The case examines a number of critical episodes in the growth of SodaStream International Ltd., an Israeli maker of home beverage carbonation products. In particular, the case centers on the role of CEO Daniel Birnbaum in a series of highly public confrontations with competitors, critics, and government officials that highlight issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and CEO activism.
While other published case studies have chronicled Birnbaum’s early efforts to turn around the century-old company following its acquisition by a venture capital firm in 2007, the current case delves into the more recent – and more turbulent – history of the company with particular emphasis on the role of business in society and issues faced by senior business leaders in reconciling personal values with the pursuit of business results. The case also considers the specific context of SodaStream as an Israeli company confronting a unique and complex set of societal, political, and geopolitical challenges.
The case asks readers to consider the impact of the events described on the company, its business performance, and various stakeholders. The case also invites a discussion on the evolving role of corporations as agents of business and societal change and prompts participants to consider the role of business leaders in confronting complex moral and social issues. In particular, the case explores the growing phenomenon of ‘CEO Activism’ and the potential clash between individuals’ moral or political beliefs and the responsibilities of public company executives to deliver business results.
The case study can support a wide-ranging discussion on topics such as:
- The role of companies and leaders in taking on complex moral and social issues.
- How to draw the boundaries between the personal and the professional with regard to social activism of CEOs and other leaders of public companies.
- Changing norms and expectations regarding the place of business in society and the skills required of leaders to navigate this evolving landscape.
- The use of ‘corporate values’ in brand identity and marketing.
- Potential upsides and downsides of public relations (PR) marketing.