Case Studies: Inspiring the Next Generation of Responsible Leaders

Authoring sustainability-minded case studies is one way the CRB helps move sustainability further into the mainstream. Working with the Berkeley-Haas Case Series and the California Management Review, we develop case studies suitable for inclusion into the general business school curriculum. Our cases allow leading faculty and practitioners to collaborate in bringing the cutting edge of responsible business to future leaders.

The CRB focuses on cases that tackle real-time sustainability challenges companies face. In developing cases with partner companies, we are able to tackle real-time sustainability challenges companies face and present them to the next generation of responsible business leaders. 

See below for a sample of award-winning cases produced by the CRB:


Levi Strauss & Co.: Driving Adoption of Green Chemistry

Robert Strand and Martin Mulvihill

This case examines the challenges and opportunities faced by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) as it attempts to help establish a cross-industry sustainability initiative to eliminate hazardous chemicals in the apparel supply chain. LS&Co.’s Screened Chemistry Program screened chemical formulations against human and environmental health hazard endpoints before they chemicals entered the supply chain. This shift represents a radicle radical departure from the status quo that requires widespread collaboration across the industry to implement. This case explores the associated challenges and opportunities to achieve cross-industry collaboration to achieve a sustainability objective.


Sustainability Through Open Innovation: Carlsberg and the Green Fiber Bottle

Henry W. Chesbrough, Marcel Bogers, and Robert Strand

The case follows Danish brewer Carlsberg as it develops the Green Fiber Bottle, a beer bottle made of wood pulp, in collaboration with a startup, a small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME), and a Danish University. The case has a dual focus. First, it demonstrates how a company can successfully innovate by leveraging the concept of open innovation. Second, it shows how sustainability – and relatedly, the idea of purpose – can be a powerful motivator to drive open innovation efforts. In this respect, this case serves as one of the first formal documentations of how open innovation can effectively drive innovation activities to address a stated sustainability objective. This co-mingling of sustainability and open innovation has the potential to become a domain in its own right (perhaps under a moniker such as “Sustainable Open Innovation”).


Patagonia’s Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2025 

Daniel M. Kammen, Paul Hendricks, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, Vincent Stanley, and Robert Strand

This case study describes Patagonia’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2025 in an absolute sense — that is to reduce emissions to zero while still growing the company. Patagonia also wants to achieve absolute carbon neutrality in such a way that other interested companies can replicate. The case explores aspects of this goal through the eyes of a number of Patagonia employees who work on different teams within the apparel and gear business. Patagonia is attempting to both address its own emissions and act as a leader on a complex, global problem.


Rewarding Consumers for Recycling Packaging: Kimberly-Clark Seeks Shared Value 

Sara L. Beckman, Stefanie Robinson, and Seren Pendleton-Knoll

This case describes how Kimberly-Clark is encouraging consumer recycling of flexible plastic film packaging, which is wrapped around many of its products, including paper towels, toilet paper, and more. An infrastructure already exists for consumers to return this film to retail stores for recycling, but estimated return rates remain low. Furthermore, Kimberly-Clark is not directly involved in the recycling transaction; retail stores collect the packaging and sell it to recycling companies. Kimberly-Clark is considering a consumer rewards program to incentivize store return of the packaging. Funding this will require Kimberly-Clark to identify new sources of value throughout the film-packaging lifecycle.


The Future of Impact Management: Industry Roundtable [Part 1]

Written by Nancy Reyes Mullins, MDP Candidate Class of 2020 and CRB Student Advisory Board member, and Sara Olsen, SVT founder and host of The Future of Impact Management Roundtable. This is the first post of a two-part series. Check back next month for Part 2.

“Impact management” is the ongoing practice of measuring the impact of one’s activities to reduce the negative and increase the positive outcomes. Its aspirations broadly are to make transparent the impacts of economic activity and to change the way society accounts for value, so that markets and other incentives drive better outcomes for people and the planet. A driving force behind the catalyzation of this discipline has been The Impact Management Project (IMP).

