2017 Moskowitz Prize Winner: Who Benefits From Socially Responsible Governance?

By Nuria Marquez Martinez, Masters of Journalism candidate & CRB Editorial Writer

In 1970, Milton Friedman wrote an op-ed in The New York Times Magazine which argued that the primary role of a corporation was to serve its shareholders, and increase its profits. Friedman argued that this was the best way for a business to be socially responsible, anything else would be too inefficient.

This is the essay that Bryan Hong cites as he describes the inspiration behind “Corporate Governance and the Rise of Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility Criteria in Executive Compensation: Effectiveness and Implications for Firm Outcomes”, the winning paper of this year’s Moskowitz Prize which examines the adoption of corporate social responsibility (CSR) contracting and how it affects firm-level outcomes. Hong is the co-author of the paper along with Caroline Flammer and Dylan Minor.

The paper examines the implications of linking executive compensation to social and environmental responsibility and shows that CSR contracting has a positive impact on financial performance and can be used as an effective governance tool. Those businesses which have “adopted CSR contracting improved their environmental and social performance, especially with respect to the natural environment and local communities,” said Flammer in an email.

According to Flammer and Hong, these findings relied on nine months of digging through ten years of FCC filings from the biggest corporations in the country. Aside from the results of the research, the database that the team built is itself an innovation in the field.

“We sometimes see papers that are analytically elaborate, but have data limitations,” said faculty co-chair, Lloyd Kurtz. He admires the work put into this database, the first of its kind. “That took a lot of work, but it paid off because they were able to draw some empirical connections that we hadn’t seen before.”

Flammer was most surprised by how prevalent CSR contracting was among the S&P 500 corporations. According to their research, in 2004 only 12% of the firms had adopted CSR contracting. By 2013, this ratio increased to 37%. These numbers matter when thinking about the implications of this research. Even though there’s been a substantial increase in CSR contracting, not much is known about the effects it has on company output and the communities it serves.

“No matter how good our intentions, we need to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t,” said Kurtz. This paper provides not only an understanding but clear guidelines to a growing trend within corporations.

The paper specifically focuses on the role of the ‘financially material but less salient stakeholders’ like the natural environment and communities that interact with the corporations in some way but do not have the necessary power to make their claims heard and enact change in the corporation.

“Managers may ignore them absent of proper incentives,” said Flammer. According to their findings, CSR contracting would benefit these stakeholders directly. The team, Flammer, Hong, and Minor are looking forward to further developing their database and to have clearer insight into the implications and applications of this governance tool.

They will receive the award at the 28th annual SRI Conference in San Diego where Flammer and Kurtz will be discussing this and other relevant research in the responsible investment industry. Since 1996, the Moskowitz Prize aims “to draw attention to first-rate research that casts light on the tough questions. We’re trying to bring data and analytical clarity to conversations that were once primarily ideological,” said Kurtz.

The 2017 Moskowitz Prize is generously sponsored by Bailard, Calvert Research and Management, First Affirmative Financial Network, Neuberger Berman, Trillium Asset Management, and Wells Fargo Private Bank.

 

Welcome Newest Members of 2017 CRB Student Advisory Board

Welcoming the new CRB Student Advisory Board members

The Center for Responsible Business is pleased to announce the newest members of our Student Advisory Board*.  The Student Advisory Board is composed of students who help the CRB continue to question the status quo, as a sounding board for new projects and ideas and provide feedback on existing programs. There were a record number of applications, which made for a rigorous selection process. This year’s applicant pool continued the trend of high-caliber, exceptional candidates.

Second year board members met with candidates during the interview portion of the application process. On behalf of the current board members who supported the selection process, David Sternlicht, MBA 18, said, “We’re thrilled with this new crop of student advisory board members. Throughout the interview process we were blown away by their passion and demonstrated interest in responsible business through a stunning richness and diversity of backgrounds. We’re excited to welcome them aboard!”

