WALTHAM, Mass.- In a public address at Bentley College, Mayor of Boston Thomas M. Menino proposed creating a test that measures corporate community involvement among Boston companies.
As the keynote speaker at Global Responsibility: A Call to Action- the BankBoston-Bentley College Service Learning Center's annual forum on corporate civic involvement- Menino said that the Boston Civic Action Test (BCAT) will gauge Boston corporations' community giving, employee volunteerism and civic participation.
"We have to start by establishing a baseline, because it's time to grade corporate civic performance," said Menino on April 1. "The B-CAT will be a valuable opportunity for corporate Boston and the city to assess where we are and where we can go from here."
For the businesses that fail the BCAT, or want to improve, Menino proposed that the city would offer "civic summer school" at Brewster Island in Boston Harbor, home of Boston Light.
"Maybe we will call it the Lighthouse Camp, because the city will pass on the flame of social responsibility to the new generation of leading businesses," said the mayor, who noted that the city needs a successor to The Vault, the now-defunct group of high-powered Boston executives who regularly met to ensure that the city remained vibrant through good business practice and civic involvement.
"After civic summer school, I ask you to create a Boston Civic Action Pact," added Menino. "I want to see an agreement among corporate leaders to contribute in a more visionary and significant way to the improvement of this city. And I don't want to see only the same old suspects. I want to see leadership from the next generation of executives and the next generation of businesses."
Remarks of Mayor of Boston Thomas M. Menino
BankBoston-Bentley College Forum: "Global Responsibility: A Corporate Call to Action"
April 1, 1999
One hundred years ago, Boston could have hosted this forum- to teach the rest of the nation about corporate civic leadership. It was Boston business leaders who led reform and built the city's great cultural institutions: Symphony Hall, the Boston Public Library at Copley Square, and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Fifty years ago, Boston business leaders like Ralph Lowell and John Coolidge looked and saw a city close to bankruptcy. Did they move their corporate headquarters to Charlotte or Hartford? No, they gathered a group of top executives to strategize in the basement of the Boston Safe Deposit & Trust Company.
Those leaders- who came to be known as "The Vault"- put their resources into rebuilding Boston. Their leadership resulted in the creation of the Boston skyline we know today.
Two years ago, The Vault stopped meeting. And no group has stepped up to take its place.
And yet, Boston is booming. Thanks to the growth of the mutual fund industry, Boston ranks as the third-largest money management center in the world. Yahoo Internet Life recently named Boston as one of the top five "Most Wired Cities" in America. Start-up companies, especially in the field of information technology, are flourishing here. And we bring in more federal dollars for medical research than any other American city.
But I am deeply concerned that newer and growing companies have not yet shown a commitment to the old tradition of corporate civic leadership. As Boston's economy grows, the commitment to the city and region is not growing at an equal pace.
A few days ago, I saw a list of the top 20 Massachusetts companies whose stock has grown the most in value over the last year. I'll tell you, very few of those companies participate in the civic life of our region. They may be on the honor roll of business appreciation, but I ask you, what is their rank on the honor roll of civic leadership?
Some people have said that Boston is becoming a "branch office" city instead of a place where headquarters put down roots. Companies are buying each other and then moving out of town. It's merger-mania these days.
It may be good for business, but it's bad for Boston. Take the merger of BankBoston and Fleet, for example. BankBoston is one corporation that has shown persistent leadership in these desert days. President Clinton recently presented BankBoston with the Ron Brown award for corporate leadership for its Community Banking Group.
I know I can count on Chad Gifford and BankBoston and Terry Murray and John Hamill of Fleet to do the right thing. Whether it is BankBoston joining the city by giving employees four hours off for cancer screening or both companies committing a total of 225 summer jobs to Boston youth, these are companies that have shown leadership. But now that Fleet and BankBoston are merging, what's going to happen to those summer jobs?
When they merge, will they combine their commitments and continue to employ 225 kids? Or will they downsize? If they downsize, it will be a great loss for the city. A loss that will affect the lives of a lot of young people.
The growth of corporate responsibility has yet to catch up with the growth of the bottom line. If a global economy means we are all connected across borders, we need to start acting like it at home.
