Sustainable Solutions


Nespresso Case Competition participants

Nespresso’s 2017 Sustainability MBA Challenge called for ideas about how the coffee company should leverage its sustainability commitments to attract loyal customers and talented staff. The challenge drew almost 90 proposals from universities from around the world and among this year’s 15 semi-finalists, which included the Yale School of Management and the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, were a team from the KLU. Team member Rhys Hange explains whos, whats, whys and hows of getting there.

Where are you and your teammates from?
I’m from Ohio, USA, Daniela Salas is from Colombia and Nora Zimmerman from Germany. And a fourth member is from Honduras.

What were you doing before you started your MSc in Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the KLU?
We all had jobs. I worked as an Operations Manager with JB Hunt Transport in the US, which is a Fortune 500 company.

Where are you currently, and what are you doing there?
I’ve just completed the first year of my MSc, and am now working in Geneva, Switzerland. I have a summer internship with the UN.

How and why did you get involved in Nespresso’s sustainability challenge?
Daniela, who is a very forceful person, insisted that we form a team after reading an email about it. The rest of us really had no choice in the matter…

What did the challenge entail?
The case was regarding Nespresso's sustainability efforts. However, we signed a non-disclosure agreement and cannot reveal more than we had to submit a 10-page report and then wait for the results. The reports were read and rated by company executives.

How much time did you have to prepare for the competition?
20 days.

You and your team made it to the semi-finals of the competition and joined some illustrious company there. What was the secret of your success?
Because of our work experience, we knew that professionals are looking for recommendations that are practical and actionable, while still being ambitious. We also knew that making a series of minor, ad-hoc recommendations on top of what they're already doing is neither effective nor impressive. Rather, our solutions sought to address the root cause of the issues that were presented to us in the case.

How did studying at the KLU help you compete in the challenge?
Doing the MSc has been helpful in giving us ample practice with case studies. We also utilized some of the class material.

What support did the KLU give you?
Our advising professor, Rod Franklin, set us off on the right foot by letting us know what Nespresso typically looks for. He also offered further guidance, which we declined. Mainly due to ego…

What benefits can you take from taking part in the competition, in terms of where you are now and in the future?
All four of us can be extremely difficult to work with and the conflict was endless. So it was good practice in dealing with outrageous personalities. We were also presented with a great deal of information about making supply chains more sustainable. And learned a lot about coffee.