Business Examples from Around the World – South Africa, Sweden and Mexico

Students from Tecnologico de Monterrey using CEMEX's brick machines

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of interesting examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students/faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about some of their favourite examples of local companies actively involved in sustainability that they use in their classrooms. Here are some examples from Mexico, South Africa and Sweden:

Oliver Laasch, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus San Luis Potosí, Mexico

There is a recent CEMEX example that is quite amazing. CEMEX is a global leader in the building materials industry. They have a programme called “blockeras comunitarias,” where people who want to build a home can use CEMEX cement and a “block-making machine” to produce bricks. One out of every two bricks goes to the person producing it; the other is taken by CEMEX to be sold, which enables the project to remain economically sustainable. The program is so well accepted that people often need to wait up to two months to use the machine. It addresses one of Mexico’s most pressing problems, providing housing (vivienda) in a scalable and self-sustaining way.

Dr. Arnold Smith, Director of the Centre for Business in Society, University of Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa

In the wine and tourism environment, Spier is a real leader when it comes to making sustainability part of how they do business across their whole supply chain. In the financial services industry, Nedbank is looking at sustainability, not just in terms of their operations, but also in terms of their product offerings. Another interesting case that will raise a lot of questions in the future is the Walmart/Massmart merger. There is resistance for the merger coming from the unions, because they feel it could take job opportunities away and harm small producers in South Africa. In response, Walmart has put down $15 million (USD) to strengthen local procurement lines.

Olof Johansson, Business Manager, Executive MBA, GU School of Executive Education, Sweden

Nudie Jeans works a lot on responsible production. They use organic cotton, encourage quality rather than quantity (different consumption patterns) and are members of Fair Wear Foundation, Textile Exchange, Global Organic Textile Standard and Oeko-Tex Standard 100.The Dem Collective makes clothes with a focus on human rights and the use of ecological materials. Last but not least, SKF, a global industrial company making ball bearings, is highly ranked in global sustainability rankings. They have a number of interesting sustainability initiatives including SKF Care and BeyondZero.

Creating Teaching Cases around Sustainability: 4 examples

One of the challenges mentioned by faculty looking to incorporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their classrooms is the lack of relevant case studies. This includes not just case studies relating to responsible leadership, but also case studies specific to the businesses in their region or other regions around the world. Here is a collection of 4 Business Schools around the world that are taking a leading role to increase the number of relevant case studies from their country, region or internationally:

  • In Poland, Kozminski University has been working on a range of case studies from the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The project is coordinated in cooperation with the Center for Business and Society CEU Business School, the Graduate School of Management St Petersburg State University and CSR Ukraine. The aim of the project is to make a selection of the best responsible corporate performers from companies operating in CEE and to prepare a collection of educational case studies. The project will be finalized in 2011 as a booklet of 8 practical teaching case studies for MBA programs. The booklet will be distributed for use by academic institutions to integrate CEE CSR case studies into their mainstream management and executive education programs
  • In Mexico, at Tecnológico de Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, students write and present short teaching cases on businesses in Mexico as a way to provide close-to-real life responsible business learning experiences and to enable students to pass on their learning to classmates. Cases are based on interviews, extensive external resources, and at least one responsible management tool that is taught in class. Students then have the possibility to enter their case into the publication process with the “Centro Internacional de Casos” (the biggest case collection in the Spanish-speaking world).
  • In Italy, ISTUD Foundation has developed a range of case studies around sustainability and CSR of companies based or operating in Italy. This includes 38 case studies based on research projects with companies such as IKEA Italia, BMW Italia, Illy Caffe, Adidas Saloman, and 19 cases of best practices, including Enel Green Power, ENI, Pirelli Labs.
  • In Canada, Richard Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario has been working with the UN Global Compact to create a repository of real-world examples. A significant volume of cases has been developed around the four categories that are used to encompass the ten Global Compact Principles – Human Rights (55 published case studies), Labour Standards (41 published case studies), the Environment (101 published case studies) and Anti-Corruption (36 published case studies).

Get Involved!

Are you working on an initiative to create case studies around sustainability or responsible leadership in your region? Share your experiences in the comments area below this blog.

The PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption and the PRME Working Group on Gender Equality are both working to aggregate case studies and other resources (syllabi, research, etc.) related to their respective topics. Those interested in joining/contributing should visit

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