Thunderbird names Sustainable Innovation Summit winners

November 17, 2008

For the second year in a row, a team of graduate students from Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies took the top prize of $20,000 and earned the title “Global Champions of Sustainable Innovation” Nov. 15 at Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Ten teams from top business schools around the world competed Nov. 13-15 in the final round of the Thunderbird Sustainable Innovation competition.

An MBA team from Thunderbird won the second prize and $5,000, and a team from Queens School of Business in Canada won third prize and $3,000. The finalists were selected from a pool of 138 teams representing 47 universities in 11 countries who competed in the first round of the competition.

The winning teams beat out seven other finalists including two other teams from Thunderbird, and one team each from Arizona State University, University of Phoenix, University of Wuppertal in Germany, Northeastern University and DePaul University.

Students in the final round of the competition developed innovative and sustainable business solutions that addressed real-life challenges presented by sponsoring global corporations Johnson & Johnson and EcoVerdance. EcoVerdance executives surprised final round participants by giving each 1,000 shares in their company.

Each team had to address questions posed by both companies. EcoVerdance asked what is the best model for implementing a “for-profit business” that will address food security in Sub-Sahara Africa, carbon dioxide reduction capability, nitrogen runoff, and offer an attractive return to investors? The question Johnson & Johnson posed was what strategies should the company’s pharmaceutical business units in China adopt to assure that they attract, develop and retain a diverse and vibrant pool of leaders to accomplish their goal of caring for the health and well being of every local community in the country.

Kimberly Wattrick, the winning team’s captain from Johns Hopkins University, said both final round questions were very different. She said her team focused on answering both questions by demonstrating that a company can truly create a sustainable venture by building its social capital. 

The winners were announced Nov. 15 at an awards dinner capping the competition that reflected a commitment to economically, environmentally and socially sound business practices.

“The winning team combined a good overall strategic approach to their presentations, gave details, and stuck their necks out and identified the focus areas and priorities they recommended,” said Neil Currie, a summit judge from Johnson & Johnson. “They went a step beyond the rest of the group.”

Other sponsorship partners of the event included Arizona Public Service, Ecolab Inc., BillMatrix, Javlin Partners LLC, Amway, Thunderbird Entrepreneurship Network, Sattler Clothing and Xerox.