By convening a facilitation process involving hundreds of investors, practitioners, and standards bodies, the IMP has achieved a major milestone for the industry, which is that it has clarified the meaning of the buzzword “impact” for enterprises and investors. The project has distilled five essential dimensions that must be understood to measure or manage impact: What, Who, How Much, Contribution and Risk.

  • What tells us what outcomes the enterprise is contributing to and how important the outcomes are to stakeholders.
  • Who tells us which stakeholders are experiencing the outcome and how underserved they were prior to the enterprise’s effect.
  • How Much tells us how many stakeholders experienced the outcome, what degree of change they experienced, and how long they experienced the outcome for.
  • Contribution tells us whether an enterprise’s and/or investor’s efforts resulted in outcomes that were likely better than what would have occurred otherwise.
  • Risk tells us the likelihood that impact will be different than expected.

Entities seeking to understand their impact can use these dimensions as a check to ensure they have the necessary information.

In the face of rapidly accelerating inequality and increasingly dire threats to the planet’s life support systems, leaders working to advance the broader Impact Management profession convened May 8-9, 2019 at the Berkeley Haas School of Business. This in-depth conversation was organized around a series of pressing issues facing the field, notably how to speed its growth and response time.

The event was organized by the impact management firm (founded by a Haas Berkeley alumna) SVT Group, in collaboration with the professional association Social Value US and the  Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas. The Roundtable was sponsored by SVT Group, CSACO, Sopact and R. Todd Johnson. Organizations with members present included Social Value International (South Africa, Mexico, Canada, US, UK, and Hong Kong networks), the Impact Management Project,  Accountability Counsel, BASF, BrightHive, Feedback Labs, ISOS Group, iPar Impact, Omidyar Networks, SASB, Sopact, Shanzhai City, Technoserve, and Third Sector Capital among others.

Participation in The Future of Impact Management Roundtable was by invitation only and followed Chatham House Rules to ensure there was an intimate number of participants who already had a substantial amount of “skin in the game” building the impact management space. To foster relationships and ensure participants found the time well-spent, the event had no speakers, panels or audience members. Instead it was organized as an all-group discussion with breakout sessions in groups of 8 to 10 participants, with moderators facilitating conversations using prompts generated by the group itself, on topics as wide-ranging as populism and impact rating services. Participants were effusive about the quality of the people and the intimacy of the experience, with one commenting, “I had the BEST time yesterday. Not only were the discussions fascinating but the forum was so open and relaxed. I really appreciated everyone’s opinions and loved meeting them all,” and “I came away from the roundtable inspired and humbled to be part of a field of such smart, thoughtful professionals moving the field forward.”

The moderators kicked off the event by asking participants to introduce themselves to the entire group and briefly summarize their area of focus, identify key partners for their success, and state why they were participating in the event. This prompt yielded a systems map that the hosts later posted publicly as a resource that the field could continue to collectively build out, to help users understand who is doing what and to orient newcomers to the space.

Figure 1. An immersive systems map developed during the Roundtable identifies the organizations and tools seen as critical to the success of the field and how they are interconnected. The map is available for public review and comment via Kumu.

Key allies identified in the  impact management space ranged from financial accountants, consulting firms, technology developers, and corporations to academics, policy makers, intergovernmental economic organizations, and community representatives. The lack of uniformity in the responses was indicative of the vast diversity of arenas in which impact management is being developed.

Participants came together, as one put it, “to consolidate and combine initiatives into something that makes sense.” One participant observed that “for all the difficult problems that we have, we already have the solutions,” and impact management professionals should, therefore, focus on collaborating to advance the existing consensus. There has been tremendous progress made toward consensus on standard approaches to impact management, especially in the past decade, “by a process of essentially applied R&D,” to figure out what approaches work, what don’t, and which are feasible for businesses to employ while also sufficiently rigorous to inform a genuine understanding of impact.

“‘For all the difficult problems that we have, we already have the solutions,’ impact management professionals should focus on collaborating to advance existing consensus.”

