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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 4pm

Sustainability Comp Sees MBAs Present Business Case at Davos: MBA News

sustainability in business case competition

A team of MBA students from British Columbia’s University of Victoria were named winners of a business case competition in sustainability that saw participants draw up recommendations for global pharmaceutical firm, Novartis.

It was during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that the final of the Business for a Better World Case Competition took place. An initial count of 26 international teams had by this point been whittled down to three finalists (each of which represented Canadian business schools) who were given the opportunity to travel to Davos to present their business plan in front of a panel of judges.

Those judges included Eric Cornut, chief ethics, compliance and policy officer at Novartis - the Swiss pharmaceutical firm that lay at the center of this sustainability challenge – co-organized by Corporate Knights and the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.

MBA students develop business case for Novartis 

The goal was for the MBA students to create a business case that could enhance the sustainability standing of Novartis, relative to its industry peers, by identifying priorities in the shape of social, environmental and governance metrics.

As a company that promotes clean capitalism, Corporate Knights wanted students to pay heed to the peculiarities of the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to sustainability and what might be missing when it comes to measuring a company’s performance in this area, as its chief executive and publisher, Toby Heaps, explained:

“Access to drugs, particularly in the developing world, is one example of what standard industry metrics don’t capture, and this issue is a growing concern for the pharma sector that needs to be addressed.”

The winning business case laid out a plan by which Novartis, by 2020, could cut its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, as well as reducing water and waste production by 90%. It also outlined a means of raising the number of women in executive-level positions from zero to 30% in the same timeframe.

This was the business case submitted by MBA students from the University of Victoria’s Gill Graduate School at the Gustavson School of Business, who had prepared for their trip to Davos by holding a mock presentation with the help of local pharmaceutical leaders from Aspreva Pharmaceuticals and Vifor Pharma.

In the real thing, they placed ahead of MBA students from Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University and Schulich School of Business in second and third place respectively. The winning team picked up just under US$5,000 (C$6k) for their efforts.

This is the second edition of the Business for a Better World Case Competition – last year the sustainability challenge involved creating a business case for Canadian oil developer, Suncor Energy, and was won by Sweden’s Stockholm School of Economics.

“Last year, we focused on the energy sector and three non-Canadian teams ended up presenting proposals to a Canadian company. This year, we focused on biotech and three Canadian teams presented to a non-Canadian company,” said Corporate Knights’ Heaps.

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).