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CRB as a Connector: Building on Our Strengths as Part of UC-Berkeley

campanile-trees-david-schmitz_croppedBy Robert Strand, CRB Executive Director

I did not want to write this blog post. But my good CRB colleague Kate Alper has continued to pester me to do it. And today is the deadline. So here goes….

The reason I have avoided writing this piece is not for lack of things to talk about at the Center for Responsible Business (CRB). It’s the exact opposite. There is simply too much going on – too many really exciting endeavors – that by attempting to write anything I am doomed to leave out important initiatives.

So I must focus attention here. And I am going to focus attention about a particular feature that I have come to learn about the CRB. A key learning I have had during my first year as CRB Executive Director is that the CRB is a connector. This is a core competency of the CRB. The CRB is unique in that we are externally facing to companies and the business community as a whole and we are internally facing to Haas and UC-Berkeley at large. We serve as a single point of contact that makes important connections that otherwise would not have been made.

In a complex organization that is the Haas School of Business — and in an even more complex organization that is the University of California-Berkeley — the role of a connector is an incredibly important one. Without a connector, great opportunities and capable resources are less likely to be matched. Without a connector, boundary-spanning ideas are less likely to be cultivated and grown to fruition. I have come to find that one of the most important roles we can play at the CRB is that of a connector.

The role as a connector is also how the CRB can help to enable and put in practice the Haas strategy. Dean Rich Lyons recently unveiled a new strategic plan for Haas. The new strategy is built upon four pillars – the first of which is to build on our strengths as part of UC-Berkeley. The CRB is in a very unique position to help Haas connect with the incredible resources across UC-Berkeley and realize the great potential represented by the new Haas strategy.

The Sustainable Products & Solutions (SPS) research program is an excellent example of how the CRB is a connector that builds on our strengths as part of UC-Berkeley. We coordinate the SPS research program out of the CRB. With the SPS program, we engage with companies to solicit their real-world sustainability and social responsibility challenges and we bring these challenges (and associated financial resources) to faculty researchers at Haas and across UC-Berkeley.

Navigating the complex research environment of UC-Berkeley is no easy task.   But the SPS program, backed by the connecting power of the CRB, helps to turn sustainability challenges from companies into research opportunities for our faculty. Given that the research of our faculty gets published in mainstream business journals and finds its way into the teaching materials for students, I see the SPS research program as part of the long-game to redefine how we do business to create a sustainable future. I am particularly thrilled about the opportunities that the SPS research program presents where we are actively working to grow this initiative.

The CRB is playing an important connector role in many other fronts. From establishing a forum this fall with the law school and corporate partners focusing on sustainable investing to building a multi-university and cross-disciplinary sustainability focused case competition this upcoming spring with the sustainability leader Patagonia to seeding cross-disciplinary sustainability focused independent study opportunities for our students, the CRB is working hard to make connections that will help to enable the Haas School of Business to realize the potential represented by our new strategy.

I have only scratched the surface of all that we have going on at the CRB. But I have completed this blog post before deadline. So let’s connect again later.

Onward!!!
Robert

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