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Twenty MBA students – selected from nearly 1,000 worldwide – have won a share of $30,000 in scholarship money by tackling a real-life business decision at the intersection of corporate profitability and positive social and environmental impact.

Through the Aspen Institute Business & Society International MBA Case Competition, along with lead partner BNY Mellon, students representing 25 business schools analyzed a brand new case study, authored by the Yale School of Management, focused on creating and revising corporate responsibility metrics for AXA, a worldwide leader in financial protection strategies and wealth management. Prizes were awarded at a breakfast event at the Yale Club of New York City attended by 200 guests, including Mark Pearson, CEO of AXA US, on Friday, April 17.

This year’s winning teams are:

• 1st Place: Wilfrid Laurier University, School of Business and Economics (Canada)
• 2nd Place: Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
• 3rd Place: University of Iowa, Henry B. Tippie School of Management
• 4th Place: University of Denver, Daniels College of Business
• 5th Place: The George Washington University School of Business

And honorable mentions were awarded to five additional teams:

Duquesne University, Donahue Graduate School of Business
• ESMT European School of Management and Technology (Germany)
• Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Fisher MBA in Global Impact Management
• University of Massachusetts Amherst, Isenberg School of Management
• University of Pittsburgh, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

About the Case
AXA, the company at the heart of this year’s case, is a global leader in the insurance and asset management business and highly regarded in terms of its corporate responsibility (CR) platform. In 2014, AXA merged its CR, strategy and public affairs functions, so as to further integrate CR into the core of its business.  Students were asked to identify CR issues of particular concern to the company, examine how addressing these issues would add value to the company, and then create metrics that would capture a business unit’s success or failure in addressing the CR issue.

“The newly-authored AXA case asks students to wrestle with a question facing all corporations: What social and environmental issues are material to the business and what should we do about them?” explained Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program.  “Students who tied CR metrics to AXA’s operations and growth – who found ways for the company’s CR platform to create a competitive advantage – excelled in this year’s competition.”

Students had just three days to review and respond to the new case study. On-campus competitions determined first place school winners, whose work was then reviewed by an academic panel assembled by the Aspen Institute to determine the five finalist teams. All finalist teams received prize money, with the first place team receiving $15,000. Now in its sixth year, the Aspen Institute Business & Society International MBA Case Competition encourages next generation business leaders to think innovatively about the role of business in solving the world’s most pressing issues.

BNY Social Finance Price
This year’s competition also introduced the BNY Mellon Social Finance Prize, created in partnership with the Aspen Institute to encourage innovation in the field of social finance, which encompasses investment activities that include both financial returns and significant social impact. Students were asked to answer the following question: How would you recommend directing $15,000 to further the capabilities of all companies (or a strategically chosen sub-set of companies) to further the field of corporate responsibility measurement or reporting? The winning team, from Rutgers University, recommended that a major NGO in social responsibility in the financial services industry extend their recently completed research to develop industry standards. BNY Mellon will fund the team’s recommendation and will also provide the winning team with a $2,500 honorarium.

John Buckley, BNY Mellon’s Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, noted, “This year’s MBA teams demonstrated powerful creativity and business acumen in developing solutions that were both realistic and high impact. We are proud to award the first ever BNY Mellon Social Finance Prize because we recognize the importance of ‘doing good to do well.’ It was inspiring to see the passion of the next generation of leaders for leveraging their business skills to develop solutions that positively impact both business and society.”