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Portland Coffee Company

Strategies by students win international award

Portland State business students worked with Portland Roasting Co. on a strategy to market the company as the top sustainable choice for socially and environmentally responsible consumers. Students conducted six months of research on the Oregon coffee micro-roasters' Farm Friendly Direct program. The result of the collaboration was a case study that has won first-place honors at the prestigious oikos Global Case Writing Competition in corporate sustainability.

The three Master's of Business Administration students and one Master's of International Management student are from the Case Study Fellowship, a select program in PSU's Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability. The team met with Portland Roasting executives to assess their programs and provide strategic recommendations. Some team members even traveled to Central America to meet with suppliers and gain perspective on the company and industry.

Mellie Pullman, an associate professor at PSU, submitted the study and has been a driving force behind bringing sustainability-related case studies to Portland State.

"There are only a handful of universities in the United States that offer this case study opportunity to their students," said Pullman. "In fact, Portland State was the only student team entered for this award and competed against more than 40 submissions from faculty teams."

Pullman aims to make PSU known for sustainable business cases.

"Case studies expose students to real-world concepts. They have to deal with problems as if they are insiders in the company, which trains them to be decision makers," said Pullman.

Mark Langston, an MBA student on the team said his group "brought a fresh set of eyes to a current business challenge. We were able to do a tremendous amount of concentrated research around the industry; talk to current and past customers, suppliers and industry experts; and then synthesize that information into some key business recommendations."

Paul Gilles is the vice president of operations for Portland Roasting, a wholesale, internet and retail distributor. "It benefitted us to have someone outside the company use their expertise and give us their perception. They felt we weren't selling our message strongly enough and weren't differentiating enough. We took all of the recommendations provided and made changes to how we present the program."

Not only do PSU students and regional businesses benefit but this case study is now being used by faculty and students in classrooms around the world.

Scott Marshall

Founder and Director of Portland State's Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.

Scott Marshall"Our regional business community has a number of sustainability leaders and our students are hungry for applied learning experiences, particularly with sustainability-driven companies. The creation of the Case Study Fellowship Program seemed like the perfect fit for highlighting the great efforts of our regional businesses and meeting the demands of students for engaged learning opportunities."

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