Search results page

Nespresso awards sustainability prize to MBA students for innovative ideas to secure the future for coffee farmers

The winners of the first annual Nespresso MBA Challenge

Engaging with future generations of sustainable business leaders

On 27 June 2013, four students from Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business in Florida (USA) were nominated as winners of the first annual Nespresso MBA Challenge. This global competition for business and management schools focused on the topic of sustainability. Over the past months, 32 academic institutes from around the world participated in this competition.

The company initiated the MBA Challenge, jointly with its academic research partners the Intelligence Centre for Sustainable Markets (CIMS) and leading Latin American Business School INCAE, as a way to further expand its sustainability engagement, deepen the dialogue with sustainability leaders in the academic community and solicit innovative solutions for real world issues faced by coffee farmers. With its MBA Challenge, Nespresso seeks to engage with future generations of sustainable business leaders.


It is essential for Nespresso to engage with tomorrow’s sustainable business leaders to discuss their ideas to further improve our sustainability initiatives.


Jean-Marc Duvoisin
CEO of Nestlé Nespresso SA

“This first edition of the sustainability MBA Challenge has brought us a lot of fresh thinking and innovative ideas,” said Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nestlé Nespresso SA. “I find it heartening to see such a passion for sustainability and an advanced level of academic reflection coming from students from around the world. It is essential for Nespresso to engage with tomorrow’s sustainable business leaders to discuss their ideas to further improve our sustainability initiatives.”

Grow Forward: the winning project

A professional jury comprised of external agricultural and sustainability experts, business strategists, academics and senior staff members of Nespresso, elected Rollins College as the winner, “as the team proposed the best solution to making coffee farming a sustainable economic activity in Colombia for the next 25 years.”


The team convinced the jury with their “Grow Forward” framework, a multi-tiered strategy to attract and retain the next generation of Colombians as coffee farmers by ensuring that coffee farming is a profitable and sustainable economic activity today and in the future. The project’s primary goal is to diversify farmer income in order to provide an additional revenue source for families and to mitigate the seasonality of employment.

The students will take a ten-day trip to Colombia to meet and discuss their proposal directly with coffee farmers and local partners and assess its feasibility.

Solving issues by bringing sustainable business ideas

Morgan Filteau, student finalist from Rollins College commented her team’s victory: “The team is ecstatic about this win! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“It has been such an enriching experience,” added Lamar Chesney. “We learned that it is never impossible to find solutions for big economic issues. By identifying the root-causes and addressing them effectively, small solutions will solve big issues.”


It is truly inspiring to see that a large company like Nespresso is making tremendous efforts to effectively implement sustainability programs.


Taylor Dalton
Rollins College team

Taylor Dalton, another team member, continued: “I have studied a lot of social enterprise aspects and have noticed over the years that this often remains a theoretical exercise. Lots of people talk about it, but do not put it into practice. It is truly inspiring to see that a large company like Nespresso is making tremendous efforts to effectively implement these sustainability programs. Being a part of that is just amazing.”

“We’ve all tremendously gained confidence in articulating the potential of sustainable business ideas. I had a personal interest to participate in this MBA Challenge. I’m a Nespresso drinker myself and I love the idea of continuing to be one for the next 25 years,” concluded fourth team member Scott Gould.

The two other finalist teams are students from Rotterdam School of Management (The Netherlands) and University of Victoria – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business (Canada).

Strong engagement with academics

Nespresso has a long tradition of collaboration with academics and students for projects, joint research and strategic consultations in regards to its sustainability initiatives.

“There are few companies that are willing to open up their supply chains for close scrutiny by students and academic experts. Nespresso is one of them. And with an inter-generational challenge such as the one they face on the coffee farms, what better way to bring in fresh ideas than to invite the next generation to help with the thinking,” said Liza Lort-Phillips, Executive Director, Sustainable Markets Intelligence Center (CIMS).

A milestone in sustainable coffee sourcing

The first edition of the MBA Challenge coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. The program, developed with the NGO Rainforest Alliance, is a unique approach to securing the highest quality green coffee required to produce the Nespresso Grand Cru coffees, improving sustainable farming practices and enhancing farmer welfare.

To mark this historical milestone, this year’s edition of the MBA Challenge focused on how to secure a sustainable economic future for small-holder coffee farmers in Colombia in the long term.

A second edition of the MBA Challenge will take place during the 2013-2014 academic year.