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A4S International Case Competition

2024 Finalist Teams

⭐ Team Nordic Precision (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
⭐ Team Mining for the Solution (University of Waterloo)
⭐ Team Apex Advisory (Frankfurt School of Finance & Management)
⭐ Team Visionary Innovators (University of Notre Dame - Mendoza College of Business)
⭐ Team Agrivive (Concordia University - John Molson School of Business)

The competition

The A4S International Case Competition (A4SICC) is a unique opportunity for students across the globe to help shape a future where sustainable business is business as usual. This is the chance for your ideas to be seen and heard by leaders from some of the world’s largest and most influential companies!

With a different focus every year, the A4SICC attracts a diverse group of business and accounting students – the business leaders of the future – and harnesses their drive and creativity to help today’s business executives solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

We invite students with creative and critical mindsets, as action-oriented and resilient problem-solvers, to come together and design the next generation of sustainable business models.

This year's case focuses on 'Adapting Business Models to Support Human Rights for All'. The competition is free to enter.

KEY INFORMATION

  • Timing: Application window is open from 6 November 2023 to 14 January 2024. Semi-finals take place in February 2024, with the final on 22-23 March 2024.
  • Format: Video presentation, business proposal and panel presentation.
  • Language: English.
  • Participants: The competition is open to teams of 3-5 students and attracts both graduate and undergraduate students. There are no restrictions on the discipline(s) you are studying, but the financial rigour of models presented will be carefully evaluated, so a healthy dose of business/accounting acumen is strongly recommended.
  • Geography: Global. Semi-finals take place virtually, the in-person final is in Toronto, Canada (a travel fund is available).
  • PRIZE: CA$10,000 for the winning team; CA$5,000 for the runners-up.

More details are available in our Competition Entry Guide. Click here to download.

 

Information sessions

If you missed our information sessions, you can watch the recording here.

A4S International Case Competition: now closed

Entries for the A4SICC are now closed, but if you want to register your interest for next year, you can do so by clicking below and filling out the application.

Founding sponsors

THE CASE 2024

This year, the A4SICC 2024 is challenging students to examine potential impacts on human rights in corporate business models and strategies, and to develop innovative business practices, approaches and solutions where profits and a commitment and action on human rights go hand in hand.

Teams are asked to select one of the 127 of the world’s most influential companies assessed by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) in the 2022 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark and:

  1. Examine connections between the features of their business model (value proposition; value chain; cost structure and revenue model) and potential impacts on people’s human rights.
  2. Develop innovative business practices, approaches and/or solutions for the company to adapt their business model and to address these potential impacts.

COMPETITION ENTRY GUIDE

Download further information on the competition and how to enter here.

The task

The task outlined above breaks down into the following steps:

  • Select one of the 127 of the world’s most influential companies from here.
  • Identify how the current features of the business model may impact people’s human rights.
  • Present the business case for change, setting out why action on human rights will also add value to the company.
  • Provide commercially viable and scalable solution(s) for the company to adapt its business model and practices to address these potential impacts.
  • Demonstrate how your solution(s) could be rolled out across the company’s operations and value chain, such as across business units, regions, and/or supply chains, for example.
  • Outline a financial model, based on the company’s publicly available financial information, that demonstrates how the solutions would impact financial performance.
  • Map how your proposed solution(s) impact both positively and negatively on specific UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets.
  • Explain what success would look like both commercially and in terms of impact on human rights (eg benefits felt and an indication of the number of people who would benefit).

 

Download our competition entry guide for additional material and information here.

Background and context

Businesses need people to function. People are employees, customers, suppliers, and providers of capital. They fulfil the many and varied roles in our social infrastructure on which businesses depend. This gives businesses a direct stake in the wellbeing and development of people – both within and beyond their own organizations.

Right now, though, we see significant and growing barriers to human wellbeing and development globally. People worldwide are facing a cost-of-living crisis, supply chain volatility, climate anxiety, and a widening skills gap. The latest Human Development Report from UNDP shows that the value of the global Human Development Index declined sharply in 2020 and 2021 for two years in a row, reversing the gains made in the previous five years.

