Case studies
Case: Bright China Holdings Ltd.

BrightChina’s management team believes that for  China to become a sustainable functioning society,   its  business leaders must proactively address community services needs and create opportunity and respect for everyone. For its first 15 years, , the management team led a real estate development company with a socially responsible outlook -- in contrast to what we read about much of China’s enterprise, which is known for horrific industrial assault on the environment, abuse of quality, and exploitation of labor.   BrightChina’s management believes that, if leaders better understood the responsibility of management, the vast majority of enterprises in China would be socially responsible.  Hence, in the late 1990s, its mission and investments were broadened to help all of China learn how to lead in the Drucker way. The first strategic social investment was in a Servicemaster franchise, after BrightChina Chairman, Ming Lo Shao, was in the Chicago airport and observed its cleaning crew wearing uniforms, proud of what they were doing — in contrasted to cleaning people in China  who worked on the floor with their hands,  without training, equipment, or dignity. Why couldn’t the Servicemaster model be brought to China? BrightChina invested in and launched BrightChina Service Industry, the Chinese franchise of ServiceMaster, which started in 1998 without any employees.  Within 4 years it had created a successful, respectable cleaning industry in China, a watershed event.  In 2006, when BrightChina Service Industry was sold to Aramark, 7,000 employees were working with pride.  Shao has not stopped tracking the company’s progress and recently noted that Aramark grew to over 15,000 employees and won the catering contract for the 2008 Olympics.

            By 1999, in part because of the BrightChina Service experience, Shao and his management team had come to believe that China’s management needed training. The team believed that the underlying Chinese culture would support and even embrace social responsibility.  Yet a manager was often seen as a controlling profit-seeker. This prompted the second strategic social investment —a management-training institute. After visiting and studying many of the top universities world-wide,Shao concluded that China needed a non-traditional institute.  He then  went to California to visit the 90-year-old Peter Drucker. With Drucker’s encouragement,  the Bright China  Management Institute was launched.  It now has 25,000 alumnae and operates programs in 10 provinces and Hong Kong with a staff of 22 full-timers and 10 part-timers.

In 2006, the institute was re-named the Peter F. Drucker Academy.  The academy trains about 5,000 students per year and is targeting 10,000 per year by 2009. The curriculum focuses on management, incorporating the best management tools and including only Drucker-based material with an emphasis on social responsibility. A non-profit institution, the academy donates all its profits to promoting Drucker’s legacy across China. In fact it has a department dedicated to social responsibility, which acts as a lighthouse to help others chart their management principles. In 2007, the academy donated Drucker archives named “Window to Drucker” to 8 universities, launched free Drucker seminars for 2,200 students, and helped student leaders set up Drucker Societies. The academy is doubling its efforts in 2008.  

The BrightChina management team’s third strategic investment is in the BrightChina Foundation established to help educate and build entrepreneurial capabilities in rural areas and prisons.   Since 2003, BrightChina has invested in the foundation, which  provided scholarships to  over 19,000 students. Its entrepreneurship program operates in six rural provinces and is targeting to train 16 million vocational students and 1 million prisoners over the next 5 years. Each of BrightChina’s investments is linked to its overall goal: to help create a sustainable functioning society in China with a new kind of managerial culture, and where the level of healthcare and services for the less fortunate is elevated.  BrightChina ‘s management team is currently revisiting its mission and purpose with the aim of again broadening it to capture emerging social opportunities all in the spirit of better serving the society in which it operates. For example, an effort is underway to support the needs of the emerging social entrepreneurs in Hong Kong.

The BrightChina model of linking profit, not-profit, and education under a broader organizational umbrella would be unusual in any nation. That this model was developed in China is compelling evidence of the power of management determination against all odds.


Reference websites:
Drucker Academy:  

Posted on 10/9/2007