Some of the learning has yielded approaches that show the financial relevance of social and environmental effects, such as SASB and the International Integrated Reporting Initiative. Other approaches help clarify what environmental, social and governance factors are material for a given enterprise, such as GRI and B Corporation. Still others help inform an understanding of the important impacts on stakeholders of the entity’s activities such as Social Value Principles, SROI, and the 5 dimensions of impact. Taken holistically, these three types of approaches represent a set that could be adopted universally without undue cost to business, and can be tailored and supplemented to meet the specific needs of their key stakeholders.

As the discussion unfolded, the group agreed that a second area of widespread consensus that has emerged in the industry over the past decade is the need for business, investing and other sectors to recognize the communities and individuals affected by their activities, and enable these stakeholders to inform the design and assessment of programs intended to serve them. This stakeholder-centeredness was described by one person as, “trying to flip the system so that the voices of people being impacted are the ones that drive decision-making.”

Another commonly voiced interest among participants was to, “make the Sustainable Development Goals more actionable and relatable,” since the work being done by those in the room is integral to achieving the SDGs by 2030, but “it’s not always easy to identify how it’s being done.”

“‘This stakeholder-centeredness was described by one person as, ‘trying to flip the system so that the voices of people being impacted are the ones that drive decision-making.'”

Related to the SDGs, but not confined to them, many participants were also concerned with the delay between the time an organization becomes aware of its impact, be it positive or negative, and their ability to respond to the issue or opportunity. Additionally, organizations found it difficult to ensure that their actions are proportionate to the scale of the issue. There are many examples of organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit, who have seemed to be applying best-in-class ESG or impact management practices, only to have it be revealed that serious social or environmental risks or violations were ongoing. PG&E and More Than Me Academy were mentioned as two examples. Current impact management systems do not seem to be adequate in addressing this challenge.

In the second day, the Roundtable participants grappled with how to make progress on these and other issues, and developed a number of promising proposals that the impact management field can plug into and help advance.

This post provides a summary of impact management and the high-level landscape analysis conducted on the first day of the event. We invite you to return to the CRB website next month for a summary of Day 2 and the conclusion of The Future of Impact Management Roundtable, as well as an invitation to become a part of this important movement.

The Roundtable was an extension of many other convenings, including but not limited to: Impact Convergence, a gathering spearheaded by the American Evaluation Association, Social Value US and Social Value International in October 2016; the SOCAP Sidecar organized by Social Value US and SVT Group in collaboration with the GIIN in October 2017 at SOCAP; the series of “huddles” facilitated by Bridges Impact+ for the Impact Management Project during 2017-2018; as well as conference calls and meetings adjacent to other gatherings that have been convened periodically by leaders committed to advancing the impact management profession.

Prepared by Nancy Reyes Mullins, MDP Candidate Class of 2020 and CRB Student Advisory Board member, and Sara Olsen, SVT founder and host of The Future of Impact Management Roundtable, with input from participating CRB Student Advisory Board members Sarah Hilmer, EWMBA Candidate Class of 2021, and Isabella Martin, MDP Class of 2019.


Building Sustainable Chemistry with Levi Strauss & Co.

Levis Strauss is a longtime partner of both the Haas School of Business and the Center for Responsible Business. As a leader in the sustainable apparel industry, Levi’s has challenged and inspired many of the students who pass through Haas.

Their role as industry leaders goes back decades. In 2000, they were one of the first companies to issue Restricted Substance List. In 2013, they launched their Screened Chemistry program. That initiative looked at the potential human and environmental impact of chemicals before they enter the supply chain and try to find alternatives for those that were unsafe. Now, Levi’s is partnering with other major clothing brands like Nike, H&M, and C&A to standardize their chemical management to a process that resembles the Screened Chemistry program.

In this piece, we’ll look back at the stories covering the major milestones of the CRB’s 10 years of partnering for impact with Levi’s:


2010 | Levi’s Sustainability Undergraduate Case Competition

In 2010, the Center for Responsible Business partnered with the California College of the Arts in challenging undergraduate students to create innovative solutions on how Levi Strauss can “close the loop profitably” with denim recycling, reuse, and resale. Rosalind Chu, Berkeley Haas B.S.B.A. ‘11 and former Corporate Communications Specialist at Levi Strauss & Co., summarized the case competition’s impact. Read the full original post here.

