Case Studies

The Erb Institute publishes a wide selection of sustainability related teaching materials. These Erb and William Davidson Institute co-sponsored case studies are available from Global Lens using the keyword search: “Erb” or “sustainability.”

Enter the Sustainability Case Competition:
The Erb Institute is offering a new prize for the best sustainable enterprise teaching cases published each year by the William Davidson Institute’s Globalens division.  Cases published by February 28, 2014 will be entered in this year’s competition. Click here for details
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Coca-cola en la mira (Spanish Translation of Coke in the Crosshairs)

Coca-cola en la mira: El Agua, India, y la Universidad de Michigan (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-389)– published 03/2014, 20 pages.
Developed by: Sarah Howie Erb ’12, and Grace Augustin under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: El caso práctico y la nota de enseñanza que lo acompaña, corresponden a la versión en español de “Coca-Cola en la mira: El Agua, India y la Universidad de Michigan.” Coke In the Crosshairs: Water, India, and the University of Michigan. ¿Cómo mantener las buenas relaciones con las empresas que sirven a la mayoría de la gente, pero que agravian a una minoría dispuesta a denunciar? Siendo el ganador de la competencia Oikos 2011, el caso explora la frágil relación entre Coca-Cola y la Universidad de Michigan. Presionada por un grupo activista, la universidad tomó la decisión de suspender la venta de los productos Coca Cola hasta que la empresa satisficiera las demandas ambientales y laborales de los activistas. El alumno aprenderá acerca del activismo estudiantil dentro de un ambiente universitario, y cómo es que la universidad intenta satisfacer las inquietudes de su estudiantado.

TEACHING POINTS:

La discusión del caso permitirá al estudiante:

  • Determinar la manera de evaluar el éxito de los esfuerzos de la Organización de Estudiantes para el Trabajo y la Igualdad Económica (SOLE)
  • Explicar cómo y porqué algunas organizaciones llaman más la atención de los activistas
  • Explicar ciertas mediciones e indicadores para evaluar el éxito, usando a SOLE como ejemplo
  • Explicar el concepto de agente de cambio
  • Evaluar las fuentes de apoyo exhibidas por los agentes de cambio

Interface’s Net-Works Program

Interface’s Net-Works Program: A New Approach to Creating Social Value through Sustainable Sourcing (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-374)– published 02/2014, 20 pages.
Developed by: Makely Lyon (’14), Javier Rivera (’14), Lauren V. Smith, and Pete Wangwongwiroj under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The story of the Net-Works™ program is that of an environmental sustainability leader—Interface, Inc.—grappling with the challenges of incorporating social sustainability into corporate practices via its supply chain. Net-Works illustrates the potential and the challenges companies face in using sourcing as a component of their sustainability strategy. Further, the process of designing and scaling the Net-Works program highlights the unique challenges of seeking to have social impact through business, as Interface must build a program from the ground up in remote and economically fragile communities. To succeed, Miriam and her team must figure out how to scale the model in order to make it truly impactful, both as an economic development model and as a viable materials-sourcing stream for the business. This case was written by graduate students Makely Lyon (’14), Javier Rivera (’14), Lauren V. Smith, and Pete Wangwongwiroj under the supervision of Professor Andrew Hoffman at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students will be able to:

  • Identify and discuss the challenges to developing and scaling a sustainable sourcing program, including, e.g., financial commitment, social impact, and partnerships.
  • Debate the boundaries of the role of a company in pursuing social impact through its business.
  • Discuss the differences between running social impact programs and using purchasing power to drive social impact investments of others.

Whole Foods: A Luxury Grocer in Detroit?

Whole Foods: A Luxury Grocer in Detroit (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-371)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Claire Boland, Heping (Cindy) Fu, Kristine Schantz (’16), and Daniel Voce-Gardner (’14) under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The “Whole Foods: A Luxury Grocer in Detroit?” case describes the various considerations store manager, Larry Austin, must make when the co-CEO requests a report on whether targeting store locations outside of the normal company demographic is advisable. In light of the Detroit Whole Foods’ success and the company’s plans to expand, evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of Whole Foods’ recent strategy to target low-income, urban communities as part of its store development plans. Furthermore, the case poses additional topics to consider: (1) How will expanding into these new areas transform Whole Foods’ brand image? (2) Is it Whole Foods’ role to address food access and poverty? (3) Does moving into low-margin areas negatively impact the bottom line of the company and its shareholders? This case was written by graduate students Claire Boland, Heping (Cindy) Fu, Kristine Schantz, and Daniel Voce-Gardner under the supervision of Professor Andrew Hoffman .

