Gustavson students back on top of the world

Team of MBA students wins competition at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

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If two consecutive international awards are any indication, MBA students from the University of Victoria may be the next leaders of sustainable business worldwide.

For the second year in a row, students from the Sardul S. Gill Graduate School in UVic’s Gustavson School of Business won the Corporate Knights-Schulich Business for a Better World competition, a contest that challenges teams from universities around the world to develop case studies to address sustainability issues in business management and investment. The competition was held in Davos, Switzerland and coincided with the World Economic Forum.

This year’s competition saw teams work to draw up a clean, sustainable portfolio for the Norway Government Pension Fund Global, which is largely dependent on coal. Valued at $940 billion US, it is the largest sovereign fund in the world.

“We created a framework considering the five different metrics, including the sustainability and the financial metrics,” said Mukesh Dhatwalia, an MBA candidate with the Gustavson school.

“A lot of schools focused on just the numbers – they thought that enabling them to earn more profit would win the competition, but on our side, the numbers weren’t our only focus. We made sure that sustainability was the frontrunner, rather than supporting the framework.”

The team was made up of Dhatwalia, Xuan Pan, Bhupinder Dulku and Laurent Sévigny. Dhatwalia and Pan served as financial analysts while Dulku was the team’s economist and Sévigny was their business consultant.

The framework was divided into three steps – divest, invest and influence – to create a more sustainable portfolio. Dhatwalia said in some cases, it wouldn’t be possible to divest funds from larger companies, so the portfolio had to work to influence such changes.

“In those scenarios where you know if you divest money it will hurt your portfolio, you can try to influence,” he said, “and the influence part, I think, made us really look good.”

The competition had three rounds, where teams submitted 10 pages of slides, a 20-page business plan and a 10-minute presentation with a Q&A. Prior to the final round, the UVic team received advice from last year’s winning team, which Dhatwalia said was very beneficial.

“In terms of the preparation, after we were into the final round, the school organized an industry panel presentation for us,” said Dhatwalia. “We presented in front of them and they gave us feedback. Last year’s team was also there, so they knew what kind of questions we could expect.”

The Gustavson team edged out teams from North Carolina’s Duke University and Toronto’s Schulich School of Business for the top spot.

“The fact that we were able to put our mark on this two years in a row and highlight that this is what we stand for and that we can compete with the best in the world, to do that is a wonderful reflection of our program,” said Dr. Saul Klein, Dean and Lansdowne Professor of International Business at the Gustavson School of Business.

“It resonated particularly because the focus of the competition, Business for a Better World, is really what the Gustavson school is all about.”

Dhatwalia credited the university, the industry panel and the team’s coach, Dr. Matthew Murphy, for their success in Switzerland.

“They really helped us in terms of preparing for the questions and making sure our framework was robust enough that they could actually use it,” said Dhatwalia.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the World Economic Forum and present over there, and to have our school’s name on two consecutive wins. Making the school proud makes us proud.”

 

 

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