What happens when you bring left-brainers together with right-brainers? This semester, the Center for Responsible Business (CRB) partnered with California College of the Arts (CCA) to find out. Sustainable fashion design students from CCA were paired with students from UC Berkeley to work on the Levi’s Sustainability Undergraduate Case Competition. Participants were asked to create innovative solutions on how Levi Strauss can “close the loop profitably” with denim recycling, reuse, and resale.

Asking the teams to provide a physical prototype of their idea allowed students to commit and engage fully in developing their solutions. The prototypes included jean jackets, raw materials for textile production, a new type of stitching, a jacket made from recycled denim yarn, replacement pant pieces, and even handkerchiefs. 

“The teams from the different schools were challenged to come together and develop a solution that was not only creative, but business viable, and of course environmentally sustainable,” said Jo Mackness, then Executive Director at the CRB.  “We were trying to create an experiential learning opportunity that mimics the cross functional context within which students will eventually operate in the ‘real world’ —interestingly, it was the students who collaborated the best—really embraced their teammates’ ideas, who came out with the best all around solutions.”

UC Berkeley and CCA students came together successfully to not only tackle the case from both a design and business perspective, but more importantly, apply the skills and knowledge they learned in the classroom (and studio, for CCA students) to a real-world business challenge.


2013 | Partner Spotlight on Michael Kobori, VP Sustainability

Michael Kobori, Center for Responsible Business (CRB) Advisory Board Member and VP of Social & Environmental Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., shared his thoughts about partnering with the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas back in 2013.


2016 | CRB Fellow Drives Levi’s Screened Chemistry Program

Kyle Rudzinski, a 2014 Haas alum and a former Center for Responsible Business fellow, landed a role at Levi Strauss and Co. on their Sustainability Innovation Leadership Team after graduation. In 2016, Rudzinski sat down with the Center for Responsible Business to share more about his role at Levi’s as well as some personal anecdotes of the CRB / Levi Strauss partnership in action. Read the full original post here

CRB: Could you tell us more about your position in depth?

KR: Most of my job is sharing the sustainability story at Levi’s. We have done a ton of great things in terms of supporting worker rights, going beyond compliance measures, and helping people with things like health education, access to water purifiers and solar lamps, and financial literacy education. Our impact goes beyond factories and into the communities, as we are really trying to make sure we empower our workers across the globe. We want to figure out the best way to share that kind of story so that our work reaches the consumer. That means my job involves working cross-functionally across a matrixed organization and influencing without authority, getting different people on board with different parts of our sustainability strategy.

CRB: What is your favorite product or initiative that you have been working on?

KR:  We did a life cycle assessment on our iconic 501 jeans in 2007. We determined one of our biggest environmental impacts is around water. We updated that assessment this year with the latest science and it reaffirmed that water is a huge consideration for us. We realized that the average pair of jeans consumes nearly 3,800 liters of water throughout its life. About 68% of that water is used to grow the cotton. Only 9% is used in manufacturing – which is the area we can most directly affect. The other 23% of water is used in consumer care.

So for us, we try to figure out how to shift the industry and how to create change that goes far beyond our company alone. Once we conducted these life cycle assessments, we learned where to act, where to focus our attention. We continue to innovate and use Water<Less techniques that can save up to 96% of the water in the denim finishing process. We recently released our first product with Water<Less fabric, which saves about 65% of the water normally used in the dye process. It’s part of our limited run Wellthread product which blends multiple parts of sustainability – from benefitting workers to considering recyclability in the design – but focuses on saving water.

CRB: How does your team integrate responsible practices into Levi’s as a whole?

KR: There are different evolutions in companies in terms of their sustainability journey.  Our company has a long history of achieving strong results – whether it is with workers, with water, with the environment, with chemistry. Whatever it might be, we have done a very good job with achieving strong results. We are still in the stage where we have a sustainability department. We are making the transition to fully embedding sustainability across the company. We are working with more partners in different parts of the business, discovering who our previously overlooked sustainability champions are, and making sure what our team is doing aligns with what the business is doing.


