- Jun 25, 2021
It seems fitting that this year’s MBA Showcase focused on how social disruptions are creating a new next normal for business. After all, the MBA students are experiencing firsthand how COVID-19 has been one of the most disruptive forces in the last century, causing an abrupt redesign of economic and social life around the world.
MBA Showcase 2021 challenged the students to consider how many recent disruptions, from climate change to the Black Lives Matter movement, have the potential to make a positive impact on society.
The three-day event, which ran June 22-24, gave the students a variety of complementary learning experiences such as guest speakers, readings, and the opportunity to craft an organizational social impact statement. It also included a case competition where student teams analyzed a case on a restaurant contemplating plant-based food offerings and presented sustainable strategy ideas. Four finalist teams advanced to a final round where they presented their recommendations to a panel of judges.
Making a social impact
A highlight of the event was the chance to hear about social impact efforts in the financial services sector that have created real value. Doug Guzman, HBA ’88, Group Head, RBC Wealth Management, RBC Insurance, RBC Investor & Treasury Services; and Andrew Sweeney, Vice President & Portfolio Manager, RBC Global Asset Management Inc.; discussed how RBC influences and gives back to the community. One example is the RBC Race for the Kids events (also called Run for the Kids in some areas), a series of charitable races for children and youth-focused causes. Another is integrating Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) into its investments.
Guzman said RBC’s corporate purpose, which is to help its clients thrive and its communities prosper, has helped to galvanize employees.
“It has been a lot more powerful than I thought it would be … Having the word ‘community’ in it anchors a lot more of what comes after it,” he said. “We start with that purpose and then we ladder down into a set of values … and a leadership model.”
Real-life plant-based food success story
The students also heard from the Co-Founder & CEO of one of the world’s first vegan fast-food chains. James McInnes shared details of his entrepreneurial journey, which arose from adopting a plant-based lifestyle after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. From there, he created Globally Local in 2014, as a business delivering organic fruit and vegetables from local farmers to customers' doorsteps. After partnering with his future wife, Vasiliki, in 2015, the company evolved to offering vegan meal kits, then a food truck, and eventually a vegan fast-food chain, which went public in April 2021. Recently, the company announced it will rebrand as Odd Burger Corporation and open more outlets across North America.
McInnes said the number of people moving to a plant-based diet worldwide is steadily increasing, and COVID-19 sparked a fast-food takeover. Another factor in the company’s success is its community and social justice focus, including monthly fundraisers for causes such as vegan organizations, animal sanctuaries, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“That makes us different from other fast food industries, where you don’t see that same type of social justice focus … We are really grassroots-level funding for these organizations, which is really needed,” he said. “We’re big on education … We believe that education is the key to change and obviously great food. So you combine those things together and people start to connect the dots.”
Thank you to the MBA Showcase judges
- Bob Andersen, Professor, Business, Economics and Public Policy, Strategy & Sustainability;
- Craig Dunbar, Associate Professor, Finance;
- Tony Frost, Associate Professor, Business, Economics and Public Policy;
- Garth Gibbes, Associate Director, Corporate Recruiting, Financial Services Portfolio;
- Fraser Johnson, HBA ’82, MBA ’92, PhD ’95, Professor, Operations Management;
- Janaki (Jana) Seijts, Lecturer, Management Communications;
- Lee Watkiss, Assistant Professor, General Management & Strategy; and,
- John Wilson, Professor, Management Science.
- Michael Taylor, MBA ’88, Lecturer, Marketing.
- Fletcher Courage, MBA ’20, Account Manager, TD; and,
- James McInnes, Co-Founder & CEO, Globally Local.
And the winners are...
Congratulations to the winning team, Team 18: Adi Dhar, Konner Fung-Kee-Fung, Hiteshwar Kochhar, Jessica McEwen, Vishaal Narkedamalli, and Sukrit Virmani.