 

Nellie Boonman, MBA 19

Nellie is thrilled to be joining the CRB Student Advisory team to help advance and formalize Haas’ foothold in sustainable food. Before coming to Haas, she worked for a seed company and then in the natural/organic food industry. Since 2011, she led digital marketing at Annie’s in West Berkeley. Nellie also managed their cause programs and strategic community partnerships, including Annie’s Grants for Gardens, Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholarships, and the General Mills Hometown Grant Program in Berkeley. At Annie’s, she witnessed firsthand how the combination of private-nonprofit partnerships, sustainable sourcing, and responsible and transparent business practices resulted in a powerful force for change in the food system. This experience showed her that it is possible to build a socially conscious and successful business, and to do so at a greater scale in partnership with a large parent organization.

 

 

Jeff Hartsough, MBA 19

Jeff comes to Haas from public sector management consulting, where he helped state and local government entities develop strategies that strengthened their financial and operational performance while improving accountability to and outcomes for their constituents. Jeff also has extensive experience in China, including in product development, seeing firsthand the environmental and social challenges of responsible supply chain management. At Haas with the CRB, he is excited to connect academic theory with commercial practice, empowering others to become better advocates for sustainability, equity, and inclusion in their future organizations.

 

 

 

 

Kira Mikityanskaya, MBA 19

A native of Russia and an east coast transplant, Kira moved to CA from Boston. For the last six years, she worked at a nonprofit venture philanthropy fund – New Profit. New Profit finds and invests in innovative social entrepreneurs and works closely with them to scale their solutions to social problems. As a member of the federal policy team, Kira partnered with 75+ of those entrepreneurs and federal policy makers to address the systemic barriers to scaling socially impactful and results-oriented solutions. While focusing on issues of workforce development and innovative financing mechanisms (like Pay for Success), it became clear to her that business has an important role to play in creating positive social impact. The desire to gain first hand business experience brought Kira to Haas and to the CRB. She is passionate about working at the intersection of business, nonprofits, and government to accelerate our transition to a more just and equitable society and she know that the CRB Student Advisory Board will be a critical step in achieving that vision.

 

Trisha Mittal, MBA 19

 

A bay area native, Trisha has spent time working in the public, non-profit, and private sectors. Most recently, she was Associate Director at strategy analytics firm Protagonist Technology, combining social science and data science to analyze industries across sectors for customers such as the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Omidyar Network, Citibank, and US Department of Defense. Prior to that, Trisha worked at the United Nations Foundation supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals negotiations process, and at the European Union’s Foreign Service Department covering EU-Asia relations. She holds a Master’s in Global Governance and Diplomacy from Oxford University and a Bachelor’s in Peace and Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley. Having witnessed the unique strengths that each sector brings to solving complex problems, Trisha is a strong believer in cross-sector collaboration and is excited to join the Center for Responsible Business board to engage business as a critical partner in tackling social and environmental challenges.

 

 

Abby O’Reilly, MBA 19

Abby is passionate about finding opportunities to integrate social impact and business. She moved to the Bay Area from Washington, DC, where she worked as a strategy consultant supporting clients across industries and sectors. She led and delivered solutions for executives at Fortune 100 companies, social enterprises, nonprofits, and foundations through rigorous data analysis and innovative thinking. In addition to her consulting experience, Abby also spent time with the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program and the American Red Cross. Abby holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Virginia. She loves discovering new social enterprises, exploring unfamiliar cities, and cheering for the Nationals. Abby is thrilled to join the CRB Student Advisory Board because she believes in the power of business to drive sustainable, large-scale change and address the world’s most challenging social and environmental issues.

 

 

Adrian Rodrigues, MBA 18

Adrian is an east coast transplant that has fallen in love with the California sun. This summer he worked for Patagonia’s Venture Capital Fund – Tin Shed Ventures and hopes to spend his career helping allocate resources to companies that create holistic value and not just financial profit. This fall, Adrian will be finishing his MBA at Berkeley Haas, where he is one of the proud co-presidents of Food@Haas and a principal on the socially responsible investment fund. He is also a budding yogi and deeply passionate about regenerative organic agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Rowe, MBA 19

Rebecca Rowe graduated from Hamilton College in 2011 with a concentration in Economics and Biochemistry. She started her career working for John Hancock Financial Services, where she focused a significant amount of her time financing projects in the renewable energy sector as part of the Power & Infrastructure group. She led the company’s first investment in green bonds, and managed its $2bn portfolio of energy efficiency projects in partnership with a variety of government agencies. In 2015, Rebecca transitioned to Social Finance, a nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing private capital to improve social outcomes across the country. She worked with governments, nonprofits, and impact investors to structure outcomes-based financing vehicles to scale critical services with a focus on measurement and evaluation. Rebecca is passionate about leveraging the private sector to create positive social and environmental impact, and is excited to explore sustainable business strategies to help tackle the most intractable global challenges while on the Student Advisory Board.

