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Two Broad MBA teams win at International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition

By Vivian Tran, student writer
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Broad College has taken the initiative to offer various opportunities for students to develop their understanding of business ethics, a strategic theme incorporated across our curriculum, programs and academic experiences.

One example is the chance to participate in the 2023 International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition, which was held online and on the campus of Loyola Marymount University on April 10–14. This year, Broad’s Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership sponsored two teams of Full-Time MBA students. Each team won one of the three aspects of the competition and was a runner-up to the other in their respective categories, coming in ahead of 24 other competing schools.

The Carbon Neutralizers team consisted of first-year students Konica Baveja, Yashasvi Chauhan, Pratyusha Malhotra and Elliot Smith and second-year student Gursimran Singh. On the 24-CARAT team were first-year student Aditya Bapat and second-year students Carly Maleki, Tania Sotelo, Rajat Srivastava and Ajinkya Virulkar.

“Ethics impact all of our lives, both personally and professionally. The Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership wants to offer Broad students opportunities to think about that complicated intersection of ethics and business decisions,” Beth Hammond, CESRL managing director, said. “By sponsoring teams to participate in the Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition, our students can learn from each other and the teams they are competing against to be better prepared to be leaders who consider the ethical implications of decisions they will make in the future.”

Ethics impact all of our lives, both personally and professionally.... By sponsoring teams to participate in the Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition, our students can learn from each other and the teams they are competing against to be better prepared to be leaders who consider the ethical implications of decisions they will make in the future.
Beth Hammond, managing director, Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership

Since 1996, the competition has become a recognized international program, with student teams from multiple continents engaging in a wide array of business ethics issues. The case competition is intended to help students explore the moral imperatives of sustainable development.

Each team organized a 25-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute presentation and a 90-second presentation. The first presentation discussed a business problem of teams’ choosing that relates to one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, analyzed the ethical, sustainable, legal and financial aspects of the problem, and recommended a viable solution. The 10-minute presentation was focused on solely on the ethical issues of their topic. Teams were asked to think of themselves as either an internal committee or an outside consulting group that had been hired by senior management or the board of a business body.

“I was thrilled with the students who participated,” Hammond said. “They were all hardworking, committed, intelligent and enthusiastic about this opportunity.”

Presentations were graded on five dimensions: legal, finance and business, ethical, persuasive and presentation skill. The judges included executives with experience in corporate ethics, compliance, corporate social responsibility, executive leadership and sustainability.

E‐waste refurbishment to educate and empower

The Carbon Neutralizers’ topic centered on improving Amazon’s recycling program. Its mission is to reduce quality electronic waste while also providing resources for disadvantaged communities that may have limited access, compared to affluent counterparts in education. The team proposed restructuring the recycling program and investing in Amazon’s secondary market of in‐house products such as Echo, Alexa and Kindle. The Carbon Neutralizers recommended a roadmap for Amazon to reposition products that are not qualified for resale. The overarching goal is for Amazon to solidify the 21st-century ideal “trash for treasure” and create a true win‐win for all stakeholders involved.

“Our team was inspired by the need to address two critical global issues: educational inequality and electronic waste,” Malhotra said. “By selecting this topic, our team aimed to find a creative solution that would reduce the amount of e-waste generated while providing educational resources to disadvantaged communities.”

Ideally, once the infrastructure of obtaining Amazon’s unwanted e‐waste has been contracted and built, the team proposed that Amazon partner with the Education Department of Ghana. Noting that this African country is severely struggling with a decrease in instructional availability and education resources, they determined this partnership would be highly beneficial.

Secondhand e‐waste will help in solving two problems:

  1. Refurbished Kindles and Fires can act as a means of continuous education by providing textbooks and modern software to students in need.
  2. Echo, Alexa, Kindle and Fire products totally out of commission can be deconstructed, tinkered with and re-engineered as a hands‐on learning method.

“Our team was successful due to our methodical approach, passion and collaboration,” Malhotra said. “We ensured that we backed our thought process through research and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It was amazing to work with such a wonderful and dedicated team, where every meeting was a learning opportunity.”

The topic also aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals 4, 10, 11 and 17, which focus on providing quality education, reducing inequality, sustainable consumption and production, and partnerships for the goals.

“During our future professional careers, making decisions regarding the life cycle or supply chain of various gadgets and technology will require evaluating from the long-term sustainable perspective as well,” Malhotra added.

Unified sustainability reporting

The 24-CARAT team’s topic addressed the absence of reporting standards for sustainability, which is a significant problem for companies and stakeholders as it leaves the impact open to interpretation without an objective guideline. Sustainability reporting helps stakeholders evaluate a company’s economic, environmental and social impact, but the lack of standardized frameworks and metrics makes it challenging to measure and compare sustainability performance across companies and industries.

“Our team was inspired to select our topic based on our shared passion for sustainability initiatives and sustainability reporting. We had been studying this topic extensively in class in the weeks leading up to the competition and had identified a significant gap in current sustainability reporting methods. We wanted to develop a solution that was not only usable but also profitable for companies,” Maleki, leader of the 24-CARAT team, said.

24-CARAT proposed creating a new standardized framework and metrics for sustainability reporting to be incorporated into the existing ISO 14001, an internationally agreed-upon standard to help organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste. The team’s idea would make sustainability performance information transparent and accessible worldwide, enabling stakeholders to compare and evaluate the sustainability performance of companies and industries. By using the global reach and efficiency of ISO 14001, the framework could be quickly deployed worldwide, making improvement opportunities visible at both the company and country levels. Empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions and encouraging companies to improve their sustainability performance would lead to a more sustainable future in the long term.

“For our team, the key factor was to develop a solution that was desirable, feasible and viable,” Bapat explained. “This thought process aided in narrowing down the options during brainstorming. We looked at multiple guidelines that exist today and leveraged them as a benchmark. Further, we took ISO 14001 and Fortune 500 as globally accepted standards for process and performance and built our solution around this. The competition was thought provoking, that ensured we addressed the ethical, legal and financial issues in a holistic approach.”

Several key aspects contributed to the 24-CARAT team’s success in the competition. The team was highly agile, allowing them to pivot quickly and adapt to new challenges as they arose. Throughout the competition, they remained focused on their shared goal of developing a comprehensive and effective solution for unified sustainability reporting. Not only that, but they were also able to draw upon their diverse skillsets and experiences to craft a proposal that would make a meaningful impact on the industry.

“By staying organized and following through on our plans, we were able to develop a well-rounded and effective solution that impressed the judges. Our victory was the result of everyone on the team contributing their unique perspectives and skills to the project. We were thrilled to have our idea recognized by the judges, and for several of us graduating, this was an impactful way to end our MBA careers,” Maleki shared.

The efforts of these two teams showcase how ethics and socially responsible leadership are constantly evolving. Through experiences like this case competition and more, the Broad College is preparing its students to be adaptive and spark change for a better world.

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