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students will be able to:

  • Evaluate whether Whole Foods Market is actually facilitating food access to low-income neighborhoods or taking advantage of a business opening.
  • Evaluate the business decision to enter low-income areas, considering both the “business bottom line” versus “business triple bottom line” debate and the role subsidies played in the company’s decision.
  • Establish whether or not the Detroit model is replicable in other cities of similar demographic backgrounds, specifically Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
  • Explore the social justice issues surrounding the move: Is Whole Foods taking advantage of food insecurity (lack of access to quality food), and is access to quality food a basic human right that Whole Foods Market should be providing to all communities?
  • Determine who the key stakeholders are and who is benefiting from the new Whole Foods store: Is it the local residents, as the company claims, or will this move lead to gentrification negatively impacting the current community?

Morgan Stanley: Positioning to Be the Sustainability Finance Leader

Morgan Stanley: Positioning to Be the Sustainability Finance Leader (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-376)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Carole Kerrey, Andrea Kraus (’16), Brian Rassel (’16), and Jorge Rivera  under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The “Morgan Stanley: Positioning to Be the Sustainability Finance Leader” case is an instructional tool for analyzing what role the investment banking (IB) sector should play in catalyzing social and environmental impact. After detailing how investment banks capitalized some of the major industrial developments in the United States in the early 1900s, the case asks readers to consider whether IB firms can and should now become major drivers of sustainable development. In order to ground this question in an exploration of real business strategy, the case follows IB leader Morgan Stanley, which in 2013 made the biggest pledge to the impact investing movement. The case explores Morgan Stanley’s motivations, rollout plan, and competitors’ strategies. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute, by graduate students Carole Kerrey, Andrea Kraus (’16) , Brian Rassel (’16), and Jorge Rivera at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students should be able to:

  • Understand how and when a business might seek to use sustainability to create comparative advantage in the marketplace.
  • Understand the role of the visionary leader, and a non-traditional leader, at effecting major strategic change.
  • Understand how finance, ever the great villain of capitalism, plays a critical role in the advancement of sustainability and creates supports for sustainable enterprise.
  • Understand the circumstances and actions that will make a foray into sustainability either credible or undermined by distrust.
  • Understand the role of leadership in effecting strategic change that may not initially appear to be core to the business.

Kellogg: A Partnership Under Fire

Kellogg: A Partnership Under Fire (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study #  1-429-378)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Nancy Gephart (’14), Stephen Ahn (’15), Jennifer Bowe, and Julia Winfield under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The Kellogg Company has made aggressive changes to its policy for the sourcing of palm oil for its products since 2011. In addition, since 2008 Kellogg has been a corporate member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization and certification scheme that promotes sustainable production of palm oil. Considering Kellogg’s commitment to sustainable palm oil, corporate executives and shareholders were less than pleased when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report in June 2013 that accused a Kellogg partner, Wilmar International, of illegally sourcing and producing palm oil in Southeast Asia. In September 2012, Kellogg had entered into a joint venture with Wilmar, the largest producer of palm oil in the world, in an attempt to expand its cereal and snack food business in China. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute, by graduate students Nancy Gephart, Stephen Ahn, Jennifer Bowe, and Julia Winfield at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students should be able to:

  • Understand the challenges and opportunities that arise when corporations attempt to balance expansion into emerging markets with sustainability.
  • Consider the extent to which Kellogg is accountable for Wilmar’s actions and how, if at all, Kellogg should respond to the allegations against its joint venture partner.
  • Evaluate the role of sustainability certifications in the global marketplace, particularly those of RSPO, and whether the RSPO is effective at carrying out its mission.
  • Understand the difficulties that often arise in corporate partnerships and the risks that a company must consider in choosing a strategic partner.

PG&E: Hanging on to a Ray of Hope

PG&E: Hanging on to a Ray of Hope (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study #  1-429-377)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Chris Wolff, Masayuki Kawasaki, Natalie Guishar, and John Serron (’16) under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), along with other California utilities, is facing a challenge to its long-term viability. Solar is becoming increasingly popular in California, as the economics have gradually made solar more attractive to the state’s residents. The California legislature and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have furthered the transformation, through an ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and policies such as net metering. PG&E’s market share has eroded and its profit structure has been turned on its head, leaving upper management facing existential questions. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute, by graduate students Chris Wolff, Masayuki Kawasaki, Natalie Guishar, and John Serron at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students should be able to:

  • Explain PG&E’s dilemma with respect to solar power.
  • Describe some of the options PG&E is considering as it tries to chart a viable and successful path forward.
  • Compare and contrast PG&E’s experience with other industries whose core business models are being threatened.

