New Report: Digital Economy and Sustainability

Digitalization – the increased use of information and communication technologies (ICT) – is affecting all areas of our lives. Rapid progress in the development of hardware and software is steadily moving us towards a fully-digital society.

The ways how we learn, communicate, and consume are cases in point. Applications and devices make it “easier” (in inverted comma, because sometimes technology makes things more complicated or confusing) to do routine work or to stay in contact with each other. Many of them have already become so embedded in our daily experiences that it is hard to imagine living without them. Instant e-mail delivery, navigating with online maps, and an internet at our fingertips, available 24/7, has become second nature to us. The increased use of digital technologies to transfer money, to hail a taxi or to control energy consumption provides an illustration.

The impact of digitalization on our lives is profound. A typical day in the internet today comprises 2.3 billion GB of web traffic, 152 million Skype calls, 207 billion e-mails sent, 36 million purchases on Amazon, 8.8 billion videos watched on Youtube, and 4.2 billion Google searches.  The speed with which digital technologies continue to make inroads into societies is constantly on the rise. And the lines between the old economy and a new digital one are becoming increasingly blurred.

Against this background, Christoph Rappitsch explores the opportunities and risks of the digital economy for a broad sustainability agenda and thus for people, communities and the planet in the first oikos Associate Report.  Enjoy the read!

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oikos International

posted May 10, 2017

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Energy Storage, the Future? Not in Switzerland

Leading voices from the Swiss energy sector came together on October 21st at the University of St. Gallen for the annual oikos Conference, hosted and organized by oikos St. Gallen.

The topic of the one-day event: Energy Storage Solutions for the Future. To the surprise of the audience, which comprised oikos members and alumni, as well as faculty and students from major Swiss universities, the experts quickly agreed that energy storages will not play a major role in Switzerland in the near future: The grid is simply too good. Instead of storing homegrown electricity in local batteries, energy can flow freely to large-scale solutions like pump storage plants. This is made possible by the circular design of the grid, that not only delivers but has the potential to pick up energy at households.

Nevertheless, the experts from Siemens, the energy suppliers of Zurich ewz, its equivalent for the region of St. Gallen and SwissPower, an industry association, had great insights into what may be the use of energy storage. While Siemens sees most potential in large scale batteries used by businesses and industry, the local electricity and energy suppliers already experiment with solutions on the household and community level. This contrasting approach to harvesting the new technologies – like sustainable energy sources, batteries have become cheaper and more efficient – was reflected in the case studies presented to the students.

Both Siemens and ewz challenged the present students with a case. While the technical expertise among the management students was expectedly narrow, the groups came up with interesting solutions.

The conference was concluded by a high-level panel, which included National Council Member and SP floor leader Roger Nordmann, as well as Sonja Lüthi, local politician for the Green Party and energy expert, Gianni Operto, industry old hand and president of an association promoting renewables and energy efficiency, and Doris Schmack, a longstanding researcher and currently head of the MicrobEnergy project.

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oikos International

posted October 26, 2016

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Social Franchising to Attain Scale and Sustainability: The Kibera Project in Kenya

Abstract

This case presents the history and development of a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) project in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya, that was initiated by Rotarians and funded initially, in large part, by the Rotary International Foundation. It discusses the numerous operational and strategic challenges faced by those working on this Kibera Project and the Rotary Project leader, Kim Larson, whose persistent dedication and business perspective helped to shape much of the project after initial construction of eight water and sanitation kiosks, putting these WASH facilities on a path to sustainable operations. The case issues include Creating Shared Value (CSV), Total Quality Management (TQM) tracking processes, and community engagement that lead to measurable, sustainable operations in the water and sanitation sector.  The case also addresses how to create behavioral change in challenging circumstances like urban slums and how to use hygiene training as a marketing tool to drive usage of WASH facilities. Students will also learn how careful monitoring and analysis of health and financial data demonstrates the 3 Ps of sustainability of an operation (People, Planet, Profits) which, in turn, lay the foundation for replication and expansion in the form of social franchising.

