2023 EFMD Case Competition Winners Interviews: Corporate Social Responsibility & Responsible Business

Corporate social responsibility and responsible business

Each year, EFMD celebrates influential contributions to management development through the Case Writing Competition. The 2023 edition showcased a remarkable array of winning cases from diverse industries. To delve deeper into the stories behind these achievements, we spoke with the winners about their motivations, inspirations, and the challenges they overcame.

In this interview, we feature Rozanne Henzen from the Sasin School of Management, the winner of the “Corporate Social Responsibility” & “Responsible Business” categories.

“Driving Sustainable Transformation: Michelin’s Road to Natural Rubber Sustainability and Meeting the EU Deforestation Regulation”

Can you briefly introduce yourself and share your academic or professional background?

My name is Rozanne Henzen and I am a researcher from the Netherlands, with an academic and professional background focused on sustainability and the circular economy. I hold a Master of Science degree in Strategic Communication Sciences from the University of Antwerp, where my thesis explored circular logistics and consumer behavior in the textile industry in collaboration with the Flanders Innovation Cluster for Logistics. I consider myself a lifelong learner, constantly building upon my academic foundations in sustainability while keeping up with the latest developments in the circular economy space, or learning new professional skills such as case writing.

I am a former Case Writer and Researcher at Sasin School of Management in Bangkok, studying sustainability and circular economy integration across the Asia-Pacific region. Prior to this role, I was a researcher at the Sustainable Transformation Lab of Antwerp Management School in Belgium. I’m also the author of three books – one titled ‘Mastering the Circular Economy’, the second in my native Dutch called ‘De kleine Circulaire economie voor Dummies’ and another published during my time at Sasin called ‘Transforming Our Critical Systems: How Can We Achieve the Systemic Change the World Needs?’. In 2020, I was recognised as one of the Sustainable Young 100 in the Netherlands for my contributions to this field.

What inspired you to develop this particular case study?

There are a couple of things that inspired me to take on this particular case challenge. First off, our access to the CEO and his team of SMPT, the sole natural rubber buyer for Michelin, provided invaluable insights into the value chain and challenges Michelin encounters in its natural rubber sustainability transition. What inspired me to develop this particular case was the opportunity to examine the far-reaching impacts of EU sustainability law – in this case the EU Deforestation Regulation – especially through the lens of an industry I was relatively unfamiliar with – natural rubber production. Moving to Bangkok in 2022 and researching sustainability here has given me an outside perspective on how regulations like those proposed by the EU could play out, for example for local smallholder farmers. There are questions about whether the intended consequences will truly be realised on the ground that I could explore writing this case!

What was the research process like for creating your case? Did you encounter any significant challenges?

We kicked off the process with a challenge: getting myself familiar with teaching case writing and the industry. I have academic and professional writing experience, but the creativity needed for writing a teaching case was new for me. I followed a writing course at The Case Center and took enough time to explore that creativity within Michelin’s storyline. I loved it and had so much fun with it! The complete process from our first meeting to publication (and the EFMD competition) submission took 10 months, this included 5 brainstorm meetings and interviews with Michelin, 2 multiple-day rubber farm visits in Sri Lanka and Thailand, 3 in-class test sessions at Sasin, and 8 versions of the case. During the farm visits, I learned so much about sustainable natural rubber production and the smallholders working in the industry, but also this realisation hit me: all those beautiful trees that I saw while traveling, are not forests at all, it’s row after row of rubber and palm oil plantations. It was kind of an “aha”-moment. I never realised this, it’s worlds away from daily reality growing up in Europe.

From that perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in the big sustainability picture without realising the real human cost. For most of these smallholders, this isn’t just a business, it’s how they put food on the table for their families. From the start we wanted a case that would represent the multiple angles in any sustainability transition, it took a while to decide on the exact format, but the three mini-cases highlighting the environmental, social and governance side, with one short main case bringing it all together for the in-class session turned out to work best.

What were the most significant challenges highlighted in your case, and what problem-solving approaches or innovative solutions were employed to address them?

This revolves around Michelin’s need to comply with the EUDR by the end of December 2024. The EUDR demands traceability down to individual farm level, including geolocalisation coordinates and proof of legal land ownership, which is extremely difficult given that over 85% of global natural rubber supply comes from around 6 million smallholder farmers often lacking proper documentation and resources. Additionally, the short timeline until EUDR enforcement leaves Michelin with a very limited preparation period to get ready. The case illustrates the complexities of balancing environmental goals with protecting the livelihoods of millions of supplying smallholders. The first question students ask is “to comply or not to comply?” which always creates an interesting discussion. It’s crucial to remember that the case mirrors Michelin’s unfolding journey: at the time of writing, Michelin’s solution to the case challenge remained a work in progress. Potential approaches included deep engagement with stakeholders, leveraging technology for traceability or exploring innovative partnerships and financing for smallholder support. As instructors and students look deeper into the EUDR, they can expect new insights, articles, compliance guides, and industry papers to emerge. Rather than dismiss them, it represents the ambiguity inherent in real-world decision-making.

The case uses an innovative format involving three mini-cases focused on environmental, social, and governance aspects of Michelin’s sustainability journey. The main case ties it all together and sets the stage for an interactive in-class roleplay and debate, mirroring a presentation to Michelin’s governance committee. A preparation template guides students in analysing their viewpoint for the roleplay discussion. This approach worked very well in class and created a systemic understanding of Michelin’s sustainability complexities. The format promotes critical thinking and persuasive communication skills, and creates insights into balancing environmental, social, and governance priorities in real-world corporate decision-making.

