Saint Mary’s College of California, a Lasallian, liberal arts college with a strong commitment to service and social justice.  And, with the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business (ECRB) , the school is poised as a leader in responsible business, as well.   [SMC website / press release]

Exciting 2017 Event

The Elfenworks Foundation congratulates the leaders and participants in the 2017 ECRB conference on Harnessing Big Data for Social Good.  We love the vision … to become a renowned leader for promoting business education and practice that advances the common good.   

 

Center Background and History

Can responsible businesses change the world for the better? Yes, so say we all!  And Saint Mary’s College is a great place to start, as Provost Bethami Dobkin noted at the Center’s exciting 2014 launch: “this new Center for Responsible Business expands on our prior focus on fiduciary capitalism. The research and educational programs of the ECRB will reflect the mission of the College by encouraging businesses, through the scholarship of our faculty and engagement of our students, to develop innovative solutions to help solve social and environmental problems in their immediate communities and across the globe.”   To mark the launch event on Tuesday, March 25th, a panel discussed  “Responsible Business: What It Is and Why It Matters,” featuring leading executives from responsible businesses in the Bay Area, including Ken Munson, CEO of Sunverge Energy and Augustine Gill, COO of Catholic Charities of the East Bay. The forum was moderated by ECRB Executive Director Saroja Subrahmanyan, and featured ECRB Senior Fellow James Hawley. “Responsible business must mean more than simply claiming to be responsible,” said Hawley. “What are emerging worldwide are standards for responsible business through the concepts of E-S-G, for environmental, social and governance standards.” The author of 35 articles on responsible investment, the international financial system and the ownership and governance of corporations, Hawley explained that the “E” and the “S” focus on the impact of products and services that a business provides and how they impact society and the environment, both positively and negatively, while “G” is about governance and focuses on how firms are owned and controlled.  “The panel reflects the planned business partnerships and public outreach the Center will have going forward,” said Subrahmanyan, whose academic research includes sustainable consumption and consumer behavior of economically disadvantaged people. “Our plans are for the Center to take a leadership role promoting and inspiring sustained research, advancing responsible business pedagogy and fostering ongoing partnerships among academics, students and businesses,” she added. In addition to research and outreach, Zhan Li, SEBA’s dean said student engagement will be a key focus of the Center. “The ECRB will allow our students to partner with, invest in and advise various enterprises that meet the criteria for responsible businesses in the Bay Area and internationally,” said Li. “These are important educational opportunities and they are an outgrowth of the ongoing focus on the global leadership and responsible business orientation in the School of Economic and Business Administration at Saint Mary’s.”

The Center’s Fiduciary Capitalism Roots

The Center’s purpose has widened. When originally launched, it was known as the Elfenworks Center for the Study of Fiduciary Capitalism. At its heart was the premise that institutional investors such as pension funds can also promote a more socially responsible agenda. Imagine an institutional investor saying to a company “stop that bad (e.g., poverty-inducing) act, it’s bad for my portfolio,” an aspect of capitalism at its brilliant best. Fiduciaries who manage today’s huge pension and mutual funds are behemoth investors. By virtue of owning large portions of the global economy and having a long-term investment outlook, they see that what harms the “public good” will also mean greater costs of doing business over time. For reasons of bottom line alone, they are motivated to reduce what were once termed externalities, left to be borne by society as a whole.  This translates into more socially responsible investment policies and corporate governance. The fiduciary capitalism model also calls for a process of engagement with corporate managers rather than divestiture as the means to change corporate governance. It’s an idea so powerful that, in 2006, the United Nations used it to develop their six “Principles for Responsible Investment,” which provides institutional investors with a much-needed framework for their investment decision-making. The New York Stock Exchange has signed on to those principles. 

“I am delighted that the Elfenworks Foundation has named the Center and elected to be a guardian in our efforts to study ethics and social justice in the corporate world and within capitalism itself. The ‘fiduciary capitalism’ of large institutional investors and other ‘universal owners’ plays an increasingly important role in the world, and we look forward to how this role responds to pressing social issues such as poverty, inequality, and climate change, among others. There is no doubt that your gift will advance the mission of Saint Mary’s College and the Elfenworks Foundation. The Elfenworks Center at Saint Mary’s College is uniquely placed to make a positive difference in the business community and in the field of higher education.” –Brother Ronald Gallagher, President

Even as the Center’s mission and scope have expanded, the original work on Fiduciary Capitalism and activist investors continues under its umbrella, providing a firm foundation on which the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business can build and grow.

About Saint Mary’s College of California
Saint Mary’s College of California is  a Lasallian liberal arts college with a strong commitment to service and social justice.   For example, CILSA, Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action, promotes, organizes, and supports service on behalf of social justice by members of the SMC community. The college intentionally fosters a strong culture of service and social justice. For example, in 2009, over a thousand students contributed over forty five thousand hours of service in the local community, at the state level, and internationally. In addition, 21 SMC graduates signed on for year-long commitments to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Capuchin Franciscan Volunteers, and Lasallian Volunteers. The Saint Mary’s High Potential Program is a leader in educating inner-city minority students, and the college has received national recognition for its Katrina relief efforts. The college has signed the California Energy Pledge for energy conservation and is in the process of adopting principles of campus sustainability. Saint Mary’s College’s own Brother Camillus Chavez, FSC PhD, who teaches meditation and whose website (brothercamillus.com) we helped implement, has been supportive of Elfenworks’ Breathing Butterfly project. Contact: www.stmarys-ca.edu ~ 1928 Saint Mary’s Road,  Moraga, CA 94575

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