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oikos Case Quarterly

Teaching Cases in Action Issue 1, Winter 2011

Dear reader, Welcome to our first edition of oikos Case Quarterly: Teaching Cases in Action. In this regular newsletter we hope to create a forum for discussing methods of teaching sustainability, management and entrepreneurship using case studies. We intend to do this through interviews and commentary from leading case writers. oikos Case Quarterly is intended to complement the oikos Global Case Writing Competition and annual case writing workshops (held at the Academy of Management Conference) which have been running since 2003 and 2009 respectively. Through this combination of activities we hope to provide a diverse and valuable resource for case instructors and promote further

integration of sustainabilityrelated topics in the curriculum of business schools and universities. For this first issue, we asked Prof. Kate Kearins (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand) to share her experience in teaching the Phoenix Organic case which won the 3rd prize in the 2005 oikos Global Case Writing Competition.


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We would like to encourage you to share your experience in teaching cases within this newsletter. You will find our contact details and the latest news on the last page.

We hope you will enjoy the oikos Case Quarterly!

Liudmila Nazarkina oikos Case Teaching Initiative, Project Lead


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Teaching Strategic Management with Phoenix Organic Case Phoenix Organic: Valuing Sustainability while Desiring Growth The case story Prof. Kate Kearins For the first issue of oikos Case Quarterly, we asked Prof. Kate Kearins to share her experience in teaching the “Phoenix Organic” case. Kate bills herself as ‘a quintessential New Zealander, a sheepfarmer’s daughter with a longstanding interest in the natural environment’. Alongside her role as Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Business and Law at Auckland University of Technology, she oversees and teaches courses in business and sustainability. Her background is in teaching strategy. Her research interests extend beyond cases to discourse and interpretivist approaches. She has written on education for sustainability as well as on mainstream sustainability topics.

Drinks company Phoenix Organic was ahead of its time, and its founder, Chris Morrison, no longer seen as fringe but prominent in his role as chair of the Sustainable Business Network, promoting sustainability as a mantra for other New Zealand businesses. From humble beginnings making ginger-beer in the bathtub and having volatile product explode in the delivery van, Morrison and his business partners built a company to be proud of. Phoenix Organic was New Zealand’s leading manufacturer of premium certified organic and natural beverages. Yet despite a growth rate of 25% over the last three years, sales were still only NZ$6.5 million. The owners were keen to grow the business. The question was how. Whatever option they chose it needed to not only be good for the company, but good for the planet and good for people’s health as well.

Teaching the case My co-authors Steve Bowden and Eva Collins, needed a case for New Zealand’s University of Waikato Management School Case Competition, involving teams of undergraduate students. Steve Bowden is a senior lecturer and Eva Collins an associate professor at the University of Waikato.

The case worked well for that event, where the expectation is that the students conduct a full case analysis and come up with strategies to ‘solve the case’, in front of a panel of judges –

and people from the company. Equally, the case works well in an undergraduate strategic management course, where it can be set as a written group ‘homework’ assignment, followed up by groups of students presenting their recommended strategy in class. Interest is maintained because the case is relatively open-ended and students can make a case for different strategies. Students can go off and do extra research, if they want to, to support their recommended strategy.

“From humble beginnings making ginger-beer in the bathtub and having volatile product explode in the delivery van, Morrison and his business partners built a company to be proud of.” I suspect the reason this case has been picked up and used by quite a few instructors around the world is that (apart from the lack of financial information) it fits the model of a standard strategy case. The bonus for me as a sustainability advocate is that the case works as a way to get discussions about sustainability into mainstream classes. I use the case as the basis for class discussion with postgraduate students. For a ninety minute session, we start by identifying company vision, strategy and goals, and ensure that we all appreciate that sustainability for this business means much more than business longevity. Even though the founder did not know the word sustainability originally, the concept clearly informs his decision-making. I pose the additional questions in


the teaching note: Can a business ever be completely sustainable in a social or ecological sense? And, to what extent is Phoenix sustainable? Very few if any businesses would qualify as ecologically sustainable – and sustainability is not an easy task. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy aspiration.

“Selling up need not mean selling out.” Students should expect businesses that make sustainability-related claims to have them verified, moreover. The class can conclude with a discussion on recommended strategy. A useful lesson is that not all strategies are likely to be optimal (or in this case ideal in terms of ecological sustainability) but usually some options are better than others. Not long after the case was written, Phoenix Organic was sold to a mainstream beverage company for NZ$10 million. Its founder has gone on to other small business opportunities underpinned with the same sustainability vision. Try asking students: How could Morrison best realise his broader vision for sustainability? Selling up need not mean selling out.

Favourite cases Mike Russo and Daniel Goldstein’s “Seventh Generation” case has an interesting video which means the case works in class even if everyone has not preread it.

it is focused on a specific problemrather than requiring another comprehensive case analysis. Faced with adverse public reaction to an unannounced product formulation change, the company has three options around which a choice must be made. Download the teaching note for the Seventh Generation case!

