When Kellie McElhaney left an established professional career in Michigan to start the Haas Center for Responsible Business (CRB) in 2003, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) was still in its infancy.
Ten years later, CSR is well integrated in many businesses; the CRB offers a full range of courses through a dedicated, innovative group of faculty; and more than 1,200 CRB alumni have taken those courses. CRB graduates have gone on to CSR leadership positions at companies such as Ernst & Young, Yahoo!, Wal-Mart, and Google; have brought CSR thinking to non-CSR jobs at companies like Visa, Apple, and Disney; or have started their own firms focused on building a sustainable world though business.
In recognition of her achievements, McElhaney—now the John C. Whitehead Fellow in Corporate Responsibility and CRB’s faculty director—was presented with the Founder and Visionary Award by Dean Rich Lyons at CRB’s 10th anniversary celebration on March 20. The event featured presentations from Kristen Groos Richmond, MBA 06, co-founder of Revolution Foods; Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, co-founders of Indiegogo; and John Viera, Ford Motor Co.’s global director, sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. CRB also presented its new Homer Redefining Business Award to Indiegogo.
Several CRB graduates who attended the event said McElhaney was a key influencer in their careers. That included Jo Mackness, MBA 04, CRB’s current executive director, who was among the first students to take McElhaney’s Strategic CSR & Consulting course at Haas. Mackness designed the CSR blueprint for Ernst & Young for her class project and later was hired as the company’s corporate responsibility integration leader.
“Kellie is exceptionally good at having her finger on the pulse of what’s next,” Mackness said. “She always has been and continues to be on the leading edge of topics that are important to business.”
For example, McElhaney helped secure funding for and launch the $1.7 million Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund, the first investment fund with an SRI focus created by a top business school, which boasts a more than 50 percent return over the last five years. She also launched the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program, which has funded dozens of interdisciplinary research projects, courses, and events across the Berkeley campus. And McElhaney wrote the book Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand. These and other efforts helped establish Haas as a leader in corporate responsibility, earning top rankings among MBA school sustainability programs.
“Kellie took a risk to come here from Michigan,” Mackness said, explaining how McElhaney uprooted her family and moved across the country to develop the fledgling CRB. “Clearly, it was a risk that paid off.”