Profit and sustainability: not mutually exclusive

A team of MBA students from Instituto de Empresa (IE) came up with the Grand Prize at the Thunderbird Sustainable Innovation Summit competition, taking home $20,000 and the title “2007 Global Champions of Sustainable Innovation.”

The IE team competed against 85 teams from 45 universities from the US, Europe and Asia. German students Philipp Pausder and Tobias Schirmer, Macedonian Blagoja Hamamdziev and Mexican Guillermo Ortega presented their work called “Disruptive Thoughts” to a jury integrated by experts in innovation and CSR, including entrepreneurs, business men, consultants and academics.

IE Students also won in 2004 and were in 3rd place last year at the same competition , which was named Global Citizenship Challenge back then.

The 10 teams in the final round of the competition were challenged to develop the most innovative and sustainable business plans that addressed real-life challenges faced by Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co. Inc.

sustain_innovation.gifMerck asked the MBA teams to develop a plan for the company to shape the overall healthcare landscape in the emerging markets of China and India, thereby producing sustainable markets for its products. Johnson & Johnson’s posed the question of how the company could provide its high-tech health care solutions in emerging and developed economies at an affordable price for growing middle and lower income consumer groups.  

The winning solution for Merck suggested way that the company could become a knowledge leader in rural markets by integrating technology to educate the rural consumers about health-care practices and solutions available for their unmet needs.

The solution the Instituto de Empresa team developed for Johnson & Johnson had the company closing the affordability gap by partnering with other large corporations to provide affordable payment plans for employees in the middle and lower income markets.

“Innovative, real-world solutions presented by the student teams that participated in the  summit exceeded our expectations in many ways,” said Neil Currie, a spokesman for Johnson & Johnson.

An MBA team from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University placed second,  and a graduate team from John Hopkins University placed third.

“The summit demonstrated the power of integrating business thinking and sustainability thinking,” said Greg Unruh, director of Thunderbird’s Lincoln Center for Ethics in International Management. “The teams showed that real gains come from innovative commercial solutions that simultaneously create business value as well as collateral social and environmental value“.

The Financial Times has ranked Thunderbird No. 1 in International Business in the first year the publication included that category in its annual worldwide ranking of full-time MBA programs.

Instituto de Empresa (IE) is a leading business school based in Madrid, Spain, routinely recognized as being among the top 15 business schools worldwide. It is characterized by its global approach, its applied research projects and the promotion of socially responsible initiatives.

Explore posts in the same categories: CSR and Sustainability

One Comment on “Profit and sustainability: not mutually exclusive”


  1. […] Spanish MBA Team Wins Sustainable Innovation Prize [Technology for Life] – A team of MBA students from Instituto de Empresa in Madrid took home $20,000 from the Thunderbird School’s Sustainable Innovation Summit for their solution to make high-tech health care affordable in developing countries. […]


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