Page 1

Case Quarterly

Teaching Cases in Action


Issue 2, Spring 2011

Focus on Agriculture and Rural Businesses In this issue •Foreword •Interview with R. Scott Marshall (Portland State University) - ALTIS: A microfinance startup in Nepal •Interview with Benjamin Warr and Anne-Marie Carrick-Cagna (INSEAD) - Farmstar goes global: Corporate entrepreneurship bringing sustainable value innovation to agribusiness •Forthcoming case teaching events •Other news •How to subscribe

Photo by expedition WELT e.V.



Dear reader, Thank you for your positive feedback on the 1st issue of oikos Case Quarterly: Teaching Cases in Action. The current issue is focused on the topic of agriculture and rural businesses and it features two cases: start up of a social enterprise providing agricultural microfinance and technical services for the rural poor in Nepal (ALTIS case by Jacen Greene, Sustainable Harvest, and R. Scott Marshall, Portland State University) and development, commercialisation and expansion of a new product called Farmstar which helps farmers reduce costs and increase crop yields (Farmstar case by Benjamin Warr and AnneMarie Carrick-Cagna, INSEAD). The case “ALTIS: A Microfinance Startup in Nepal” is a finalist in the 2010 oikos Case Writing Competition (Social Entrepreneurship Track). It tells a story of ALTIS, or Agricultural Lending and Technical Services company, which was conceived as a non-profit social enterprise that offers micro-loans coupled with technical and agricultural training for small-scale rural farmers. The predominant majority of Nepalese live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods; however, the agricultural sector in Nepal is underdeveloped, partly because of the recent political turmoil and the absence of financial service providers who could cater for the needs of farmers. Poverty alleviation efforts in

Nepal are highly dependent on the transformation of the agricultural sector from a subsistence-oriented to a more specialised market-oriented system. This transformation process is constrained by the lack of technical capabilities and financing. Targeting this need, ALTIS aims to offer technical services for farmers focusing on high-value crops, in addition to providing traditional microfinance services. Although, ALTIS was initially developed as a non-profit organisation, the intention was to transform it to a financially sustainable for-profit social business. Concluding the case, Jacen Greene and Scott Marshall raise a question whether a hybrid model, which combines elements of both nonprofit and for-profit models, is the best way to establish a microfinance enterprise in a developing country. In the interview published in this issue, Scott Marshall draws attention to the relationship between poorly functioning capital markets and poverty and suggests that “most MBA macroeconomic courses skim quickly through capital allocation and few, if any, go into the issues of poverty”. Case instructors, using the ALTIS case, can facilitate an interesting discussion in the classroom by asking students to compare poverty rates and capital market development for Nepal and several other countries using United Nations

Human Development Index (UN HDI) website. Scott Marshall also suggests doing a groupbased stakeholder analysis in classroom in order to stimulate a discussion on partnerships which are the most important to establish and maintain at various stages of development of a social enterprise. The case “Farmstar Goes Global: Corporate Entrepreneurship Bringing Sustainable Value Innovation to Agribusiness” addresses a different challenge related to agricultural businesses. Contrary to the focus of the ALTIS case on poverty alleviation through the development of advanced agricultural market-oriented system, the Farmstar case draws attention to negative environmental consequences related to the intensification of agricultural production through the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Thus there is a need for a new solution which can help farmers increase crop yields and at the same time reduce the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Farmstar is an Earth observation satellite-based technology which enables farmers to manage their land sustainably with unprecedented precision. More specifically, Farmstar solution allows farmers to distinguish crops from weeds early in the growing season thus reducing the application of herbicides to isolated patches. This reduces



farmers’ costs, increases crop yields and avoids unnecessary environmental damage. The main dilemma posed in the case is Farmstar’s expansion to new markets. It was initially developed for farmers in France and failed to deliver the same result for farmers in the UK. Benjamin Warr and Anne-Marie Carrick-Cagna suggest that students should develop an expansion strategy for Farmstar to such countries as USA, Brazil and Ukraine, taking into consideration the increasing level of competition from other similar satellite-based products. The Farmstar case is also a finalist in the 2010 oikos Case Writing Competition (Corporate Sustainability Track). In the interview with Benjamin Warr and Anne-Marie Carrick-Cagna, case authors recommend that instructors using this case should start the class by showing a video on Farmstar which was part of the series “Britain from Above” and which can be accessed on the BBC web-site.