2017 | Driving the Adoption for Green Chemistry

The Center for Responsible Business is able to bring the cutting-edge of sustainable innovation to business school students globally through the development of cases with our partners. In 2017, Levi Strauss and the Center for Responsible Business published Driving Adoption of Green Chemistry, a look at the challenges and opportunities faced by Levi Strauss as they work to establish a cross-industry sustainability initiative to eliminate hazardous chemicals in the apparel supply chain.

The publication of the case was followed by an industry roundtable convened by the Center for Responsible Business and Levi Strauss at Berkeley Haas. Below is an overview written by Anne Kramer, former CRB Student Advisory Board & MBA ’18, who now works on sustainable product innovation at Nike. Read the full original post here.

Collaborating with the Center for Responsible Business, Levi’s sponsored a forum at Berkeley Haas in March of 2017. Centered around the Center for Responsible Business’ case study titled “Driving the Adoption for Green Chemistry,” the event allowed leaders across apparel, chemical, data, investment, and other industries to learn about Levi’s screened chemistry approach and find a path to greater political will together. The event convened more than 80 representatives from diverse organizations, including Apple, Patagonia, and Seventh Generation.

Three key themes for improvement stood out:

  1. The need for harmonization of standards across the industry. The proliferation of brand-specific standards in sustainable chemistry has meant that manufacturing facilities and chemical suppliers need to reconcile several nearly identical requirements. These redundant standards take up time and cause costly inefficiencies, creating confusion rather than driving action. Collaboration at an industry level is desperately needed. Brands recognized that the burden for collaboration lies heavily with them and understood that leading by example might not be enough. Hopefully, a standard will eventually emerge in the apparel industry that will drive both action and value.
  2. The need for more green innovation at all levels of the supply chain. Big brands like Levi’s were motivated to implement a screened chemistry program because it was the right thing to do. But smaller companies and chemical suppliers indicated the need for greater incentives to innovate. All stakeholders recognized that they each have talents and skills that, if leveraged as a collective, can create those incentives for innovation.
  3. Supporting this type of program will require significantly more transparency and education than exists today. Within the industry, there were calls to democratize access to green chemistry information, R&D data, and tools. Externally, all recognized the need to educate the consumer, since they – more than any other actor – have the power to influence what’s contained in their products.

2019 | Collaborative Innovation for the Future of Screened Chemistry

The publication of “Driving the Adoption for Green Chemistry” and the associated industry roundtable laid the groundwork for the launch of a single standard for chemical management spearheaded by Levi Strauss & Co. Below is an announcement of the launch of the new Screened Chemistry industry standard published on the company’s blog Unzipped. Levi’s drive to innovate openly for sustainability took years to achieve and the Center for Responsible Business is proud to be a thought partner on that journey.

Levi Strauss & Co. has long been committed to identifying and removing potentially harmful chemical formulations from our supply chain.

In 2000, we were one of the first companies to issue a Restricted Substances List. In 2012, we joined the Joint Roadmap Toward Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, which we pledged to reach zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 (the Roadmap is overseen by the ZDHC Foundation). Then, in 2013, we launched our Screened Chemistry program, which sought to understand the potential human and environmental impact of chemicals before they enter the supply chain, and to find alternatives for anything deemed unsafe.

And now we are converging with other apparel brands – including Nike, H&M and C&A – to adopt a single standard for chemical management closely resembling the Screened Chemistry program we pioneered. We’re coming together with the ZDHC Foundation, who will oversee the effort, to create a holistic approach to tackling issues of hazardous chemicals and driving innovation in the apparel industry.

From the outset of our Screened Chemistry program, we knew that a collaborative effort would generate a greater impact than any one company could. That’s why we shared our approach publicly in 2016, and a year later convened the business community to further encourage adoption and understanding. It served as an impetus for others like Gap Inc., which is currently piloting its own version of the program.

And last year, LS&Co. was named to Fortune magazine’s “Change the World” list for the second year in a row — this time for our pioneering efforts around our Screened Chemistry program.