In this challenging environment, businesses urgently need to find ways to support human wellbeing and development – and essential to this endeavour is respect for human rights. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out a list of core human rights. The UN has published further guidance on how this applies to business in its Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

As key actors in the global economy, businesses have an important part to play – not only by respecting human rights in their own operations but by upholding human rights throughout their value chain. In doing so, businesses are both investing in their own success and helping to build an economy in which people and businesses can thrive.

 

Download our competition entry guide for additional material and information here.

Why get involved?

Beyond the cash prize, the A4SICC is a unique opportunity for students to:

  • Connect with industry leaders and potential future employers.
  • Connect with students across the world.
  • Feel empowered and encouraged by developing viable solutions, with consultative support from A4SICC mentors.
  • Develop much-needed, long-term solutions for a sustainable economy based on real-world data and insights.
  • Learn practical applications of business solutions.
  • Cultivate invaluable research, teamwork and presentation skills through professional and expert feedback and mentoring.
  • Have your voice heard in critical discussions around sustainable business development.
  • Inspire others and be inspired by a diverse range of perspectives, problems, and solutions.

Additional Resources

Below you will see resources included in the two bulletins sent out to schools and students.

Shift: Leadership and Governance Indicators of a Rights-Respecting Culture

This resource considers corporate culture as a factor in ensuring human rights for all. It looks across authenticity, accountability, empathy and organizational learning as key features of a corporate culture that are central to respect for human rights. You might want to consider how your proposed solution may impact corporate culture and/or how corporate culture may impact the likely success of your solution.

Shift: Advancing the S in ESG: A primer for CFOs

This research draws on the experience of 50 CFOs in measuring their corporate social performance, serving as a link between a company’s impacts and its financial performance.You may find some useful insights in here that help you as you demonstrate what success looks like for your proposed solution, in terms of the impact on human rights and wider value creation.

Australian Government: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

Governments in many parts of the world are showing an increasing awareness of indigenous rights, but solutions addressing the related challenges aren’t always straightforward. If your entry considers Indigenous Peoples, exploring the current referendum in Australia about whether to change the Constitution to recognize the First Peoples of Australia, may provide you with useful insights into some of the differing perspectives.

TNFD: Guidance on engagement with Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and affected stakeholders

This guide, written to support corporate reporting, makes the link between a company’s impacts and dependencies on nature, and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and affected stakeholders. When you are selecting and analysing the company you plan to base your entry on, you may wish to consider where and how these links may be relevant for your solution.

 

Tone and professionalism

Forbes: How To Make Your Pitch More Effective With Different Audiences And Mediums

A TED series:The Secret to Successfully Pitching an Idea

 

Business model 

Harvard Business Review: How to Design a Winning Business Model

Optima Training: Introduction to the Business Model Canvas

 

Business case  

Harvard Business School: How to do a cost-benefit analysis and why it’s important,

Triponel Consulting: The business case for respecting human rights

(This collection of studies invites you to think more broadly about different ways of presenting a business case, beyond one based on just traditional financial metrics.)

FAQs

Can the A4SICC team vet our idea before we enter?

In the interest of fairness to all teams, the A4SICC team will not provide specific, individual recommendations on the quality of entries or ideas. However, we are happy to answer any practical questions you have about the competition. Please check the Competition Entry Guide FAQs first, and if your question is not answered, then you can ask us at a4sicc@a4s.org.

Do we have to be from a business school?

No, but the financial rigour of models presented will be carefully evaluated, so a healthy dose of business acumen is strongly recommended. You do have to be enrolled in a current Higher Education programme.

When can we submit our entry?

The competition entry window opens on 6th November 2023 and closes on 14th January 2024. Register your interest now to access additional learning resources and our information sessions, and receive A4SICC bulletins with tips and guidance on preparing your submission.

How will the winner and runner-up be selected?

The winner and runner-up will be selected through a three-stage process: technical assessment, semi-finals and final. During each round, entrants' cases will be reviewed by a selected panel of judges. The same criteria will be used for all rounds; however, the judging panels will be different. The winning and runner-up team will be announced during the in-person live final on Saturday 23rd March 2024 in Toronto.