AuthorsKaren Loeb and Vijaya Narapareddy
InstitutionDaniels College of Business, University of Denver, US
Competition Year2016
PlaceRunner-up
TrackSocial Entrepreneurship
Key WordsSocial Franchising, Scale and Sustainability, WASH facilities, Kenya
CoursesSocial Entrepreneurship
Target AudienceMBAs and Executive MBAs
Permission rightsAn inspection copy of this case and more information regarding publication will be posted shortly.
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oikos International

posted June 27, 2016

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Sanergy: Sustainable Sanitation

Abstract

The global sanitation crisis attracted the attention of several regional, national, and international organizations which tried to address the issue in their own way. Still about 2.6 billion people lacked access to decent sanitation facilities across the globe.

Kenya had become a hub of slums with more than 8 million living in the urban slums in the country. Since there were no affordable toilets in these slums, people in these areas relieved themselves either by using pit latrines or by defecating in plastic bags. The result was environment pollution. The communal toilets that existed were often the scenes of crime. The pit latrines were a source of danger to children. To address the sanitation crisis in Kenya, three MIT graduates developed a business which had a non-profit wing to address the issue of inadequate sanitation and a for-profit arm to generate revenues. The company, Sanergy, picked two slums of Nairobi, Kibera and Mukuru, to start with and applied its business model, which included a vertically integrated waste management system – build, franchise, collect, convert, and transfer. The company manufactured toilets which were franchised to the local entrepreneurs of the slums. It then collected the waste from all the toilets to convert it into fertilizers and electricity. The company earned profits by selling the pay-per-use toilets to local entrepreneurs, and then by selling the collected waste after converting it into fertilizers and renewable energy. The local micro-entrepreneurs collected money from the local people for use of the toilets.

These toilets improved hygiene in the slums while providing employment to several local people. People’s health improved and so did the quality of life among slum dwellers. For the founders a few challenges remained – The model needed to be scaled up and expanded to other countries to address the global sanitation crisis.

AuthorsIndu Perepu and Geeta Singh
InstitutionIBS Hyderabad, IFHE University, India
Competition Year2016
PlaceThird Prize
TrackSocial Entrepreneurship
Key WordsSocial Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Sustainable Sanitation
CoursesCSR, Sustainability
Target AudienceMBA
Permission rightsThis case is will be published at the Case Centre shortly. You can download an inspection copy below.
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posted June 27, 2016

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Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s Dilemma: International Finance Corporation and the Tata Mundra Power Plant

Abstract

The case study is about the dilemma faced by Dr. Jim Yong Kim (Kim), President of the World Bank Group, related to International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) funding of the Tata Mundra Project in India. The Mundra plant was one of the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs) conceived with the objective of providing cheap electricity to power-starved states of India. Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (CGPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Power, implemented the project with funds from various organizations including a funding of US$450 million from IFC.

Before the Tata Mundra power project went on stream, everyone related to the project claimed that it would be beneficial for infrastructure development, economic growth, as well as for the poor communities living in areas near the power plant site, but the project soon started facing some serious criticism on the environmental and social fronts. Critics alleged that the project had a severe impact on the environment, sea water, water level, soil, air, natural habitats, marine life, fish population, livelihood, and health and society as a whole. IFC’s ‘Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman’ (CAO) did an extensive investigation and found evidence which validated the main aspects of the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) complaint. The management of IFC largely rejected the findings of the CAO, and Kim faced a lot of criticism for toeing the management line.

Kim was caught in a dilemma as the criticism grew more strident over the following months. If he still did not accept the findings of the CAO, then he as well as IFC risked being viewed as not doing enough for the environment and communities that were allegedly affected by the Tata Mundra power plant. On the other hand, if he did a U-turn and accepted the finding of the CAO, then he would have to stop the sustainable financing of US$450 million to the Tata Mundra project, which was established with the objective of providing cheap and reliable electricity to millions of people of developing India.