 

Jennifer Werkmeister, MBA 19

Jennifer graduated from The University of Pennsylvania in 2012. She is passionate about environmental sustainability in consumer goods with a special interest in agriculture and food products. Jennifer is excited to join the CRB both to connect with companies who are making an effort to make their products more sustainable and to share her passion for these topics with her classmates. With a background in consumer insights, Jennifer ultimately hopes to help companies design products and experiences that make it easy for consumers to say “yes” to better more sustainable choices.

 

 

 

 

 

Director of the CRB, Robert Strand notes, “We put the students at the center of everything we do at the CRB where we work through our CRB Student Advisory Board (SAB) to have more effective reach across the entire student body.  I could not be more pleased with the group of new students we just added to the SAB.  Their collective talents and passions are absolutely incredible.  It is such a privilege to work closely together with these bright minds and warm hearts.”

We look forward to working with these exceptional students.

*Our 2017-18 CRB Fellow, Adam Brudnick, also joined the Student Advisory Board and was featured in this blog.


 

Can Companies Lead the Climate Charge?

Graphic Recording: RogueMark Studios

By Maxwell Kushner-Lenhoff, CRB Student Advisory Board, CRB Fellow & MBA ’18 Candidate

Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Three months after President Trump announced the U.S. plan to renegotiate the Paris Climate Accord, that is exactly what the panelists on the Center for Responsible Business’ Climate Action Panel demonstrated they are doing.

Chris Benjamin, Director of Corporate Sustainability at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Katie DeWitt, Director of Energy Digital Projects at Tesla, Elysa Hammond, Director of Environmental Stewardship at Clif Bar and Company, and Mark Lee, Executive Director of SustainAbility and Center for Responsible Business Senior Advisory Board Member, came together from diverse industries and backgrounds to address how their companies are leading the climate charge on a panel co-hosted by the CRB and the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC).

Together, these panelists represented electricity, transportation and food – sectors that account for more than two-thirds of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Each panelists’ company is taking action to address that impact: At PG&E, 70% of electricity was carbon free last year (including big hydro and nuclear), Clif Bar has set the goal of having 80% organic ingredients by 2020, and Tesla is 100% focused – as its mission – on achieving a sustainable future.

Getting to this goal will require, as DeWitt said, “Making it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing.” For Benjamin of PG&E, that will mean making renewable energy solutions “safe, reliable and affordable,” which PG&E is working to facilitate.

In the energy and sustainability space, though, product innovations are not enough. Policy and governance always plays a crucial role. As Hammond mentioned, “Governance influences everything you do,” referring to Clif Bar’s commitment to stay private.

From right to left: Max Kushner-Lenhoff (Haas), Mark Lee (SustainAbility), Elyse Hammond (Clif Bar), Chris Benjamin (PG&E), Katie DeWitt (Tesla) (Photo credit: Manali Sibthorpe)

DeWitt called attention to the fact that Tesla is only in states where policy is favorable, regardless of solar potential. She cited the example of Nevada, where a change in policy caused the residential solar industry to leave the state overnight (Another reversal now has companies coming back). As Lee said, sometimes “Policy is even more influential than nature.”

Luckily, CA is leading the way with a number of mandates that PG&E is leading in executing against. As Benjamin mentioned, “We are demonstrating how it works and providing a model for others to follow.” Chris also cited the “We are still in” campaign, through which corporate, state, and local leaders have demonstrated their continued commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.

The panel ended on an aspirational note, with DeWitt and Benjamin noting how net metering had previously pitted solar companies against utilities but how batteries are now encouraging them to work together.

Companies don’t have all of the answers, but they can certainly help solve the challenge. Both BERC and the CRB are committed to providing the platform to help them rise to the occasion.