Who are the judges?

Judges are drawn from a pool of A4S and A4SICC stakeholders. These include: A4SICC sponsors, partners and corporate supporters; A4S CFO Leadership Network members and representatives; A4S Expert Panel members; senior finance leaders from the A4S Academy; and other subject matter experts.

Will we get to watch other teams?

All semi-finalists’ videos will be published on the A4S YouTube channel and you can view them there. All semi-finalists will also be able to watch and vote on the live presentations of the other teams in their (virtual) semi-final. For the final, all finalists’ videos are entered into the People’s Choice Award and all are encouraged to promote and vote for their favourite. All finalists and semi-finalists are invited to the in-person final where they will experience all the finalists’ presentations live.

To what extent does the proposal need to be financially viable?

The proposal and associated solutions need to be commercially viable.

What is the baseline for the financial model? Does it need to be based on the existing one?

Your starting point will be the company’s publicly available financial information and existing financial model.

Is there a specific group we need to focus our model on, ie employees, supply chain?

No, focus on groups you think are relevant across the entire value chain.

Any examples of financial models? Will we get access to the company’s financial data?

To answer the latter question – you will only have access to publicly available information.

Can we use non-traditional ways to quantify the benefits of the proposal?

In the first instance make sure that you address all the steps within the task. If time and page length permits then you may include additional solutions, however make sure you refer to the judging criteria and that your proposal meets this.

 

More FAQs and responses are included in our Competition Entry Guide. Click here to download.

See what previous winners have to say...

Teams Greenify and High On Hemp highlight the benefits of competing at A4SICC 2023.

Teams Greenify and High On Hemp share advice for future A4SICC applicants.

Explore previous winning team ideas...

2023 winners – Team Greenify: Using green walls to cool our cities

In 2023 we challenged students to identify ways to scale up nature-based solutions, in an impactful and resilient way. Team Greenify, from Nanyang Business School, Singapore won with their nature-based ‘Green Wall’ solution to reduce the energy needed to cool our cities from the urban 'heat island effect'. Their solution used an innovative financing model attractive to real estate owners.

 

WATCH TEAM GREENIFY’S ENTRY VIDEO

HEAR TEAM GREENIFY DISCUSS THEIR WINNING ENTRY

READ THEIR WINNER’S BLOG

2022 winners – Team Concordia: Using seaweed to reduce cattle methane emissions

Team Concordia Consulting Group, from John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada, won with their idea to achieve a carbon-neutral meat industry by distributing its product (seaweed) as a supplement to cattle feed. This improves the nutrition of the meat, and drives down methane emissions per cow by up to 60%. The competition in 2022 focused on designing real-world solutions to deliver a net zero society. Teams were asked to design actionable, measurable, commercial business and financial models that achieve these goals with sustainability at the core of their business’s strategy.

 

WATCH TEAM CONCORDIA’S ENTRY VIDEO

READ THEIR WINNER’S BLOG

2021 winners – Team E-Fishing Sea: Connecting fishers to end consumers whilst reducing supply chain inefficiencies

A4SICC in 2021 asked for real solutions to increase resilience, productivity and wellbeing of organizations and their stakeholders by creating robust supply chains. Team E-Fishing Sea from HEC Montréal, Canada, won with their idea to connect local fishers to local markets.

 

WATCH TEAM E-FISHING SEA’S ENTRY VIDEO

READ THEIR WINNER’S BLOG

Additional information

Anchor Business Schools

Become an Anchor Business School

A4SICC Anchor Business Schools work with us over a number of years, providing entrants to the competition every year. We provide tutor packs, assessment rubrics and guidance on integrating the case into your programmes. We ask our supporters to post/repost our A4SICC communications on social media, and to include relevant A4SICC content on your website or in other suitable communications.

If you are a business school tutor and would like to apply to become an Anchor Business School, please complete the form here.

A4s International Case Competition Partners

Accounting for Sustainability is a Charitable Incorporated Organization, registered charity number 1195467. Accounting for Sustainability is part of the King Charles III Charitable Fund Group of Charities.
Registered Office: 9 Appold Street, 8th Floor, London, EC2A 2AP