The video presents Farmstar from the perspective of a farmer and highlights the benefits of the satellite-based solution in terms of increased productivity and reduced costs. The case is accompanied by a teaching note which provides case instructors with a flexibility to adapt case material for students in different courses and with different experience levels. We hope that you will enjoy reading the second issue of oikos Case Quarterly. If you have any comments on interviews featured in this issue or if you would like to contribute to the next issue, please send us an email to case@

Liudmila Nazarkina oikos Case Teaching Initiative, Project Lead & oikos Case Quarterly Editor




ELT e.

ition W

xped o by e

ALTIS: A Microfinance Startup in Nepal

R. Scott Marshall R. Scott Marshall has a B.A. in business economics, Willamette University; an M.A. in international affairs, George Washington University; and a Ph.D. in international strategy, University of Oregon. Dr. Marshall is Associate Dean for Graduate Programs

The Case Story

For social entrepreneurs, whether in developed or less developed countries, the first key to success is to identify opportunities amidst the complex interaction of economic, political and cultural conditions. The ALTIS: A Microfinance Startup in Nepal case study provides a useful teaching tool for learning about these complex interactions and identifying an opportunity that addresses a seemingly intractable social issue. It is at the nexus of Nepal’s dire poverty, post-civil war unrest and a poorly functioning financial infrastructure that Sanjay Karki recognized the potential for a micro-finance entity that serves the rural agricultural population. Sanji had spent enough time in Nepal to understand the need for financial and technical services that serves the Nepalese inhabiting and working in the mountainous regions. In this case study, the opportunity for a microfinance social enterprise emerges

and Research at the Portland University School of Business. In this role, he has overall responsibility for accreditation, curricular, budgetary, marketing and personnel issues for the graduate programs. Dr. Marshall partners with the Academic Directors and Graduate Programs Office staff to build excellence into all aspects of the program quality and reputation and student experience. Dr. Marshall established the Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability (CGLS) in spring 2007 and served as Executive Director until December 2010. A strategic initiative of the School of Business, the CGLS advances the role of business in

creating systemic, cross-sector solutions to persistent social and ecological challenges. Dr. Marshall continues to teach one course, Global Business, Society and Ecology, in the Master of International Management Program. His research is in the areas of proactive environmental strategy, corporate governance and sustainability reporting. Dr. Marshall has published in leading academic journals including Business Strategy & Environment, California Management Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Information Systems, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of World Business, and Organization & Environment.

gradually. Students discover what appears to be an impossible set of circumstances – political instability, high unemployment rates, disenfranchisement of the rural poor, and ineffective financial institutions. Further, they learn that these Nepalese do not have access to technical and market information about the agricultural products they produce.

his elective courses he came in contact with Sanji and learned about the micro-finance concept that Sanji was formulating. Over the course of the term, Jacen came to believe that he would have benefited in the program by learning about how social enterprise opportunities are identified. He discussed the concept with me and he and I agreed that a case study in partnership with Sanji could help fill this gap.

“The case study is structured so that students discover Sanji’s opportunity: the conditions that make it so difficult to empower the rural Nepalese are the same conditions that make his concept attractive.” Teaching the Case

This case study was conceived by a Portland State MBA student, Jacen Green (who is a coauthor and now an alumnus of the program). Through one of

In using this case study in my courses, I have found that a useful starting point is the United Nations Human Development Index. Specifically, I ask students to go to the UN HDI website prior to class and capital market development for Nepal and three other countries in same geographic region. The basic question posed to them at the beginning of the case discussion is “what is the relationship between poorly functioning capital markets and poverty?” Although this question appears simple, a


rich conversation usually emerges about different capital market actors and their roles, efficient and inefficient capital allocation, and the impacts of limited access to capital. This discussion sets the stage quite well for the ALTIS case study.