In my address to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, I called for more dynamic leadership from the private sector. Today, I am expanding that challenge. I am calling for a real change in Boston corporate culture. I am talking to the new companies, the financial services industry, the high tech industry, and the 20 businesses whose stock has gained the most in value.
No more sitting on the sidelines. You can't just give a check in return for your name on a concert ticket. I don't want to hear "I gave the office." I am calling for executives to take the helm of private sector leadership. Right now, few people even want to get their feet-wet- because Boston has the reputation of being cold to risk-takers. It's not a friendly city to entrepreneurs- and that includes civic entrepreneurs. It's time for a big "thaw."
I am doing my part to make Boston a good city for business. But I am left alone at the table when it is time to make Boston a good city for everybody.
I am worried that the faces on the computer screen are more real to today's business people than the faces outside their offices. I am here to remind people that Boston is more than just the place where you Internet cables run through. It is a home to 600,000 people who are trying to turn their hopes and dreams into a bright future. Boston is home to 129 public schools where we are teaching 63,000 young people to be leaders and workers of tomorrow.
Everybody is so thrilled that the Dow crossed the 10,000-point threshold. I am much more concerned with preparing 10,000 more children for the economy of tomorrow. I am worried about creating 10,000 new homes so that Boston can house the workforce of tomorrow.
It's time to corporate Boston cared about these things, too. The global economy is no excuse for ignoring your social responsibility. Corporate leaders in other cities have succeeded in warming up the cold heart of business.
Take a look at Minneapolis, where corporations sign up to give a percentage of their profits back to the community.
Or look at Cincinnati, where hospitals took responsibility for creating new housing for employees.
And in Washington D.C., Greater Washington Cares has partnered with the Washington Business Journal to spur a 35 percent increase in corporate giving.
We can make a difference in Boston corporate culture. But to do so, business leaders must show up at the table with commitment and fresh ideas.
In my State of the City Address, I issued a similar challenge to Boston's universities. Boston public school students should benefit more from the wealth of educational resources right here.
That's why I convened an Education Summit on March 19. The city hosted over 20 colleges and universities to discuss concrete ways to increase higher ed's participation in the teaching and learning of Boston Public School students. The summit was a great success, and we are moving forward with a plan with everyone on board.
We all expect our students to perform better- and rightly so. But I expect Boston business to perform better for this city.
Therefore, I am going to do what I've done with the schools. Start by establishing a baseline, because it's time to grade corporate civic performance. You've heard of MCAS? Well, I propose a new test. I'm calling it the "B-CAT"- the Boston Civic Action Test.
It will measure your community giving, employee volunteerism, and civic participation. The B-CAT will be a valuable opportunity for corporate Boston and the city to assess where we are and where we can go from here.
For those who fail- or want to improve their performance- the city will offer summer school. We could take corporate leaders out to Brewster Island in Boston Harbor to learn how to be effective civic leaders. Maybe we will call it the "Lighthouse Camp"- because the city will pass on the flame of social responsibility to the new generation of leading businesses.
And Boston Light is the perfect location for our summer school. Boston Light, on Brewster Island, is the site of the first lighthouse built in America. Built to watch out for the city and all ships that entered the harbor, it stands as a reminder of Boston's national leadership and civic commitment. As the last American lighthouse to be run by a lighthouse keeper instead of a computer, Boston Light is also a beacon of hope in keeping the flame alive in a changing world.
After civic summer school, I ask you to create a Boston Civic Action Pact. I want to see an agreement among corporate leaders to contribute in a more visionary and significant way to the improvement of this city. And I don't want to see only the same old suspects. I want to see leadership from the next generation of executives- and the next generation of businesses.
That's why I am asking you to take these concrete steps:
to take the B-CAT and assess your company's social responsibility
attend Civic Summer School
and pledge to join the Boston Civic Action Pact.
I am asking directly because if I don't ask it won't happen. I am asking because I want to see corporate Boston commit to doing its part to make this city cleaner, safer, and more beautiful, its citizens well prepared for the economy of the twenty-first century.
We are poised to command our inheritance as a city with the legacy or great civic benefactors like Filene and Storrow and Lowell. Or we can passively allow it to fade away. I, for one, won't stand by and accept the lack of community involvement as a matter of course. Let's reclaim Boston's historic role as a beacon of hope, progress and civilization- not just for our nation, but for the world.