MBA Students Compete in Inaugural Net Impact Competition

Four Berkeley MBA students beat their classmates in the inaugural Leading for Impact Challenge Friday with a plan that would help IKEA ensure positive social impact in its work with Indian rug suppliers.

The first-place team, which won $500, consisted of full-time MBA students Robbie Allan, Mike Ciulis, Mike Vincent, and Fred Wagner, all MBA 13. The Haas-only event was sponsored by the Haas School's chapter of Net Impact, an international nonprofit focused on inspiring and educating individuals to use business skills to tackle the world's toughest problems.

The one-day, Haas-only competition was part of an effort by Berkeley MBA students to raise the profile of Net Impact at the business school.

Teams were asked to step into the shoes of IKEA leadership and respond to a report that an Indian carpet supplier was employing child labor. They had from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to develop presentations on how to manage the crisis.

The winning team proposed that IKEA partner with NGOs in educating the children of Indian rug workers. Education of employees' children would be a condition of being an IKEA rug supplier and IKEA would fund the NGO-delivered education with profits from a new "IKEA Style Inspired by India" product line.  

"We wanted to show how social and environmental issues are central to how businesses are run today," explains Corinna Kester, MBA 12, who helped organize the competition.

The goal: To let students test their strategic business skills and think about how to connect business advantage to social and environmental concerns.

Jo Mackness, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas, moderated the event. Judges included Nora Silver, director of the Haas School's Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, and Heather Franzese, a senior category manager at Fair Trade USA.