Taking a Bite Out of Apple: Labor Rights and the Role of Companies and Consumers in a Global Supply Chain

Taking a Bite Out of Apple: Labor Rights and the Role of Companies and Consumers in a Global Supply Chain (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-372)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Kelsea Ballantyne (’16), Zicheng Bi, Nate Underwood (’16), and Xiling Wengunder the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The “Taking a Bite Out of Apple: Labor Rights and the Responsibility of Companies and Consumers in a Global Supply Chain” case is an instruction tool for teaching the concepts of fair labor standards in a global market, supply chain management issues, and how a business deals with a crisis situation of media allegations of substandard labor practices. Students are asked to analyze supply chain and labor rights issues in order to come up with a response for Apple to the allegations of abuse at Foxconn. Students are also asked to discuss the role the media and consumers play in a company’s labor policies. This enables the students to better understand the complex issues of labor rights in the supply chain and viral media in a connected, globalized world. How and when should CEO Tim Cook respond to the allegations? This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman at the University of Michigan by graduate students Kelsea Ballantyne, Zicheng Bi, Nate Underwood, and Xiling Weng.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students will be able to:

  • Understand and illustrate how complicated fair labor supply chain issues are in a globalized, interconnected world.
  • Demonstrate responses to viral media by highly recognizable, consumer-facing businesses to human rights allegations.
  • Consider the role of businesses in labor rights and responsible contracting.

H&M’s Global Supply Chain Management Sustainability: Factories and Fast Fashion

H&M’s Global Supply Chain Management Sustainability: Factories and Fast Fashion (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study # 1-429-373)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Marianna Kerppola (’16), Ryan Moody, Likangjin Zheng, and Amaryllia Liu (’15) the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The H&M case is set immediately after the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. The case explores questions of who is to blame and how it should be addressed. There is no guarantee that H&M garment manufacturing had not been subcontracted to one of the factories in Rana Plaza, and Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at H&M, must meet with the CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, to discuss how the company will respond and devise a plan to face the media coverage and public scrutiny of the apparel industry that is sure to follow. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman at the University of Michigan by graduate students Marianna Kerppola, Ryan Moody, Likangjin Zheng, and Amaryllia Liu.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students will be able to:

  • To recognize the impacts of market globalization on businesses and describe key drivers behind the movement of labor to developing economies.
  • To understand the relationships among the garment workers, factory owners, and retailers in Bangladesh, which ultimately led to the deaths of over 1,100 Bangladeshi workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
  • To discuss why there is no simple answer to preventing another disaster like the Rana factory collapse and understand why the solution will require changes within the entire industry (businesses), global trade and labor policies (government), and the Western culture of excessive yet price-conscious consumption (consumers).
  • To develop strategies for a company, like H&M, to integrate social and environmental responsibility into its business model while continuing to maximize shareholder value.
  • To examine whether the strategies developed for a company, like H&M, can be generalized and applied to other companies in the garment industry or even across other industries.

Goldman Sachs B: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds

Goldman Sachs B: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study #  1-429-379)– published 02/2014, 8 pages.
Developed by: Joanna Herrmann (Erb ’16), Ashlyn Gurley, Jimmy Ward (’14), and Kyle Alexander under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The “Goldman Sachs: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds” and “Shaping Social Impact Bonds” cases describe a new financial and social investment instrument—social impact bonds—through the eyes of traditional financial investment bank Goldman Sachs, specifically its Urban Investment Group. Taking place in 2012-13, the cases explore the questions and challenges Goldman Sachs decision-makers had when determining whether to participate in using this new social investment instrument. Their thought process raises the possibility of societal improvements through innovative financial instruments and how government, non-profit, and traditional finance could work together to unleash new capital on old issues. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute, by graduate students Joanna Herrmann, Ashlyn Gurley, Jimmy Ward, and Kyle Alexander at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

After reading and discussing this case, students should be able to:

  • Comprehend the history and basic structure of a social impact bond (SIB).
  • Identify with and differentiate among the choices a bank is faced with when exploring social investments.
  • Apply the background information to assess if Goldman Sachs should invest in a social impact bond.
  • Construct a recommended expectation on returns for social and financial impact in a 2×2 matrix.

Goldman Sachs A: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds

Goldman Sachs A: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds (pdf abstract)

Purchase the full report on GlobaLens (Case study #  1-429-375)– published 02/2014, 16 pages.
Developed by: Joanna Herrmann (Erb ’16), Ashlyn Gurley, Jimmy Ward (’14), and Kyle Alexander under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman

DESCRIPTION: The “Goldman Sachs: Determining the Potential of Social Impact Bonds” and “Shaping Social Impact Bonds” cases describe a new financial and social investment instrument—social impact bonds—through the eyes of traditional financial investment bank Goldman Sachs, specifically its Urban Investment Group. Taking place in 2012-13, the cases explore the questions and challenges Goldman Sachs decision-makers had when determining whether to participate in using this new social investment instrument. Their thought process raises the possibility of societal improvements through innovative financial instruments and how government, non-profit, and traditional finance could work together to unleash new capital on old issues. This case was written under the supervision of Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute, by graduate students Joanna Herrmann, Ashlyn Gurley, Jimmy Ward, and Kyle Alexander at the University of Michigan.

TEACHING POINTS:

    After reading and discussing this case, students should be able to:

  • Comprehend the history and basic structure of a social impact bond (SIB).
  • Identify with and differentiate among the choices a bank is faced with when exploring social investments.
  • Apply the background information to assess if Goldman Sachs should invest in a social impact bond.
  • Construct a recommended expectation on returns for social and financial impact in a 2×2 matrix.