AuthorsDebapratim Purkayastha and Manish Agarwal
InstitutionIBS Hyderabad, IFHE University, India
Competition Year2015
PlaceWinner
TrackSustainable Finance
Key WordsSustainable Finance, Sustainability for banks and financial institutions, Banks and the Energy sector, Coal financing, Human rights as a Management issue, Human rights and sustainability, Businesses as human rights advocates, Business-government-society relationship; Stakeholder management, Stakeholder tension
CoursesElective courses in Financial Management, Corporate Sustainability, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility
Target AudienceMBA
Purchase InformationYou can purchase the case at the Case Centre.
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oikos International

posted June 24, 2015

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The German ‘Energiewende’: RWE’s Strategic Choice

Abstract

In July 2012 Peter Terium was named the new CEO of RWE, the biggest electricity provider in Germany. RWE has performed financially well over the previous 40 years with annual sales greater than €50bn since 2010. However, in 2014 the company had to disclose €2.8bn of net losses for the first time in its history.[i] This prompted an urgent need to change RWE’s corporate strategy. Peter Terium now faces a number of challenges in order to guarantee the profitable future of RWE.

First, RWE has to deal with the consequences of a variety of regulations, namely: (a) The German electricity market liberalization, (b) the renewable energy law in Germany, (c) the European Emissions Trading System and (d) the German nuclear phase out. These regulations contribute to a major shift in the electricity market, often referred to as the German Energiewende. The cornerstones of this Energiewende are decentralized and renewable power generation. RWE’s business model is built on centralized electricity generation based on coal and nuclear power and, thus, is contradictory to the German Energiewende.

Second, RWE is endangered by market developments: (a) RWE’s bottom-line is suffering from decreasing electricity market prices as a result of an oversupply of electricity due to the growing amount of renewable sources. (b) Many small competitors, sometimes even RWE’s former customers, have entered the electricity market thereby decreasing RWE’s market share. (c) In 2014 one of RWE´s main competitors E.ON started to respond to the altering market conditions and announced a substantial change in its business strategy and to focus entirely on renewables.

Third, the company faces specific expectations from external stakeholders: (a) As a consequence of the developments above, 10,400 jobs are up for redundancy.[ii] Local governments – of which some are RWE`s shareholders – are worried about these figures. (b) RWE also carries reputational risks because some well-known NGOs like the WWF criticize its lack of a low-carbon strategy.

Finally, the organization also faces an internal challenge. The internal structures have developed over decades and are based on the dominant logics of centralized coal and nuclear power production. As is typical for change processes in large organizations, these dominant logics may lead to structural inertia.

This case has been written to facilitate classroom discussion and engage debates for MBA/MS-level students in the form of a stakeholder role-play. The case focuses on the challenge of RWE to determine its future corporate strategy. It enables students to understand how legislative developments, market transformations and new technologies can fundamentally impact incumbents in a traditional industry.

[i] RWE, Annual Reports 2010 – 2013

[ii] “RWE streicht jede zehnte Stelle“, Zeit Online, http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/2013-11/energiekonzern-rwe-stellenabbau, accessed on September 30, 2014

Authors: Timo Busch and Marcel Richert
Institution: University of Hamburg, Germany
Competition Year2015
PlaceThird Prize
TrackCorporate Sustainability
Key WordsEnergy transition, renewable energy, electric utilities, low carbon strategy
CoursesStrategic management, CSR, business ethics, finance
Target AudienceMaster level, MBAs
Permission RightsThis case is part of the oikos free case collection. Download a free online copy below. If you are a faculty member and you are interested in teaching this case, you can request a free teaching note by sending us an email to freecase@oikosinternational.org.
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oikos International

posted June 24, 2015

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Asia Meet 2015

The next Asia Meet will be hosted by oikos New Delhi and the main topic is going to be sustainable urbanisation. More information coming soon!

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oikos International

posted November 18, 2014

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Energysavers 2012

“We want you… to become an Energysaver!” – that was the message addressed to students of four greatest Warsaw universities in November and December 2012 that expressed the main idea behind the Energysavers project. The fourth edition of oikos Warsaw initiative devoted to promoting sustainable energy consumption was fully supported by oikos International Project Development Fund.

