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HBA students accelerate business ambition for Sustainable Development Goals

May 14, 2024

Mazi Raz leading  a case class with HBA1 students

Mazi Raz leading a Learning Through Action case class with HBA1 students

World problems like poverty, hunger, and inaccessible energy and health systems rarely top the business agenda, but when challenged to fast-track business-led responses to the world’s biggest sustainable development issues, Ivey students had some creative ideas.

For their capstone project for the Learning Through Action (LTA) course, HBA1 students formulated strategies for private-sector organizations to advance their contributions to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs). Working in cross-sectional teams that were each assigned a specific UN SDG, the students had to identify a private-sector company that is already aligned with the SDG – or has the potential for it – and create a plan for the organization to advance the goal. They began the project with a case discussion related to the event where they worked through a business case focused on a societal issue.

The student teams had only three weeks to work on their project before submitting a video that captured their ideas. The LTA faculty leads then chose three winning teams whose members were declared LTA Capstone Ambassadors. In addition to receiving new Credly badges, the ambassadors will be recognized at an HBA2 awards event in September. Winning ideas included a pay-as-you-go model for providing electricity to underdeveloped communities, matching those in need with restaurants with surplus food through a mobile application, and an e-commerce initiative that allows customers to track the carbon footprint of their purchases.

Applying business strategy through a societal lens

Associate Professor Lara Liboni, who led the project along with Tiffany Bayley and Mazi Raz, MBA ’05, PhD ’14, said it was a great opportunity for the students to apply what they’ve learned in the HBA program to a critical issue facing society today. The challenge is particularly relevant given the UN’s most recent annual report found companies are woefully unprepared to deliver the SDGs and need to redouble efforts to meet the 2030 agenda.

“The knowledge acquired during HBA1 was revisited as the students had to think strategically and go down to the functional areas, integrating actions in a systematic way,” said Liboni. “The capstone provided the opportunity to conclude HBA1 with a project that allowed students to collaboratively think of business solutions to strengthen the commitment of leaders and organizations for addressing the major societal challenges we face today.”

Combining business growth with positive impact

HBA student Ashley Strachan was on the first-place team whose idea – aligned to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) – was to have a company that currently provides solar microgrids with a pre-pay method use a pay-as-you-go model to deliver electricity to communities in Africa. She said the project allowed her to integrate both her engineering and business knowledge and look at an issue through a societal lens.

“I enjoyed collaborating with our team to develop a business plan on how a company can contribute to sustainability goals and have a positive impact on communities while also improving overall profits,” she said.

Sherry Yang, a student on the second-place team, said she also appreciated the opportunity to explore the social impact of business development and strategy. Her team's SDG was zero hunger and she and her teammates researched Too Good To Go, a mobile platform company that connects individuals looking for a cheap tasty meal with restaurants looking to get rid of their last few meals of the day.

Fellow HBA student Shelby Fulton also enjoyed exploring how business can better the world. Her team tackled SDG 13 (climate action) and came up with an idea called “EcoCart,” an e-commerce checkout cart for online shopping with Levi's. EcoCart allows customers to see the carbon footprint of each product to encourage sustainable choices.

“Stepping into various roles within the team, such as CEO and CFO, provided invaluable insights into the company's operations and decision-making processes. It was a hands-on experience that not only honed my strategic thinking skills, but also deepened my understanding of how companies like Levi's can drive sustainability,” she said. “Overall, it was a rewarding journey that reinforced my passion for making a positive impact through innovation and collaboration."

Congratulations to the LTA Capstone Ambassadors

  • First-place team: Hishaan Baskaran, Claire Koyama, Luigi Perri, Noah Roddis, and Ashley Strachan;
  • Second-place team: Zack Kolers, Kelly Le, Felicia Liang, Krutik Patel, Sherry Yang; and,
  • Third-place team: Matt Cummings, Taylor Dean, Shelby Fulton, Keerat Juneja, and Sean Tran.