“Most MBA macroeconomic courses skim quickly through capital allocation and few, if any, go into the issues of poverty.” The ALTIS model is highly dependent on a variety of stakeholder partnerships. Thus, I find that an in-class, group-based stakeholder analysis (based on Schlange, 2009), using salience, impact and philosophy criteria, is useful. Working in small groups of 3 or 4, the students have derived an assessment of key stakeholders that Sanji needs to engage in order to launch ALTIS. An important next step is to ask students to determine the sequence of engagement with stakeholders. At the start-up stage, what partnerships should Sanji spend the most time cultivating? And, of course, why? Then I have led a discussion to create a timetable of key activities on a whiteboard. This process is challenging but also illuminating for the students; in some cases, it causes them to question the basic concept; at other times, the students have difficulty maintaining the link between the stakeholder engagement process and the overriding objective of providing financial and technical services to the rural poor. Nonetheless, it is through this process that I have found students gaining the deepest learning about the time, energy and commitment necessary to create this form of venture in a developing country.

Favorite Cases

My three favorite cases to use are: Portland Roasting Company: Farm Friendly Direct, by Mellie Pullman and her MBA students; Method: Entrepreneurial Innovation, Health, Environment, and Sustainable Business Design, by Andrea Larsen; and Nestle: Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, by Forest Reinhardt. My courses tend to include discussions of institutional change and business strategy; I raise questions around how do institutional environments constrain sustainabilityinspired businesses and how do sustainability-inspired business bring about institutional change. These three cases provide great opportunities to explore innovative business strategies that confront challenging institutional environments. Also, using all three in the same course provides an opportunity to look at three different scales – Portland Roasting is a small, 30-employee coffee roasting company; Method is a medium-sized household cleaning and hygiene products company; and Nestle… well, we all know the scale of Nestle. One final note, the Portland Roasting case study has a fabulous video that really deepens the story for the students and Andrea Larsen created a great exercise comparing the use of PET and PLA to accompany the Method case.

economic systems and on. And, businesses that are authentic in their pursuit of sustainability will undoubtedly be confronting one or more points of tension: “Do we grow?”; “Do we conform to a set of institutional standards?”; “Do we report both our positive and negative impacts in the spirit of transparency?” The list is endless and we need more case studies that present students with the tension that is inherent in the sustainability transformation. Second, the cases I find most enjoyable to use in my courses are those that inspire students to go beyond the case itself. For example, Andrea’s PET v. PLA exercise helps the students build a set of analytical skills beyond simple case analysis. And, Mellie and her team’s video (as a complement to the case) connects the coffee farmers in Ethiopia to the student in profound ways. After reading the case and viewing the video I believe students look at a cup of coffee much differently than they did before. What if we were able to do that for each and every product we consume? Schlange, L. E. 2009. Stakeholder Identification in Sustainability Entrepreneurship. Greener Management International, 55: 13-32.

New Case Development “If you are considering writing a case study, my first suggestion is to ‘go where you know there’s tension.” That is, discover a story that you know has an issue that needs to be resolved for the organization to succeed. Sustainability in business is fundamentally about transformation – transformation of products, processes, business models, engagement strategies,

Case Purchase Information

The ALTIS case is part of the new oikos Case Collection book (Volume 2): Case Studies in Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability published by Greenleaf. Inspection copy of this case is available in the online oikos Case Collection.


Farmstar Goes Global: Corporate Entrepreneurship Bringing Sustainable Value Innovation to Agribusiness

Benjamin Warr

Anne-Marie CarrickCagna Benjamin Warr is a sustainability analyst and strategist. His research is concerned with the biophysical dimensions of economic activity and the development of sustainable society through eco-positive business innovations. Benjamin has an international reputation in the field of ecological economics and industrial ecology.

The Case Story

This case tells the story of successful corporate entrepreneurship bringing sustainable value innovation to agribusiness. It recounts the history of EADS-Astrium, subsidiary Infoterra and the development of a new productservice called Farmstar to help farmers reduce costs and increase yields. The case describes the

He has researched worldwide sharing expertise to smallholders, students, academic institutions, private companies and governments on sustainable development strategies, natural resource management practices and the risks and opportunities of climate change for business and society. He is author of a number of publications in Energy, Ecological Economics and Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, book chapters and case studies. Anne-Marie Carrick-Cagna has been a Research Associate at INSEAD for ten years. She has authored over 30 case studies and received several awards for her work. Anne-Marie also worked as a freelance journalist for several years. She now concentrates her research on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship working for Maag International Centre for Entrepreneurship at INSEAD. Other publications include studies on diverse subjects including marketing, organisational behaviour, healthcare, leadership, supply chain management, reverse logistics, global banking, private equity, turnarounds, buyouts, joint ventures, and cultural change.

