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Old Dominion University students Caroline Swao of Norfolk; Keith Wallace and Dmitry Poisik, both of Virginia Beach, placed seventh in the Thunderbird Social Responsibility and Ethics Challenge, which pitted against one another 56 teams of master's of business administration degree candidates from schools in London, Spain, Germany, Canada and the United States.

The ODU team beat teams from such universities as North Carolina, Virginia and LSU. The contest was sponsored by Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, in Glendale, Ariz.

The 56 teams worked on a business case involving an ethical or social responsibility issue presented them by the organizers. The top five teams were invited to compete in the final round, which will be held on Thunderbird's Glendale campus April 15.

"We need to spread worldwide that a corporate social responsibility mindset can create a difference in the business world today," said Luisa Vallejo '05, president of the Net Impact Club, the student group that is sponsoring the event. "And because there is no other competition of this kind in the corporate social responsibility field, we decide to launch it."

The business plan competition challenges MBA candidates to create socially responsible solutions to real business dilemmas. Tyco International, On Semiconductor, Salesforce.com and the CSR Group are each providing a question to the event. The corporate sponsors hope to discover usable solutions for handling their real-world ethical issues, Vallejo said, and will "bring the companies ideas on how to stretch the links" in their corporate social responsibility chain.
The judging panel is made up of Thunderbird faculty from the Lincoln Center for Ethics in International Management, and executives from the four sponsoring companies. The participants' proposals will be judged on the basis of uniqueness, viability and fit for the company. The top three teams will win cash prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000. But, unlike other business plan competitions, half of each prize will be donated to the charity of choice for each team.

Corporations are paying increasing attention to corporate responsibility and ethics issues, in large part because of all the negative publicity garnered by the misdeeds of some major business leaders. According to a 2001 Cone Corporate Citizenship study, 91% of Americans said that if a company exhibited poor social responsibility they would consider switching to another company's product or service, 83% would refuse to buy that company's stock, and 80% would refuse to work at that company.

This article was posted on: April 5, 2005

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