2021 EFMD Case Writing Competition winners interview series: Inclusive Business Models

inclusive business models

EFMD encourages and rewards innovative and impactful cases in management development each year. This year again brought an exceptional variety of winning cases across various industries. We interviewed the winners to find out more about their motivation, inspiration and significant challenges.

The following interview is with Ezequiel Reficco of ESCP Business School and Roberto Gutiérrez of Universidad de los Andes, the winning authors from the “Inclusive Business Models” category.

The 2022 edition of the EFMD Case Writing Competition is now open for submissions. Find out more on the webpage and submit your case

Ecoflora: Sustainable Innovation in an Emerging Economy

What was the inspiration for your case?

Several characteristics make Ecoflora an extremely interesting case. It is the first company to commercialise a natural blue colourant, produced sustainably, that seeks to replace petrochemical supplies in the cosmetics, personal care, and food industries. Before Ecoflora, only a few indigenous communities had mastered the knowledge to produce such a natural blue.

Ecoflora is a Colombian biotechnology innovator who succeeded in leveraging the region’s science and technology ecosystem very effectively. It is a knowledge-intensive firm committed to improving the livelihoods of that country’s poorest communities through sustainable use of its biodiversity. It is a success story that sounds almost too good to be true, challenging at once several myths we grew up accustomed to hearing.

What were the major challenges in designing the case?

When we first approached the company, we found that the case was so rich that it could be potentially approached from many angles –such as cross-sector partnerships, technical innovations, or differentiation strategies. We chose to focus on one of the most fundamental questions in strategic management: (i.e., how is value created and captured?) to illustrate how price premiums and robust margins financed Ecoflora’s mission of empowering vulnerable suppliers and preserving the environment. After understanding the twists and turns the firm experienced since 1999, it took us several meetings to decide which dilemma the students would face. Eventually, we decided that the case should be centred around the difficult trade-offs that the company’s commitment to vulnerable suppliers generated.

In what ways do you believe the case could impact society and business in the future?

As a venture developed amidst difficult circumstances in Colombia, Ecoflora is an excellent example of what happens when business leaders commit themselves to societal change and honour the resilience of social and environmental systems, which we all depend on.

The Sponsor’s Commentary

The category “Inclusive Business Models” is kindly sponsored by the International Institute for Management & Development (IMD). EFMD greatly values the sponsorship, the expertise and the effort of the sponsor to contribute to the Case Writing Competition.

Nancy Lane and Vanina Farber from IMD, share more information about sponsoring the category.

Why is case writing and teaching on Inclusive Business Models important? And what are the reasons that IMD encourages case writing on Inclusive Business Models by sponsoring this category?

The elea Center for Social Innovation is a research centre of the International Institute for Management & Development (IMD), based in Switzerland. It inspires and encourages leaders in business, government and civil society to create social innovation in their respective areas of responsibility. It enables social innovation by the following: Reflecting on the purpose of business; creating, consolidating and disseminating knowledge; forging connections between corporations and actors in the social innovation space, such as practitioners, academics and other stakeholders; and designing pedagogy to inspire a mindset change.

EFMD’s “Inclusive Business Models” encourages cases featuring commercially viable models that include the poor on the demand side as clients and customers, and on the supply side as employees, producers and business owners at various points in the value chain. This provides a forum for firm-level case studies offering insights into the effects inclusive business models have on communities, environment and profitability and hopefully inspiring business, governmental and community leaders.

Ecoflora can be used to understand the importance of learning and flexibility for social enterprises, and experimenting with different business models while keeping the mission alignment and impact, even improving it.

Batec Mobility’s had an inspiring protagonist who focused on innovation to provide better services for an excluded population. The case directly addresses the importance of innovation and the challenges of scaling up for social enterprises. It touches on the important issue of deciding upon an exit strategy for social enterprises.

About sponsorship

EFMD Case Writing Competition is proud to have dedicated sponsors who drive management education towards impactful teaching and learning. Sponsoring a category allows you to showcase your institution’s expertise in the specific field of management education in the wide EFMD network. The choice of category, its exact definition and any specific conditions are the privileges of the sponsor. Sponsorships for the following categories are currently available – Bringing Technology to Market and Continuous Improvement: the Journey to Excellence. If you are interested in sponsoring the mentioned categories or launching a new category relevant to case writing and teaching, please check out our category sponsorship opportunities page or contact Hansol Park at hansol.park@efmdglobal.org.

More information about the 2021 EFMD Case Writing Competition can be found on the EFMD Case Writing Competition page. Please visit The Case Centre’s webpage to access the collection of the winning cases. See other interviews from this series.