“This is something we’ve been working towards for many years,” said Bart Sights, vice president of technical innovation. “An industry-wide effort is needed to drive change and to reduce the overall environmental impact not only of our companies, but our entire industry.”


Human Rights & Business Initiative: Advancing Respect for Human Rights Around the World

Business has an important role and responsibility in building respect for human rights around the world. From modern slavery to digital privacy, the Center for Responsible Business believes human rights considerations must be core to every business decision.

While many companies have established formal corporate responsibility and human rights programs, seldom do these programs have a seat at the table when critical business decisions are made—often with disastrous consequences for human rights. The Human Rights and Business Initiative (HRBI) was launched in 2015 to question the status quo and advance the concept of rights-aware, decision making in business.

Led by Faris Natour, principal and co-founder of Article One Advisors, the HRBI’s mission is to equip current and future business leaders with the attitude and aptitude to work constructively with business to ensure respect for human rights. Established as a joint initiative between Berkeley Law’s Human Rights Center and the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas, we leverage UC Berkeley’s world-class institutions to pursue a vision of a world where all companies respect human rights.

To achieve its mission, the HRBI engages with students, faculty, and experts from business, academia, civil society, and government in coursework, research, and convenings.


Courses dedicated to human rights and business embed human rights in core business disciplines taught at the university through guest lectures, cases, and student projects. The Initiative’s core course offering, Managing Human Rights in Business, was one of the first of its kind offered at a business school. Through cases, interactive exercises, class debates, and guest lectures from experts, the course puts students in the shoes of a fast-growing community of business managers whose job it is to make sure that their companies do not abuse human rights. 

Beyond the fundamentals of business decision making with a human rights lens, the HRBI’s newest course, Negotiating Human Rights Solutions In Business, challenges undergraduate students to dive deep into the most controversial issues of our time. Led by Marissa Saretsky, the fall 2018 class explored the rise of politically motivated disinformation (PMD or “fake news”) and analyzed the role tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter play in promoting and compromising human rights given the recent rise of PMD. BA ‘19 Julia Russo reflected on her learnings from the course in a recent blog post.

It is our hope that through our courses all emerging human rights advocates understand the importance of engaging constructively with business to address human rights challenges.


The HRBI develops research that applies academic rigor to create actionable insights and tools for practitioners working to advance business’ respect for human rights. Through case studies, competitions, consulting projects, and other experiential learning opportunities we harness next generation thinking to create content that can be used in class to teach core business disciplines and in business to advance best practices. 

In June of 2019, the HRBI released Technology Solutions for Advancing Human Rights in Global Supply Chains, a report authored by HRBI faculty director Faris Natour and Program Lead Jesse Nishinaga. The report provides a landscape assessment of the significant market and global demand for technology solutions aimed at addressing human rights risks and challenges in global supply chains. Today, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on these technology solutions or are being invested in emerging technologies that may someday bring game-changing opportunities for millions of workers around the world. Published with the support of Humanity United, this type of cutting-edge research will define and advance industry best practices.


Housed at a globally recognized academic institution, the HRBI has the unique ability to bring together stakeholders from business, civil society, government, and academia to work together to address business and human rights challenges. We believe multi-stakeholder collaboration is essential to addressing the systemic challenges that are at the root of many human rights abuses involving business. We use our convening power to foster meaningful dialogue and collaboration through conferences, speaker series, webinars, and ongoing working groups.

The HRBI houses an institutional partnership with the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center to convene its Annual Conference on Business, Technology, and Human Rights. In line with its 2020 Vision for Human Rights, Microsoft seeks to demonstrate leadership in business and human rights, frame the debate about technology and human rights, and catalyze action by other companies in the technology sector and beyond. Now in its fourth year, the Conference has covered topics like artificial intelligence and social impact, the future of work, and big data. 

Over the last few years, human rights have risen to the top of the responsible business agenda. From poor safety standards and working conditions in global supply chains to analyzing the integrity of speech in the era of social media, businesses are expected to address human rights challenges in their operations and business relationships. “Business can and should be at the forefront of advancing respect for human rights around the world. And it all starts with embedding human rights in management education – right here, at Berkeley Haas.” says Natour.