Welcome to the launch of the Global Network for Corporate Citizenship (GNCC). This network is intended to link and stitch together experts and practitioners from academia, research, companies, NGOs, politics and anyone interested in the broad issues related to corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility and sustainability from across the globe into a global community.
It has been a work in progress over the past four years, a collaborative effort by some of the leading Corporate Responsibility Centers around the Globe. This web site represents both a public coming out of the Network and a culmination of many visioning sessions, discussions, and debates in which we began to put some definition and shape to our collaboration. We see GNCC as a unique opportunity to contribute to both the learning and the dialogue centering on corporate citizenship and to advance it to a higher, global level of knowledge, awareness and practice.
From local to global perspective
We often loosely toss around the term "global" without reflecting on what we mean and understand to be global. On a conceptual level it seems quite obvious that each of us is linked to each other within a global economy - the world is flat. And certainly, the emergence of corporate citizenship is driven by global trends and forces under a broad banner of globalization. At the same time every company and every country is wrestling with the many complex facets of the changing roles and responsibilities of business in society within their particular local settings. While there are often tensions between the local and global levels, there is no doubt that corporate citizenship is nurtured and shaped on the ground country by country. It is not possible for any country or company to simply adopt a universal model and plug it into their country or company. Global corporate citizenship is built from the ground up.
It was precisely these unique dimensions, drivers and challenges of global corporate citizenship, along with the disconnect and diversity among countries, that brought this network together. What we found from the beginning was the sprouting up of “Centers”, groups of academics and practitioners from companies and universities, who had come together in their particular country to better understand and shape the process and purpose of corporate responsibility. These early shoots had arisen mainly during the beginning of the 21st Century, all of them attempting to sort out the drivers and trends that were pushing questions on the role of business in society onto both the world stage and into their country and their companies and supply chains.
It was the explicit goal of GNCC's founding members to create linkages between and among their siloed Centers, to build their expertise on regional practice and contextual factors into a global perspective that would benefit every participant, and open up a more informed body of knowledge on global corporate citizenship issues and practices, thereby creating a learning community across the globe. That continues to be both the excitement and the challenge around the Global Network for Corporate Citizenship.
The Origins of the Global Network for Corporate Citizenship
I remember quite well sitting in the Director’s chair at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College during the early 2000s, encountering Michael Buersch and Susanne Lang from Germany who were contemplating starting a Corporate Responsibility Center in Berlin, based on Michael’s experience as a member of the German Bundestag, and Susanne’s interest in civil society. I had never run into a Center coming from a political and public policy perspective (never mind one from Germany). On another occasion I met Dante Pesce returning from the Kennedy School over at Harvard University to Chile to build Vincular, one of the early Centers in the region, at the Pontifical University in Valparaiso, who came with a human rights background, and a vision of CR along with a plan that would link the early efforts of CR groups across Latin America. Derick DeJongh from South Africa, who had left a banking career to start up a Center at the University of South Africa, was situated within a country emerging from a long and deep experience with apartheid. And in China Bill Valentino from Bayer Chemical and Oliver Yang from the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce were literally inventing CR within the state capitalism model that continues to evolve within China. Or look at the experience of Fil Alfonso from the Asian Institute of Management, a business school founded over 25 years ago on a model that would build out business education within the context of a developing country where business, economic and social development went hand in hand. Each of them brought an incredible energy and some very unique experiences, competencies and perspectives to this emerging network.
It was this band of intrepid leaders (today we would refer to them as social entrepreneurs) that came together four years ago to consider what unique but isolated Centers might do within a networked enterprise. Over the last few years this group has worked to build collectively a better understanding of global corporate citizenship issues, practices and cultures, become a resource for each other and their constituents, and established a learning community that could track, document and advance the evolving practice of corporate responsibility around the world.
A Look to the Future
So welcome to the new Global Network for Corporate Citizenship. At the same time this web site is being launched, the Network, founded under the name of The Global Education and Research Network (GERN), is being renamed to reflect new ambitions and a broadened scope. As part of this new vision, GNCC is moving from Boston to Bilbao, Spain, where its secretariat will be located within Deusto Business School and a new Center on Global Corporate Citizenship. This move to both a virtual and a geographical new home signals a maturation of the Network and a desire to further globalize it through its setting as well as its ambitions. While the name is far from perfect in a field where competing names are the order of the day, it is intended to build issues and practices of corporate responsibility, sustainability and accountability into a broader perspective of the rights and responsibilities of business in society, reflecting the incredibly dynamic and fluid environment which surrounds business in all corners of the globe. The big and complex issues of our times, from water to food security, income quality to jobs, economic development, and corruption, pose great challenges to businesses, to societies and to all of us.
The vision of GNCC is to create a space where those of us across the globe who are engaged with these issues, who are wrestling with the role of business in society, who are trying to bring a deeper understanding of what is at the root of these issues, help co-create a networked global community committed to better understanding and leveraging the drivers, opportunities and innovation in the changing role of business in society. Through sharing and creating research, educational materials, innovations and leading practices, GNCC will provide a learning center and a portal for business, universities, governments, and NGO's. It is the hope that this network will encourage collaboration, energize efforts to solutions, create innovation around important social and environmental issues that are currently stuck and mired in past efforts leading nowhere. GNCC has been established to capitalize on the power of us, and in the spirit of the times, build from the ground up a community who both learns and contributes to more sustainable business and society. So take this as an invitation to join our dialogue and to contribute to a global forum where the diverse energy and talent of the many will help business realize its full potential for a sustainable global society.