The Nordic Case House is developing its collection of teaching cases. We support case development from iteration to publication with a view to creating a collection for Harvard Business Publishing. The CBS collection has a strong focus on Nordic companies and/or addressing business issues through a “Nordic lens.” Here are some examples in our current case collection. And feel free to contact the case writers if you are interested in their case(s).
If you are interested in developing a case yourself, please reach out to Merete Badger, our Lead Case Support, email@example.com.
TECHFRIEND: HOW TO IMPROVE CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AND BOARD ENGAGEMENT IN A HIGH-GROWTH, GIG-ECONOMY SME
Author: Trond Randøy
The case focuses on the corporate-governance challenges facing a high-growth, small to medium-sized firm (SME) active in the gig economy. It addresses board roles and responsibilities as well as issues related to board recruitment. The case is set in the Nordic context, where many small tech firms have been able to attract funding from private investors and private equity funds, and eventually become “unicorns” undertaking successful IPOs. Although the case is fictitious, it builds on the author’s personal board experiences with several Nordic firms.
TRANSOCEAN LTD. (A and B)
Author: Torben Juul Andersen
The Transocean (A) and (B) cases provide snapshots of two points in time in the company’s history – the first in 2009 after a period of superior earnings and the second in 2023 after several years of poor performance. The two cases describe the same public company [NYSE: RIG] at two points in time characterized by vastly different financial and economic circumstances as well as different sets of senior executives. The cases highlight how different the same organization can appear within a relatively short 20-year period marked by the global financial crisis in 2007-2009, a major oil-rig explosion in 2010, a waning outlook in 2014, the slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and a potential economic recovery.
WILL OIL AND GAS BE GUYANA’S BACCOO?
Authors: Michael Moffett, Andrew Inkpen
In May 2015, ExxonMobil announced the discovery of oil off the coast of the small South American country of Guyana. In the years following, more discoveries were made by ExxonMobil and other oil companies. It looked certain that Guyana would receive billions of dollars in oil earnings, possibly making it the largest oil producing country in the world on a per capita basis. The earnings and the growth of the oil industry would have dramatic impacts on Guyana, one of the poorest countries in South America. The standard of living in Guyana could improve but would the country become a victim of the oil curse? Guyana’s cultural demon, the baccoo, was indeed out of the bottle.
MIKAEL LARSSON AND THE TAEDONGGANG BEER FACTORY
Authors: Peter Hagström, Lars Håkanson, Ari Kokko
Swedish brewer Mikael Larsson finds himself in a conundrum. By chance, he has come across an extraordinary opportunity: Contacts with North Korea’s dominant brewery open up new possibilities for getting into business with a company producing a truly exotic premium beer. That would dovetail with his own beer business. However, as the partner brewery is located in Pyongyang, North Korea it opens a can of worms: How to proceed given the political, economic and legal issues any actual collaboration would entail? First, he needs to sort out the context of having a potential partner in a reclusive country currently under international sanctions. He needs to understand the overall environment in which the prospective partner operates. Second, Mikael needs to figure out what Taedonggang brings to the table. Third, what practical steps would be required if he decides to proceed, or are there any creative alternatives? All the while when considering the future, he is dogged by ethical and legal concerns as well as by the economic opportunities beckoning if this could be pulled off.
BUDGETING AT PHARMABREW (A and B)
Author: Catherine E. Batt
Pharmabrew manufactured and distributed generic medicines to third-party pharmaceutical companies. Anna Nielsen, the company’s CFO, had long been listening to unit managers complaining about the budgeting process, as they found it time-consuming and believed it did not add value to the business. Anna decided to change the process and hoped the unit managers will complain less. Unfortunately, John Christensen, the head of sales, fell ill during the budgeting process, and Martin Andersen, his assistant, had to take over. A few weeks into the year, Pharmabrew was in trouble. Deliveries were late, raw materials needed for production were unavailable, and clients were angry. What led to this situation?