Max Kushner-LenhoffMaxwell Kushner-Lenhoff is a Fellow at the Center for Responsible Business, VP of the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) and a full-time MBA student at Berkeley Haas. Prior to business school, he earned his BS/MS in inorganic chemistry at Yale focused on renewable fuels production. He then spent four years in the Office of the CEO at The Dow Chemical Company, where he worked on the company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals, among other projects. Max spent the summer as an R&D Finance Associate at Genentech.

2016-17 CRB Year in Brief: Letter from the Executive Director

Photo by Manali Sibthorpe

Dear Friends of the Center for Responsible Business:

The 2017-18 academic year is off and running.  The campus is abuzz with students and the first year MBAs have been pounding down the CRB doors and filling our “Coffee with the CRB” chats to capacity.  As we have now entered the new academic year, I would like to offer some reflections on the past year and aspirations for the year ahead.

These are serious times for which the CRB has serious concerns.  We feel our work is more important now than ever and we are proud to have stood with many of our partner companies who have taken a progressive stand in the name of social and environmental justice.   During the 2016-17 academic year, we worked to further establish the CRB as a platform to encourage critical discussions and debates about the topics of responsible and sustainable business and their broader societal implications.

With respect to events and convenings, we successfully ran the 2nd annual Patagonia Case Competition, 2nd annual Berkeley Sustainable Investment & Finance Forum, launched the 1st annual Microsoft Conference on Business, Technology, and Human Rights, and convened two forums: Collaborating to Drive the Adoption of Green Chemistry with Levi Strauss & Co. and Rewarding Consumers for Recycling Flexible Film Packaging with Kimberly-Clark.  Moreover, our longstanding Rudolph Peterson Speaker Series enjoyed one of its best years yet with its thought-provoking events that regularly filled to capacity.

In the realm of curriculum, the undergraduate and MBA courses we oversee at Berkeley-Haas (~a dozen in total) are in good standing.  Our courses include Strategic & Sustainable Business Solutions, Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund (HSRIF), Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), Managing Human Rights in Business, and Food Venture Lab among a number of other excellent offerings.  The CRB is part of the Institute for Business & Social Impact through which a suite of social impact minded courses are offered.

From the research perspective, we are building upon the longstanding traditions of the Moskowitz Research Prize for SRI/ESG research, the CRB now also serves as the institutional home for the new Investment for Impact Research Prize that awards outstanding research pertaining to the social impact of capital.  We have also seeded a number of Berkeley-Haas cases with our close corporate partners that have been leveraged as the centerpieces of competitions and forums and are now available for adoption to university classrooms throughout the world.   The CRB seeded case “Patagonia: Driving Sustainable Innovation by Embracing Tensions” won the 2017 Berkeley-Haas Case of the Year Award.

In all of these efforts, we made further strides to better leverage our CRB Student Advisory Board and are taking steps to better engage and connect our wonderful CRB Sr. Advisory Board with our students and activities on campus.  More opportunities lie ahead for this.

We are also taking steps to better articulate our strategy and approach at the CRB.  The figure below represents our initial effort to do this – and we warmly welcome your feedback.  This figure depicts how we focus our efforts by considering areas of “Berkeley Strength” coupled with identifying “Global Challenges & Opportunities.”  Through this, we have identified four focus areas at the CRB:  Sustainable Investing & Finance, Human Rights & Business, Sustainable Supply Chain, and Sustainable Food.  In light of the troubling political environment in which we collectively find ourselves, the CRB has also elevated social inclusion & climate change as two lenses through which we consider our work.  We then identify the Companies that are likely to be great partners to engage in the associated activities while putting Students at the center of it all.   When we get all of this right, we are more likely to achieve our mission to develop leaders who redefine business for a sustainable future.

Looking ahead to 2017-18, we will further operationalize the efforts to put students at the center of everything we do and further expand our reach across the entire student body, drive deep impact through our focus areas, and further draw upon Berkeley Strengths and bring great Companies to the table.  We already have a number of excellent events on the books and invite you to join us.

In closing, I would like to express my most sincere thanks to our wonderful staff here at the CRB – Dara, Eva, Faris, Marissa, and Seren – and all of our wonderful supporters including those of you who kindly contribute your financial support.  We are 100% self-financed and would not exist without you.  Do you have any questions or suggestions for me? Please come see me for an upcoming “Coffee with the CRB.”

 

Onward!!!

 

 

 

 

Robert Strand, PhD
Executive Director
Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business