Founded in 1988 by Professor Emeritus Max B.E. Clarkson (1922-1998), a pioneer in business ethics and stakeholder theory and Dean of the Rotman School of Management from 1975 to 1980, CCBE grew from the belief that as the relationship between business and society increases in complexity, the need for organizations to manage social and ethical issues becomes critical. During the 1980s and 1990s, CCBE was instrumental in the development of codes of ethics and codes of conduct for many of Canada's largest corporations.
Max Clarkson first aimed to be a writer and teacher of English literature, earning a master's degree in English from the University of Toronto. But his father George Elliott Clarkson asked Max to come to Buffalo and join his printing company, Technical Charts Inc. and under the combined management of George, Max, and his younger brother William, the company prospered. In 1957 Graphic Controls Corporation was formed and became a publicly-held corporation in 1965. The experience Mr. Clarkson gained from 24 years as an executive became the basis of teaching and research he conducted as Dean and then Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Management (now the Rotman School of Management) at the University of Toronto.
The year after his retirement from the faculty in 1988, Mr. Clarkson founded the Centre for Corporate Social Performance and Ethics in the Faculty of Management (now the CCBE). His ground-breaking research and publications in the field of business ethics won him wide acclaim and invitations to many international conferences. In 1997 the University of Toronto Press published the volume, The Corporation and Its Stakeholders: Classic and Contemporary Readings, edited by Professor Clarkson.
In the fall of 2019, the mandate of the Clarkson Centre was revised to focus on business ethics. In the spring of 2019, The David and Sharon Johnston Centre for Corporate Governance Innovation was established to support research and teaching and generate practical tools that can improve the effectiveness of boards of directors. The Johnston Centre will continue the Clarkson Centre’s previous work of studying the governance of large public issuers by gathering data and providing insights on trends, such as the Board Shareholder Confidence Index, while the Clarkson Centre will focus its activities on research on ethics in organizations.