TIMING THE CLIMATE TRANSITION IN SWEDEN:
EXERGI’S GREEN INNOVATION JOURNEY TOWARDS
Authors: Susanna Kugelberg and Susana Borrás
Negative emissions of carbon dioxide will likely be needed to meet the <2°C warming above the pre-industrial level goal of the Paris Agreement. A major technology option is combining Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) in the industry and power sectors. The case of Exergi centers around the company’s strategic shift towards creating a business model for negative emissions. Established initially as a traditional district heat and power provider to the citizens of Stockholm, Exergi had succeeded to change its production from oil and coal to renewable energy sources. The case traces Exergi’s journey from its conventional energy roots to its transformative decision to invest in bio-energy carbon capture and storage technologies (BECCS). It delves into the complexities of navigating market uncertainties, regulatory changes, and technological advancements. The case also explores the internal and external pressures Exergi faced in balancing profitability with environmental responsibility. In focusing on Exergi’s strategic pivot, the case provides insights into how traditional energy companies can adapt and thrive in the new era of sustainable energy, highlighting the critical decisions and innovative approaches that shape the future of the energy sector.
EMBEDDING DEI IN THE COMPANY STRATEGY AS A MEANS OF CLOSING THE GENDER GAP IN SHIPPING: THE CASE OF MAERSK TANKERS
Authors: Poornima Luthra
This case focuses on Maersk Tankers’ efforts to achieve a better gender balance in an industry that struggles to attract and retain female talent. The case begins in 2021 with Annelise Goldstein, the Chief People Officer, and Christian M. Ingerslev, CEO, discussing the gender imbalance in the industry and the company, and wondering what additional steps could be taken to address the gender gap. The case then describes the global shipping industry and the Danish shipping industry, and provides relevant data on gender based on a Women In Shipping report published in 2021. Thereafter, the case describes Maersk Tankers’ efforts to transform the organization’s culture into one that is inclusive of diverse talent. The case ends with a description of the opportunities and challenges the company faces as it moves towards greater gender parity.
MOBILEPAY A/S: A NEW BUSINESS MODEL WITH A SWIPE?
Authors: Christoph Grimpe
MobilePay, a popular mobile payment system in Denmark, set new records in 2021. Danes had used the app more than 424 million times and transferred about DKK 160 billion (USD 22.6 billion), an increase of 29% from the previous year, which had also seen record growth. Every day, more than one million transactions were carried out through a customer’s “swipe” on a mobile phone. While these numbers looked impressive, Claus Bunkenborg, MobilePay’s CEO, knew that the coming years would be challenging. He thought about the DKK 208 million (USD 29 million) in losses that MobilePay had incurred in 2021. “We have high growth but we are not profitable. Our business model is not viable in the long run. Getting paid to facilitate transactions is not viable because the price that the merchants are paying to use our service is just going down, down, down. Are we in the payments business or something else? If we want to do more of the same, we need more scale. However, we also need to look at the business model. How can we create revenue streams? How can we monetize our brand, our user platform, our merchant base? It’s easy to say we want to be a platform, but what does that actually mean in our case?”
THE CLOSET-MOTIVATING VOLUNTEERS AND MAKING A PROFIT
Authors: Katrine Schrøder-Hansen
The Closet was founded as a subscription-based model in 2015. By 2022, it had almost 2,500 members and 8 stores, which the founder, Louise K. Liokouras, ran in collaboration with two franchisees and a diverse group of around 180 volunteers. The members had access to all eight stores, which were located across Denmark, and they could swap as much second-hand clothing in the stores as they wished. The vision was to reduce clothing-related waste, a vision that most of the volunteers felt very passionate about and were dedicated to. Despite the volunteers’ engagement, it was difficult to ensure that they handled the daily tasks at the stores in the right way and were committed to completing their assigned shifts. As the number of volunteers increased, so did the organizational-control issues. The informal and personal management style was becoming difficult to maintain. The founder therefore asked the volunteers about their motivation and wanted to integrate that information into potential solutions to the various issues.