The Energysavers project was aimed at uniting students to make a difference. oikos Warsaw attempted to convince them of the importance of saving: the project was to prove that saving money may be easily combined with saving the natural environment.

The grounds for the success of the project was an innovative combination of education, practice and the sense of competition and achievement: about 400 students of two different universities attended workshops on sustainable energy consumption and energy effectiveness whereas there were 24 dormitories inhabited by almost 8000 residents that actively took part in the energy saving contest.

In the first stage of the project four different sessions of workshops were organized at Warsaw School of Economics and Warsaw University of Technology. During interactive discussion panels prominent lecturers together with representatives of NGOs or companies operating in the energy and construction industry answered the question whether it was possible to earn from energy saving. The students were given a chance to enlarge their knowledge of new, energysaving technologies and face a challenge of solving an innovative case-study. The session devoted to passive houses and examples of green offices in Warsaw turned out to be the most popular: the number of participants that exceeded our expectations made us search for some extra space to let all those interested in the topic gather.

In the second stage of the project, a number of actions and happenings were organized to make the residents of the dormitories get acquainted with simple methods of saving energy that could be used in everyday life. One of the most memorable initiatives was a late night hunting for treasure game that consisted of a series of tasks to prove both the fitness and knowledge of energysaving techniques of the students. Around sixty residents of the dormitories divided into nine teams decided to leave their computers and other energy-using appliances to take part in the outdoor game and fight for a prize.

In the third stage of the project the residents of Warsaw dormitories were invited to take part in a competition in energy saving. For two weeks oikos Warsaw members monitored the use of energy in the dormitories to decide which team had saved the greatest amount of energy within the time of the contest. The winning dormitories at each of the four universities were given a special prize –energysaving sports equipment.

During the competition in energy saving the consumption of energy in Warsaw dormitories decreased on average by 7%. Nevertheless, the leader managed to reach the top reduction of 22%. According to the calculations conducted, if the residents tended to keep the consumption of energy at the decreased level, the annual savings would amount to 7300 kWh, which corresponds with the sum of nearly 400 EUR on average. As a result, the CO2 emissions would be reduced by nearly 9000 kg.

The statistical data however does not present the full, long-term effects of the project, since the impact of the initiative cannot be easily captured with the use of numbers.

Energysavers is a project that responded to the problem of irresponsible and excessive energy consumption observed in Warsaw dormitories. The initiative promoted responsible use of energy and made the students develop care for natural environment. Since the main goal of the Energysavers was to form rational habits concerning the energy consumption among students, students gained practical knowledge about energy saving and become conscious of the benefits of sustainable use of energy. In addition, oikos Warsaw expects that the residents of dormitories continue implement saving energy methods resulting in lower and more sustainable consumption of energy in the long-term.

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oikos International

posted March 24, 2013

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The Ambrose Hotel: Eco-Labeling Strategies for Sustainable Lodging

Case Abstract

The case traces the story of the Ambrose Hotel, a hotel based in California whose owner has invested in green practices and is interested in pursuing an eco-labeling strategy in order to better communicate her environmental achievements. This case emphasises the difference between the adoption of environmental management practices and their communication through eco-labels. It highlights the challenges associated with the use of eco-labels as an environmental differentiation strategy when several emerging eco-labels are in competition.

The students are asked to evaluate the costs and benefits associated with adopting an emerging eco-label such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation for Existing Buildings (LEED EB) label. The case examines whether there are any advantages of being a first mover in such a situation and what the options are for small companies interested in differentiating their products based on their environmental component. The case provides details about the Green Seal and the LEED EB standards.

Authors: Magali Delmas, Charles Corbett
Institution: University of California at Los Angeles, USA
Competition Year2009
PlaceFinalist
TrackCorporate Sustainability
Key WordsHotels, Eco-labels, Green practices, Environmental Management Practices, Environmental Differentiation Strategy, LEED EB, Green Seal
CoursesCorporate Environmental Strategy, Business and Society, Environmental Entrepreneurship
Permission RightsPlease contact Magali Delmas and Charles Corbett for permission rights.
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oikos International

posted June 30, 2009

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