New case development My pitch to case-writers of new cases is to think laterally, be less formulaic in presentation and choose organisational settings where the issues are substantive – and interesting to students, of course. Videos, weblinks and shorter cases often have appeal. Celebrate the efforts of bold ecopreneurs by writing cases about them. Maybe students will be inspired and have ideas about how such ventures could be rethought, or replicated for wider benefit. Also consider writing cases that involve interorganisational collaboration, and also negotiation scenarios that can be role-played in class by different groups with slightly different information sets. Such cases could lay out the perspectives of regulators, competing firms, NGOs/ environmental groups and communities on a particular scenario. Collaboration is needed to realise a systemic concept like sustainability – and it is not easy – as students doing such negotiations will learn.

Michael V. Russo is the Charles H. Lundquist Professor of Sustainable Management at the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon.

It is worth following the authors’ recommendations and watch the final video clips, and students will learn a potent lesson about the importance of companies telling it like it is. This case complements the Phoenix Organic case because

New Teaching Cases Have you checked the winning cases of the 2010 oikos Case Writing Competition? As usually, we have three winners and two finalists in two tracks - Corporate Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship.

Corporate Sustainability Track: Portland Roasting Company: Farm Friendly Direct Madeleine Pullman, Greg Stokes, Price Gregory, Mark Langston and Brandon Arends, Portland State University, USA

Lululemon’s commitment to the environment: A tangle of seaweed, suppliers, and social responsibility

Andrea Erin Bass , University of Nebraska-Omaha, USA

Business Model Innovation by Better Place: A Green Ecosystem for the Mass Adoption of Electric Cars Ramalingam Meenakshisundaram and Besta Shankar, ICMR Center for Management Research, Hyderabad, India

Farmstar Goes Global: Corporate Entrepreneurship Bringing Sustainable Value Innovation to Agribusinesses Benjamin Warr, Anne Marie Carrick-Cagna and Luk Van Wassenhove, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France

Hunghom Peninsula in Hong Kong (A), (B) & (C): A Realistic Call for Corporate Social Responsibilities

Terence Tsai and Shubo Philip Liu, China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China

Social Entrepreneurship Track: So You Want to be a Social Entrepreneur: Starting Out, Scaling Up, Staying Committed Michael Gordon, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, USA

Good Water: Standing on Holy Ground

Steve Bowden and Eva Collins, Waikato Management School; Kate Kearins and Helen Tregigda, Auckland University of Technology

WaterHealth International: Providing Safe Drinking Water to the Bottom of the Pyramid Consumers

Hadiya Faheem and Debapratim Purkayastha, ICMR Center for Management Research, India

ALTIS: A Microfinance Startup in Nepal

Jacen Greene, Sustainable Harvest, USA and Scott 3 Marshall, Portland State University, USA

Case Purchase Information Inspection copy of the Phoenix Organic case can be downloaded from the oikos Case Collection.

Noir/Illuminati II (A & B): Defining Socially Responsible Affordable Luxury Clothing

Benoît Leleux and Barbara Scheel Agersnap, IMD, Switzerland

News: oikos Case Collection: Website update We have recently reorganised the oikos Case Collection. You will now be able to find topic-specific cases more easily. For each case we have included a short description and purchase information. You can also download inspection copies of all our cases. Have a look at the new oikos Case Collection!

New teaching module – The Future of Fashion – @ The Future of Fashion is a new teaching module developed by Aspen Institute Center for Business Education,which uses the context of the fashion industry to discuss sustainability-related issues such as ethical consumption, sustainable resource management, challenges and opportunities of global growth, and the future of labour management.

oikos cases are now available at and ecch Since 2010 oikos Case Collection is integrated with and ecch. You can identify oikos winning cases by searching in the and ecch collections by using key words ‘oikos Case Writing Competition’ or just ‘oikos’.

Future ecch events on case teaching Learning to Teach with Cases, Spain, 29-30 March 2011 Using Cases to Teach, Singapore, 4-5 August 2011

Best practice example of a teaching note is now online Have you ever looked for an example of a teaching note? We have developed a new page with recommendations for case authors as to what makes an excellent teaching note. Our recommendations are based on guidance by John Heath (published by ecch) and a teaching note for the award-winning case by Michael Russo. Teaching note recommendations can be accessed on our website.

The Ashoka U Exchange 2011 @ Duke University, Durham, North Carolina Case studies can be an excellent learning tool in many disciplines. How might they be used more creatively and effectively to illustrate the goals and challenges of social entrepreneurship and serve as a launching pad for students to gain realworld experience? Join this session to: 1) learn how institutions can contribute to the field through the development of high-quality case studies that explore and expand the “mosaic” of core principles of social entrepreneurship, 2) share ideas on case-study writing by students and development of cases appropriate for undergraduates and non-business students, and 3) explore ways to fund the development of case studies and to engage practitioners, including Ashoka Fellows, to ensure relevance and timeliness. The workshop will be led by Francy Milner (Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder) and Michael Pirson (Fordham’s Graduate School of Business). More information on the workshop

Contact: We would like to hear your experiences of teaching innovative corporate sustainability and social entrepreneurship cases! If you have any suggestions for improving this newsletter, or information you may want to share with the oikos community of case writers and instructors, we would appreciate your feedback. Please send us an email at or give us a call at +41 71 224 2698.

Partners: be informed, get involved, make a difference


oikos Case Quarterly Newsletter  

Issue 1, Winter 2011

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