Yale Team Invited to Switzerland To Pitch Sustainable Business Plan

A team of joint-degree students from F&ES and the Yale School of Management has reached the final stage of an international MBA competition hosted by the coffee company Nestlé Nespresso, an operating unit of the Nestlé Group.
The competition — which was created by Nespresso, the Intelligence Center for Sustainable Markets, and Costa Rica-based INCAE Business School — challenges MBA students to develop business strategies that reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions while providing value to its many stakeholders, from shareholders to farmers to customers.
This week, the four-member Yale team will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland, where they will present their proposal to top executives of Nestlé and Nespresso, as well as sustainability experts and academic leaders. Theirs is one of three final teams selected from a field of 70 applications.
Members of the Yale team are Brendan Edgerton M.E.M. ’15 M.B.A. ’15, Susannah Harris M.E.M. ’16 M.B.A. ’16, Sarah Smith M.E.M. ’15 M.B.A. ’15, and Heather West M.F. ’15 M.B.A. ’15.
Nestlé is very aware that the coffee industry is one that will be affected by climate change ... So they really want to get ahead of this issue and set an example.
— Susannah Harris
Their specific challenge was to create strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the upper reaches of the coffee producers’ supply chains, including the farm-production level and the milling process. Using data and product information supplied by the company, they worked to identify methods that reduce emissions without putting too great a strain on the growers.
“We had a lot to balance in terms of financial and stakeholder considerations,” said Harris. “Nestlé is very aware that the coffee industry is one that will be affected by climate change — and already is being affected. So they really want to get ahead of this issue and set an example.”
The winning team will be invited to Costa Rica, where they will visit coffee farms, meet with stakeholders in Nespresso’s supply chain and “ground truth” their winning proposal.
For Edgerton, one of the exciting parts of the project has been learning about an industry that he knew little about. More importantly, he said, it was a valuable opportunity to work with students who have different areas of expertise.
“Even though all four of us are joint-degrees [F&ES and SOM], we’re all coming from different backgrounds and going into very different areas,” he said. “Harnessing that knowledge and experience, and using it collectively to make a recommendation, is always a fun exercise.
“And that's something we particularly get at Yale. Between F&ES and SOM, there are so many people who come from such incredibly different backgrounds. It’s one of the reasons that SOM, which enters a lot of these case studies, is often so successful.”
“There is a feeling of responsibility representing Yale,” Harris added. “In the end, it’s just an honor to work with these three talented people. It’s an opportunity that I’m proud to be a part of.”