IMD is pleased to announce that Professor Vanina Farber has won two awards in the 2021 EFMD Case Writing Competition, for cases examining both a female-led sustainable investment firm and a female social entrepreneur, underscoring the institute’s expertise in the fields of impact investment and social innovation. 

Professor Benoît Leleux, the Stephan Schmidheiny Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at IMD, was also recognized for a case exploring how a family-run US spirits maker was tested by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The EFMD (European Foundation for Management development) is a global, not-for-profit, membership-driven organization dedicated to management development worldwide. Since 1988, the purpose of the awards has been to reward innovation, seeking out the most impactful case writing and teaching. 

Making money with meaning and purpose  

“Nia Impact Capital: Active Ownership for Social Justice”, written by Farber, who is the holder of the elea Chair for Social Innovation and Dean of the Executive MBA, with Senior elea Fellow María Jaén, won the award for Responsible Leadership.  

Nia Impact Capital is a California-based sustainable investment firm founded by Kristin Hull, who exercises active ownership in companies including Tesla, IBM and Apple, with the aim of investing in gender and racial justice. In the case examined here, students are able to witness how investors can influence corporate strategy for diversity disclosure and learn about proactive engagement and sustainable financial strategies, as well as how to critically reflect on responsible investors’ values and intentionality. 

Farber stated that “We are grateful because this award recognizes the leadership of a strong female protagonist, Kristin Hull, in the traditional male-dominated financial industry. We strongly believe in the role of responsible leadership to speed and scale the path for social justice and equality in the workplace. We hope this case invites instructors from different disciplines, strategy, finance, sustainability, and leadership, to embed social justice in the class discussion.” 

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Professor Benoît Leleux, the Stephan Schmidheiny Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at IMD

Fighting energy poverty 

Farber’s second prize was for “Angaza: A Silicon Valley Journey”, co-authored with IMD Research Associate Shih-Han Huang, which won in the African Business Cases category. This is the second time the case has been recognized after it won the Outstanding Case Writer prize in the Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2022 

The case explores the story of a female social entrepreneur, Lesley Silverthorn Marincola, who founded Angaza in 2010 with the aim of eliminating energy poverty for populations with no access to electricity. To transform her company into a for-profit social business, she pivoted from being a solar-light producer into a software provider offering pay-as-you-go (PAYG) metering and monitoring technology. 

Commenting on the case, Farber said: “I love bringing impactful cases with inspiring female protagonists into the classroom. For a me, a great case lets the characters and story talk. We don’t tell the reader the “right” course of action. We just bring them into a journey of self-discovery.”  

A real-world stress test 

“Brown-Forman: Nothing Better in the Market” by Leleux, IMD External Research Associate Marc Chauvet and former Research Fellow Marta Widz won the Family Business award. Brown-Forman Corporation is a 150-year-old US spirits producer that managed to navigate the coronavirus turmoil in the hospitality industry thanks to its long-term focus, engaged stockholder base, and rigorous, well-balanced governance. 

“We are really honored by this recognition,” said Leleux and Chauvet. “It also shows that a 150-year-old family business such as spirits and wine specialist Brown-Forman can teach us a lot about sustainability and resilience.” 

EFMD is recognised globally as an accreditation body for business schools, business school programmes, and corporate universities and currently has 972 institutional members in 90 countries worldwide.