productivity increase, reduced pollution and cost reduction as Sustainable Value Innovation (SVI). Describing the quest to achieve SVI, the case reveals the importance of: identifying and assessing reliable trends across geographies and traditional industrial sectors when defining long-term strategic objectives; nurturing effective operational partnerships that span the technology life-cycle of research, development, demonstration and commercialisation.

creation of uncontested market space through the successful development of an innovative product that increases private benefits (cost reductions) on adoption. Farmstar also generates public benefits (lowers pollution) by reducing the negative externalities of intensive agriculture. We call the process of simultaneously increasing public and private benefits through

We suggest that teachers start the class by showing the BBC video on Farmstar that can be obtained upon request or viewed on the BBC web-site. The video was part of the series “Britain from Above� first shown in 2008. The video presents Farmstar from the perspective of the farmer, elucidating the benefits in increased productivity and reduced costs.

Teaching the Case

The case can be taught through a process of question-answer, class discussions and assignments. Each section focuses on a specific problem set and starts with a clear description of the specific learning objective and suggestions for the teaching approach. The teaching notes are designed to provide lecturers with considerable flexibility in this activity by providing suggestions for reading material and class assignments for students of different ages and experience levels. The case also seeks to provide insights from several perspectives, for example the farmers, the technology provider, the agricultural cooperatives and public authorities.


The case describe:




•Topic 1: The characteristics of Sustainable Value Innovation – simultaneously increasing public and private benefits through value innovation. •Topic 2. The context against which the strategic decision to invest in precision agriculture technologies was made – pressure on land resources and spiralling costs. •Topic 3. A difficult history of commercialising technologies – collaborative innovation, navigating public-private partnerships, avoiding operational risks. •Topic 4. Farmstar from R&D to commercialisation – highlighting the role of collaboration beyond core competencies and describing the essential role of extended networks in reducing costs and overcoming slow adoption. Each one of these phases in the development of Farmstar can become the central topic of class discussion and assignments by referring students to the suggested readings, or by requiring them to work on class assignments to be presented and defended in class. However the case is also intended to provide the essential information to enable students to address two specific questions: •Topic 5. How to grow and protect the French market? How to enter new markets in other parts of the World? MBA students, entrepreneurs and executives are the main target audience for this case. The case is of particular relevance in the mainstream disciplines of Strategy and Corporate Entrepreneurship, and electives in Innovation, Sustainability,

and Technology Operations Management. The case can also be taught at undergraduate level in Business Studies, Agronomics or Environmental Science, and with use of the video resource to a much broader community of students for whom an understanding of the latest innovation activities in agriculture is relevant.

Favorite Cases

Often the best cases are those that provide counter-intuitive insights into the process of developing sustainable service offers and business models. A particularly good example of this type if case is, Eco-Entrepreneurship: The Bumpy Ride of TH!NK (INSEAD Teaching Case) by Peter Wells, Renato J. Orsato and Luk Van Wassenhove (2008). Another example is the case I recently completed – First Mile Innovation: Leveraging social capital and a fragmented supply chain (INSEAD Teaching case) by Benjamin Warr. This case consists of 2 parts. The first provides the opportunity for students to investigate the fuel vs. food debate within a very specific context, that facing smallholders in rural Southern India. Students are challenged to rethink their apriori assumptions about the topic, then to consider the process of business model innovation that has led to the creation of sustainable wealth, by a pro-poor biofuel business model. The case ends by highlighting the important role that social entrepreneurs are fulfilling in enabling larger corporations to reach otherwise excluded sections of society.