FROM OPERATIONAL DATA MAINTENANCE TO STRATEGIC DATA ARCHITECTURE: MASTER DATA MANAGEMENT AT CHR. HANSEN
Authors: Attila Márton, Lasse Friis Nielsen, Nina Bækbo Andersen
Founded in 1874, Chr. Hansen (pronounced Christian Hansen) is a global biotech corporation specialized in the development and manufacturing of food cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors for business customers in the food, pharmaceutical, agricultural and nutritional industries. Chr. Hansen has a long history as a traditional manufacturer selling to rather conservative customers, especially dairies and farms. At the time of the teaching case, the corporation just took note of the importance of digital transformation to meet its strategic goals. Installing a high-level digital transformation team, the corporation started to experiment with digital business models. A central part of the transformation was to learn how to use data as a strategic asset, which began with implementing so-called Master Data Management (MDM) as a corporate-wide capability. This would allow for a unified view on all aspects of the business based on reliable, high-quality data, which could then be used to innovate more data-driven business models. While initial experimentation in that direction delivered promising results, an audit by Ernst & Young showed that Chr. Hansen still had a long way to go in its efforts to establish MDM. As a first but decisive step, the Global Master Data unit was charged to develop master data about the customers. And it was then up to the head of the unit, Nina Bækbo Andersen, to take this challenge on and help Chr. Hansen to digitally transform from a traditional manufacturer to a data-driven business ready for the 21st century.
TDC NET’S INNOVATION HUB: LEVERAGING 5G COMPETENCIES CASE OVERVIEW
Authors: Christoph Grimpe
In 2020, TDC NET, a subsidiary of the Danish telecommunications company TDC Group, established the Innovation Hub, a new organizational unit, together with its partner Ericsson Denmark. With the Innovation Hub, TDC NET sought to explore the business opportunities that the rollout of 5G, the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, offers in areas such as Industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things. TDC NET was proud to offer Denmark’s best mobile network but margins in that business were low and competition was fierce. Offering value-added services around the implementation of 5G seemed much more attractive. But that would require the Innovation Hub to succeed with pilot projects in areas and industries that the employees working at the Hub had little knowledge about. How could they achieve this goal during the next two years? And, given the complex challenges, was the current setup of the Innovation Hub the right one or should it be organized differently?
THE UNLIKELY INVENTOR AND THE RELUCTANT MANUFACTURER – COLOPLAST’S START-UP STORY CASE SUMMARY
Author: Louise Karlskov Skyggebjerg
In 1954, Elise Sørensen, a home-care nurse, met with the plastic-packaging manufacturer Aage Louis-Hansen to discuss a new idea she had developed: a disposable ostomy bag made of the new wonder material, plastic. Aage was reluctant to become involved, but his wife convinced him to give Elise and her idea a chance. This was the beginning of a billion-euro global success. In 2022, the resulting company, Coloplast, had around 12,000 employees worldwide and turnover of more than EUR 2.5 billion from different medical products, with the ostomy bag as the core product. However, in the 1950s, Aage and Elise were just two people making decisions in a world of uncertainty where no one could predict the future. In short, they were in precisely the same situation as many of those working with start-ups in the 2020s. The case is untraditional, as it is not about a dilemma. Instead, it is designed to spur broader discussions about innovation and entrepreneurship. However, one dilemma that could be considered based on the case is plastic as a wonder material that makes life better versus plastic as problematic waste and part of an unsustainable petroculture. The ostomy bag made life better for millions, but was it also a good innovation from a global environmental perspective? Nevertheless, this dilemma is not the main focus of the case, where the history of Coloplast is told as a start-up story taking place in the mid-1950s. Students follow how Elise got the idea, how she met Aage, and how production began.
COPENHAGEN MERCHANTS GROUP AND THE EU FARM TO FORK STRATEGY
Authors: Andrew Inkpen, Tine Walravens
In 2022, food prices around the world were rising rapidly, and the war in Ukraine was threatening supplies of fertilizer and grain. In addition to this looming food crisis, in 2019 the EU had passed the European Green Deal with the objective of transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. The Green Deal included the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, which aimed to make food systems healthy and environmentally friendly. The objectives of the F2F strategy included reduced dependence on pesticides, antimicrobials, and fertilizers; increased organic farming; improved animal welfare; and a reversal of biodiversity loss. The F2F strategy was expected to significantly reduce European grain production and increase prices. It was also expected to lead to more locally produced protein crops in Europe and reduced imports of protein crops (mainly soybeans) from South America.
