Berkeley-Haas to Boost its Efforts in Creating Social and Environmental Impact with Vibrant Hub for Research, Learning, and Practical Innovation

The Haas School  will significantly boost its efforts to inspire creative and effective business solutions to address some of the world’s most pressing problems with the launch of its new Institute for Business and Social Impact. The institute, which held a launch event Nov. 6, is being led by Professor Laura Tyson, economist, policy maker, and former Haas School dean.

“Our students are determined to make a difference in the world, but the answers are not simple or obvious,” says Tyson, whose extensive public service roles include chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and director of the White House National Economic Council under President Bill Clinton.

During her tenure as dean (1998-2001), Tyson was instrumental in renewing the Haas School’s attention to teaching and researching topics around social responsibility in business that date back to the 1950s, launching several key initiatives in this area that continue to this day.

One of the focal points of the institute is helping students define career interests in social impact. “We will provide students with the tools and vision they need to design pathways to fulfilling careers so that they can help create a more prosperous, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable society,” adds Tyson.

Alumni who have forged similar pathways thanks to their Haas courses and activities include Rob Kaplan, MBA 07. Kaplan started building his business case for social and environmental responsibility while at Haas, where he was on the MBA team that developed a green-marketing strategy for Fetzer Wines. Today, as director for product sustainability, he has helped put Walmart on track to meet its 2015 goal of eliminating 20 million metric tons in carbon emissions.

Research will also be an important aspect of the institute’s role, galvanizing the Haas faculty’s thought leadership in areas ranging from corporate social responsibility and multi-sector leadership to fraud, corruption, and ethics; environmental governance; poverty; health efficacy; gender parity; and more.

The institute will house several of the school’s current centers and programs that already provide courses, activities, and research spanning the for-profit, nonprofit, and public sectors. They include :

The Institute is also launching an initiative on the impact of women on business and the economy. Through classes, applied research, a speakers' series, and seminars with leading executives, this program will explore strategies to foster the advancement of women in corporate management, entrepreneurship and nonprofit leadership.

Beyond its centers and programs, the institute will provide a vibrant hub for collaboration with other groups at the Haas School and UC Berkeley around shared goals.

“The social importance of what we do has always been a part of our school’s DNA,” says Haas School Dean Rich Lyons. “The tools of business can and should be applied to bend the many unsustainable paths our world is on, such as the rising cost of health care, public education, access to clean water, carbon use, obesity, clean air, etc. Bending these paths will require the combination of skills and mindsets we aim to deliver at Berkeley-Haas. The Institute for Business and Social Impact is the next level of how we develop these pathbending leaders.”

The Haas School's commitment to exploring the relationship of business and society began in the late 1950s when Professor and Haas School Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit laid a scholarly foundation for the study of the social impact of business through his teaching and research, and by organizing the first national symposium on this subject at UC Berkeley.

Tyson renewed these efforts during her deanship by launching the Forum on Corporate Philanthropy in 2000 and raising the initial funding to expand the effort into what became the Center for Responsible Business. She also launched and raised funds for the Social Venture Competition and partnered with Columbia and London business schools to grow it into a global competition. It is the longest-running social entrepreneurship competition in the world.

The institute launch is being supported by donations from Haas School alumni: Allan Holt, MBA 76, a managing director at the Carlyle Group, and his wife, Shelley, gave a $1 million endowment. Margo Alexander, BS 68, chairman emeritus of the Acumen Fund, gave a $100,000 gift.

The institute’s launch will be celebrated on Nov. 6 with an alumni panel discussion for the Haas community on how Berkeley-Haas has helped them build distinguished careers that foster a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society. The event is sold out. Additional institute events for the spring are being planned now.

Visit the Institute for Business and Social Impact website at

Professor Laura Tyson