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Sustainability Case Studies
Learn more about sustainability at MIT Sloan:
Environmental Management at IBM (A): Making Sustainability Sustainable through Passion and Process
Authors: Rebecca M. Henderson and Paulina Ponce de León Baridó
Environmental management had been an important facet at IBM dating back to the 1970s. The case describes the company’s efforts in creating and managing sustainable practices.
Fair Trade Coffee: The Mainstream Debate
Richard M. Locke
, Diane Cameron and
In 2008, the Fair Trade Coffee market was facing a growth crisis. Many in the industry believed that survival would require mainstreaming Fair Trade Coffee into nonspecialty brands like Folgers and Maxwell House. However, the question was whether a mainstreaming strategy would compromise the economic and social standards that were at the heart of Fair Trade.
Authors: Neil Thompson and Jennifer Ballen
In the early 2010s, First Solar, a leading photovoltaic (PV) solar manufacturer, faced a series of challenges: expanding production by subsidized Chinese PV manufacturers; declining purchase subsidies in important European markets; and, declining prices for silicon, the key input raw material for its competitors’ panels. These challenges threatened First Solar’s competitive advantage and overall profitability, and it needed to decide how to respond.
Is It Easy Being Green?: MIT Sloan Considers the Opportunities and Threats of Sustainable Building
, Ankita Kaulberg and Bethany Patten
In early 2000, Dean Richard Schmalensee of MIT’s Sloan School of Management needed to make a decision that would shape the future of the school for decades to come. Sloan desperately needed a new building with great classrooms, faculty offices, study rooms for students, and dining. Schmalensee needed to decide whether the new building should be built quickly, using traditional design methods and features, or whether he should commit to a sustainable “green” building, as the building committee he had convened recommended. But what did green building really mean? How much more would it cost? What were the risks? Was there a business case for building green?
Materials Pooling (A): Opportunity and Potential of the Sustainability Consortium
, Art Kleiner, Joe Lauer, Benyamin Lichtenstein and Chris Page
This case series describes the concept of materials pooling as a sustainability strategy for businesses and the challenges that such collaborations encounter.
Nike Considered: Getting Traction on Sustainability
Authors: Rebecca M. Henderson,
Richard M. Locke
, Christopher Lyddy and
In 2008, Hannah Jones, Nike’s new VP of Corporate Responsibility, wanted the company to be a leader in creating sustainable footwear, and subsequently developed a strategy for working with the product units to do so. Questions remained about whether Nike was on the right track and if the company was doing enough in the sustainability arena.
Resolute Marine Energy: Power in Waves
Resolute Marine Energy (RME) founder and CEO Bill Staby and COO Olivier Ceberio believed their company’s wave energy desalination system could provide safe and affordable drinking water to water-stressed communities. They set their sights on launching RME’s Wave2O system in Ugu, South Africa, population 700,000, where wave energy was abundant. Keeping in mind the many commercial failures of wave energy companies that came before them, what Staby and Ceberio were less certain of in the spring of 2012 was which of three strategic approaches to take as they worked to commercialize RME’s unique technology.
Scaling Sanergy: Growing a Promising Sanitation Startup
Authors: Anna Waldman-Brown and
Georgina Campbell Flatter
Sanergy was installing 100 new toilets per month in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, but David Auerbach’s team still had a long way to go before reaching their targeted economies of scale (at which point they could provide sanitation services to all Nairobi slum residents at less than one-fifth the cost of a running-water sewer). Now that Sanergy’s for-profit arm was finally generating revenue, it was time to consider the next steps to grow the company. Economies of scale in collection and conversion processes would allow Sanergy to sell waste-converted products to farmers at greater volume and profit, but first they had to install many more toilets, which in turn demanded additional funds.
SunPower: Focused on the Future of Solar Power
Authors: Joel Conkling, Rebecca M. Henderson and Scott Roberts
In late 2006, SunPower designed, manufactured, and delivered the most efficient solar cells in the world. At a time when many experts believed solar technology would grow quickly, SunPower needed to decide whether to maintain market share through a strategy of differentiated technology or pricing.
Vermont City Electric
Robert M. Freund
and Jonathan Potter
In late 2008, Vermont City Electric (VCE), a municipal electric utility company, needed to determine which investments in demand-side management (DSM) programs to undertake in the context of the budget restrictions it faced. Based on the information contained in the case, students must construct and solve a mixed-integer optimization model of VCE’s operations over a six-year planning period in order to determine which DSM programs to implement and what the cost and carbon impact of these programs will be.
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CleanStart: Simulating a Clean Energy Startup
Eclipsing the Competition: The Solar PV Industry Simulation
Fishbanks: A Renewable Resource Management Simulation
World Climate: Negotiating a Global Climate Change Agreement
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