SHEIN DISRUPTS FAST FASHION AND CONFRONTS SUSTAINABILITY
Authors: Andrew Inkpen, Kannan Ramaswamy
The case focuses on the competitive dynamics of the fast fashion industry and the strategic approaches adopted by major competitors within the domain of ultra-fast fashion. Set against the backdrop of major events that are reshaping fashion retailing, the case explores the business model adopted by Shein, the world’s largest online fashion retailer, which in October 2022 was rumored to be on the cusp of an IPO. In 2021, Shein had sales of more than USD 15 billion, shipped clothing to more than 150 countries, and was one of the most famous clothing brands in the world. In addition, its shopping app was the world’s most used, reaching roughly 17.5 million screens, more than twice the downloads for e-commerce giant Amazon.
CUPID’S WINGMAN: SOCIAL DATING AT DOUBBLE
Author: Christina Lubinski
Doubble is a Danish dating app founded in October 2021 by Dennis Rosenlund, a bachelor’s student at Copenhagen Business School. Challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on in-person events, the first-semester student developed an app to facilitate “double dates.” Users signed up for the app and connected to their friends. Then they looked for other pairs with which to have double dates. This made it easier to initiate contact by chat and reduced the awkwardness of first dates. Doubble’s first users were Dennis’s fellow university students. However, over time, network effects facilitated growth beyond this initial niche. The case allows for a discussion of effectuation principles at the earliest stage of venture development and the financing needs of new ventures, especially those with a platform-business model.
DNB FUTURE WAVES–AN IMPACT INVESTMENT FUND TO SUPPORT A SUSTAINABLE OCEAN ECONOMY
Authors: Kedar Uttam, Kristjan Jespersen, Paige Olmsted
DNB Asset Management (DNB AM), which is based in the Nordic region, has introduced responsible investment strategies across its asset classes. In addition to funds and investments that follow responsible investment standards, DNB AM offers clients an assortment of sustainability-themed funds, including funds that invest in businesses tackling climate change. In May 2020, DNB AM introduced a new theme–sustainable oceans–which focused on eight sectors:
• Aquaculture and fisheries/seafood,
• Offshore oil and gas,
• Renewable marine energy (e.g., wind),
• Marine transport and shipbuilding,
• Ship recycling and marine operations (including port activities),
• Deep-sea mining and marine-based biotechnology,
• Marine and coastal tourism, and
• Land-based activities with a significant influence on the oceans (e.g., mining, agriculture, chemicals, waste management, and urban development).
Green Globalization: GreenMobility’s Push to Internationalize Electric Car Sharing
Authors: Adam K. Frost, Shuang L. Frost. Lukas Hvidkjær, and Kristoffer Kellberg Frank
On a fine winter morning in January 2021, in an office in downtown Copenhagen, Henrik Isaksen, the founder of GreenMobility, pondered the future of his company and his role in it. GreenMobility, a pioneer in electric vehicle (EV) car sharing, had established itself as an industry leader in Denmark and had taken the first steps towards globalizing its business. The company was operating in seven cities in four countries. Moreover, it had recently been listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen’s Main Market and had plans to unroll operations in major European markets.
However, Isaksen found himself at a crossroads. Despite some early success, the path to globalization had been fraught with challenges. GreenMobility did not have a proven business model. It had struggled with leadership challenges, with five different CEOs in as many years. The global pandemic, which started in 2019, had placed unprecedented strain on the entire transportation industry. GreenMobility needed a new strategy, not only to weather this turbulent period but also to continue expanding into new markets and establish itself as the global leader in the EV car-sharing segment. What approach to internationalization would best enable GreenMobility to achieve its ambition? Was Isaksen the person best suited to lead the company through the next stage of internationalization?