INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—The concept of moral values often sets the boundaries for corporate strategy. But in a teaching case submitted for a case writing competition, Charles Dhanaraj, associate professor of management and Schmenner Faculty Fellow in International Business at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, and his co-authors illustrate how managers can and should think about using values to drive their strategy.
“My focus here is to embolden our future business leaders to engage with the social problems directly confronting their industry,” said Dhanaraj. “I emphasize the fact that high-impact corporate action often depends on leaders who are willing to think boldly and pragmatically.”
The case titled Bayer CropScience in India (A): Against Child Labor, authored by Dhanaraj along with Oana Branzei and Satyajeet Subramanian of Canada’s Western University, won the category of Indian Management Issues and Opportunities in the 2012 European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Case Writing Competition. EFMD is an international not-for-profit association whose competition attracted 200 entries from 30 countries. Educators use cases to place students in the position to think through situations that real-life businesses have faced. Dhanarj finds the Bayer case fascinating.
“It was more than creating a education tool for students,” he explained. “I learned a lot by writing this case.”
The case examines how management at the multinational firm, Bayer CropScience, addressed crisis when it found itself at the center of a child labor controversy in its hybrid cotton seed manufacturing operations in India. The paper focuses on the 2007 crisis and describes the company’s response to the crisis, including the creation of a “value-driven strategy” of communication, implementation and education.
“I encourage managers to be more sensitive of deferring issues to someone else,” Dhanaraj explained. “The fact that you cannot solve all the world’s problems should not be an excuse to run away from what you can solve."
The Bayer case examines the social and political climates, company leaders, corporate mission and legal responsibilities that were all at play during the crisis.
“Often we live in a world of denial – ignoring the problems because they are so pervasive,” Dhanaraj said. “Frequently, it is framed in such a way that makes evil look good. For example, some say about child labor, ‘Would you rather let the child starve and die rather than work and live?’ Such framing gives a cloak to the evil of child labor. Rather, framing it as, ‘Would you rather deprive this child of its future and its dreams, since you are withholding education and life from the child,’ that evokes a very different response.”
EFMD will consider Dhanaraj’s case among the other winners for the overall “Best of the Best” category awarded later this year. Dhanaraj has written over thirty cases on topics such as global strategy, alliance management and innovation. His case on Eli Lilly’s joint venture strategy in India has been one of Ivey Publishing’s top ten best-selling cases for over six years. In addition to his cases, Dhanaraj has also received several awards for his research and teaching.