“The companies that provide the most interesting case studies and learning experience are not necessarily those that succeed.” New Case Development

There is an argument to be made that case studies tend to focus

on those successful companies and projects – a form of ‘cherry picking’. The failures can often provide more useful insights. In an effort to ensure that these cases get written it is important to develop cases through actionresearch meaning that the conclusion to the case is not defined a priori. Of course, such cases take longer to write and require close collaboration with the company under study. I am interested in seeing cases about companies who face particularly challenging problems and seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas involving decision– making processes around sustainability. Companies in the extractive and natural resource industries form this group which also includes public institutions and funds charged with a sustainable development agenda. I am also interested in cases describing the entrepreneurial decision-making process that leads to the creation of companies which have sustainability at the core of their business, and who have succeeded in transforming challenges into a source of competitive advantage. Such cases should describe the processes and methods that led to the definition of the product service offer, the creation of initial business plans, securing finance and first steps in creating the business model.

“Finally, cases that focus on the topic of sustainability but which are taught from the perspective of more traditional academic disciplines such as finance, strategy, decision sciences and technology operations management are of particular interest.”


The topic of sustainability in business must go beyond corporate social responsibility programs to address the processes by which strategic decisions are made that affect the core activities of the company in question. These cases would serve to highlight the relevance and utility of sustainability thinking for business whilst ‘mainstreaming’ the topic of sustainability into the core educational offers being provided to students.

Case Purchase Information

The Farmstar case is available for purchase from ecch (810-029-1). Inspection copy of this case is available in the online oikos Case Collection.


Photo by expedition WELT e.V.

Forthcoming Case Teaching Events ecch: Teaching with Cases 2011

30 June - 2 July 2011 Venue: Novotel London St Pancras, London, UK The workshop, run in association with the Richard Ivey School of Business, dispels the mystique of teaching with cases while helping teachers avoid some of the elementary pitfalls in their management teaching.

ecch: Using Cases to Teach

4-5 August 2011 Venue: National University of Singapore This workshop will provide management case teachers with the opportunity to explore the case method and assess its benefits for use in their own classes. Participants will gain confidence and share experiences in a supportive environment.

Other news

oikos is happy to announce the winners of the 2011 oikos Case Writing Competition. Inspection copies of the winning cases will be available online soon. Corporate Sustainability Track 1st prize: Coke in the Cross Hairs: Water, India, and the University of Michigan Andrew Hoffman (University of Michigan, USA), Sarah Howie (University of Michigan, USA) and Grace Augustine (University of Oxford, UK) 2nd prize: Burgerville: Sustainability and Sourcing in a QSR Supply Chain Darrell Brown, Phil Berko, Patrick Dedrick, Brie Hilliard and Joshua Pfleeger (Portland State University, USA) 3rd prize: Green Works: The Clorox Company Goes Green Ashley Nowygrod, Brian Moss, Nathan Springer, Craig Cammarata and Jennifer Gough (University of Michigan, USA) Runners-Up: Y U Ranch: Strategy and Sustainability in Cattle Ranching Pamela Laughland, Brent McKnight and Tima Bansal (Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada) Corporate Social Engagement: How Aramex Crosses Boundaries Luk Van Wassenhove (INSEAD, France) and Lea Stadtler (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

Photo by expedition WELT e.V.

Social Entrepreneurship Track 1st prize: Better Place: Shifting Paradigms in the Automotive Industry Dror Etzion and Jeroen Struben (McGill University, Canada) 2nd prize: Ndlovu: The clock ticks Charles Corbett (UCLA Anderson School of Management, USA) and Sarang Deo (Kellogg School of Management, USA) 3rd prize: Tropical Salvage: From Recession to Expansion Scott Marshall, Lisa Peifer and Ferrigno Erin (Portland State University, USA) Runners-Up: Vodafone M-PESA (A): Turning a corporate social responsibility innovation into a mainstream business opportunity Lo誰c Sadoulet and Olivier Furdelle (INSEAD, France) How to Establish and Manage a Social Business at the Bottom of the Pyramid - The Case of OSRAM in Africa Pia Sophie von Nell (WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany)


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 periodical, or information you may want to share with the community of case writers and instructors, we would appreciate your feedback. Please send us an email at case@ or give us a call at +41 71 224 2698.

To subscribe: To subscribe, please feel in an online form. Should you wish to unsubscribe, please send an email to


Photo by Paribesh Pradhan be informed, get involved, make a difference


oikos Case Quarterly Newsletter  

Issue 2, Spring 2011

oikos Case Quarterly Newsletter  

Issue 2, Spring 2011