How do you hope your case study will impact future learners and educators in your field?

I wanted focus on the fact that all the sustainability roadmaps, policies and regulations we discuss in classrooms – they have real impacts on real people just trying to make a living, even though lots of times that feels far removed from the classroom reality. At Sasin’s Case Creation Center, we want to bring Southeast Asian business stories to the global business education stage, as this region offers so many rich learning examples that students can learn from.

My hope is that by digging into the details and different perspectives, students can start to appreciate the human side of things a bit more. At the end of the day, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum: everything this case brings into the classroom is interconnected with and influenced by various other factors, stakeholders, and real-world contexts. If this case study helps drive that point home and gets future leaders thinking more holistically about sustainable solutions, then I’ll consider it a success.

The Sponsor’s Commentary

Corporate Social Responsibility

The category “Corporate Social Responsibility” is kindly sponsored by Ivey Publishing. EFMD deeply appreciates the invaluable sponsorship, the profound expertise, and the dedicated efforts of Ivey Publishing in supporting the Case Writing Competition.

How does sponsoring a category in the EFMD Case Writing Competition align with your institution’s core values and mission?

First, we thank EFMD Global for fostering collaboration between your organisation, business schools, and publishers worldwide through your Case Writing Competition. We were thrilled to contribute to this initiative with others who share the vision of advancing business education and encouraging the development of case studies that spark change, leading to “a new era of management practices,” as EFMD President Eric Cornuel expressed when announcing the competition’s winners earlier this year.

Ivey Publishing is part of the Ivey Business School, sharing the same focus on addressing certain critical issues facing organisations and society, which are central to our mission. Ivey’s goals include being a thought leader in these areas, preparing business students from around the world to engage meaningfully in addressing these issues, and creating spaces where academics, business, and government leaders can collaborate to understand and address these challenges. One key area of focus is sustainability.

When the opportunity to sponsor a category at the EFMD Case Writing Competition was offered to us, we naturally gravitated towards corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is intrinsically connected to sustainable practices, allowing us to encourage case authors who share our core values to present cases that will educate the next generation of leaders on leading sustainably.

Reflecting on the winning case and its contributions, what has been your institution’s learning experience from being involved in this competition?

Our involvement in the latest EFMD Case Writing Competition has provided us with valuable lessons and the opportunity to encourage more case writing in the area of CSR.

We were glad to see a strong case focused on sustainable transformation win the category we sponsored. Additionally, we were proud to learn that six of the ten winning cases were published by us, some under our co-brand partnerships. This reflects our commitment to publishing high-quality learning materials that are relevant to today’s business students, respond to global trends, set new trends and standards in case publishing, and bring diverse perspectives to the forefront for students to learn from. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

How does the winning case reflect current trends or challenges in the industry related to the sponsored category, and why is this relevant now?

The winning case, Driving Sustainable Transformation: Michelin’s Road to Natural Rubber Sustainability and Meeting the EU Deforestation Regulation, authored by Rozanne Henzen and Ian Fenwick of the Sasin School of Management, is highly relevant to the current challenges faced by organisations across industries. It illustrates how they can strive to lead sustainable transformations and successfully balance regulatory compliance and profitability while looking after their stakeholders. We are very pleased with this case and celebrate its well-deserved win.

The case centers on Michelin’s efforts to adhere to the new EU regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) but having to make substantial changes in their supply chain in the process. This involved requesting additional paperwork and information from the approximately 6 million smallholder farmers who supplied rubber to them. However, many of these farmers lacked the necessary resources to meet these requirements, especially within a short timeframe. We particularly appreciate how the case encourages discussions around accountability, influence, and the future of sustainability, which will greatly benefit business students at all levels.

Final thoughts

At Ivey Publishing, we remain committed to supporting case writing competitions and initiatives that uphold the case method as the best framework for sharing knowledge in management education. Learning through case studies enables students to draw from real-world business scenarios, apply their values and interests, and engage with business theories in the classroom to conduct thorough analyses that will shape their future leadership. Thank you to EFMD Global for this opportunity.

Responsible Business

The category “Responsible Business” is kindly sponsored by the University of Canterbury. EFMD deeply appreciates the invaluable sponsorship, the profound expertise, and the dedicated efforts of the University of Canterbury in supporting the Case Writing Competition. Lucie Ozanne comments on behalf of the university:

How does sponsoring a category in the EFMD Case Writing Competition align with your institution’s core values and mission?

The UC Business School is “in the business of making a difference.” Sponsoring the Responsible Business Case Writing Competition allows us to communicate our commitment to this value to an academic community and help develop case resources that can be used by this community to educate and support future responsible management leaders.

Reflecting on the winning case and its contributions, what has been your institution’s learning experience from being involved in this competition?

We were amazed at the very large number of high-quality cases, which covered a diverse range of aspects of responsible business. They were very well-researched and supported with online and F2F resources for the classroom and thorough teaching notes for teaching preparation. We struggled to decide on the best case!

Can you discuss the unique elements of the winning case that you believe set it apart from other submissions?

The winning case used a unique classroom approach, which differentiated it from other more traditional cases. It also covered all aspects of the triple bottom line and was very well supported with classroom resources, especially electronic resources.

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, Continuous Improvement: the Journey to Excellence, and Latin American Business Cases. If you are interested in sponsoring the mentioned categories or launching a new category relevant to case writing and teaching, please contact Petra Grestenbergerova at .

More information about the 2023 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.

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