal Text Re-Released for New Generation of Scholars, Practitioners
Stanford University Press has chosen Lee Preston and James Post’s Private Management and Public Policy: The Principle of Public Responsibility for their Business Classics Series, devoted to bringing the management field’s seminal texts to a new generation of leaders, researchers, and students.
Lee Preston, who passed away in 2011 after a long and distinguished career, was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Logistics, Business, and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and a Fellow of the Academy of Management.
Describing this new edition of Preston and Post’s book, which was originally published in 1975, Stanford University Press writes,
“Private Management and Public Policy is a landmark work at the intersection of business and society….The text develops the ‘principle of public responsibility’ as an alternative to the notion that firms have unlimited accountability…. Arguably, the book’s major contribution is its broad outline of an alternative theory of the firm in society—one that offers the possibility of overcoming traditional public and private dichotomies.”
Throughout, Preston and Post address three fundamental questions:
- What must business do to demonstrate responsiveness to social and political issues?
- What is the proper role of the corporation in the political arena?
- What are the limits of corporate responsibility in the modern world?
Of this third question, Post writes in a new introduction to the book,
“No firm can have unlimited responsibilities for everything, and yet no firm can reasonably expect society to hold it accountable for nothing.”
“Corporate responsibility is a vital topic for twenty-first century companies and managers. No firm can have unlimited responsibilities for everything, and yet no firm can reasonably expect society to hold it accountable for nothing. The difficult part for managers and citizens alike is to define logical limits of demarcation –and practical guidelines– based on what the firm actually does and the impact it actually has on society. The principle of public responsibility, as it is called in this book, extends the firm’s responsibility to its primary involvement (those things it chooses to do) and secondary involvement (those impacts that flow from its primary activities), but no further. The scope of responsibility may be great, depending on the size of the corporate footprint, but it is not unlimited.”
Read more about Private Management and Public Policy.
Boston University’s Beth Goldstein was a recent featured expert on MSNBC’s Your Business, a show devoted to entrepreneurial and small-business success.
Goldstein is a School of Management research fellow, director of the School’s $50K New Venture Competition, and alumna (MBA ’91), as well as founder of Marketing Edge Consulting Group and author of the book “Lucky By Design: Navigating Your Path to Success.”
Goldstein, along with co-commentator Angela Jia Kim, answered questions from MSNBC viewers in two segments, “The Secrets to Effective Window Displays” and “Finding a Distributor and How to Increase Repeat Customers.” Among the advice Goldstein gives:
- On choosing an educational program for entrepreneurs: One size won’t necessary fit all. First, assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and then choose resources that can help you address the latter.
- On choosing a distributor: It is crucial first to define clearly who your audience is; only then can you strategize how to target them.
- On small-business sales and marketing strategies such as window-displays: For any entrepreneur or small business, both your product’s image and your personal appearance are the ways you will project “your message to the world.” Entrepreneurs should think of both as the “brick-and-mortar” version of “the elevator pitch.”
Watch both MSNBC Your Business segments here:
The Secrets to Effective Window Displays
Finding a Distributor and How to Increase Repeat Customers