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The semi-finalists of the NHH case competition, in which Odfjell was the case study, have been chosen

Congratulations, Cornivus University of Budapest, the University of Alberta and the Norwegian School of Economics, on getting through to the next round!

Yesterday, Odfjell was announced as the 2022 NHH ICC case study company and the first shipping company to be featured. The student-run competition brings together 48 undergraduates from 12 universities worldwide to solve a real-life business problem in 24 hours and form a business plan. The teams chosen today will present to a panel, including CEO Harald Fotland, tomorrow, Friday, October 7.

It was an intense afternoon at the university filled with excitement as the teams were split into three venues to showcase their case solutions and be evaluated by the professional jury:

  • Chief Sustainability Officer Øistein Jensen, Odfjell
  • Ship Broker Kjell Christensen, Odfjell
  • Senior Ship Operator Unni Monsvold Mjelde, Odfjell
  • Professor Emerita Siri Pettersen Strandenes, NHH
  • PhD Candidate Ingrid Emilie Flessum Ringstad, NHH
  • Professor Inger Stensaker, NHH
  • Regional Manager Rune Mannseth, Renta AS
  • Managing Consultant Ruth Rørvik, Capgemini
  • Associate Professor Björn Schmeisser, NHH

There was an air of quiet nervousness as the signal was given to mark the deadline for students to submit their presentations at noon today. Though many had pushed through the night, there were fresh faces all around.

"We had theories regarding sustainability. We just didn't expect it to be regarding ship transportation, so that opened our eyes to how sustainability is growing in other industries. I didn't expect a shipping company to have those sustainability efforts, so I think it's really cool that they're leading by example for other companies," says participant Wendy Obispo from Cal Poly Pomona, California, of Odfjell.

She's just returned, relieved and confident her team did a good job, to the "green room" where the students wait for their turn between presentations. The team had worked through the night.

The semi finalists and jury

"We didn't think we would get into the finals but right now we're extremely excited and happy, " says the team from Cornivus University of Budapest who cheered loudly when their school was announced.

Although they can't change their presentations, they will be finessing their skills for the Q&A section tomorrow after facing a question they'll "remember forever" surrounding some European Union eco-label criterias.

"They really understood the issue and managed to transfer that into a clear strategy that was easy to understand. They were very professional, and used a consistent model through the presentation. There were some good analyses and we liked that they were very passionate," said Øistein, who was part of the group of judges that selected Cornivus university as the finalist, when he announced their choice.

"We also focused on the creative solutions inside and outside the box, on the balance between the problem formulation and the problem solution and the balance between creativity and realism both in the long and short term implementation period," says Unni, while announcing her group's choice, NHH, adding afterwards that it had been a difficult choice but fun nevertheless.

Even those who did not make it through to the next round had plenty to offer as Kjell shared a team that surprised him the most, which were not one of the finalists, had such an interesting solution he might consider bringing back to the office.

The journey behind the case problem

Chief Sustainability Officer Øistein Jensen, Ship Broker Kjell Christensen, Fleet Performance Manager Kristoffer Ramstad and VP Communications Anngun Dybsland collaborated with student case writer Liselotte Wedervang to create the case study. From a customer, consumer, digital, or financial standpoint, students must develop an integrated business strategy to support Odfjell's central value and leadership position in decarbonization.

It was a collaborative process with feedback looping between the university, the case study project team and management in the leadup. Kristoffer discussed the fleet's sustainability, Øistein ensured they used the right ESG and sustainability language. Kjell, who was behind the commercial ideas of the case study, like meeting customers and influencing their green profile, said: 

“It will be exciting to see which perspective they choose, how they combine it, and what dynamic they create. I hope what we find fun is also enjoyable for students.

Since we're influenced by the industry and its problems, they may not see them the same way we do. However, if they're not influenced by the industry, they're not poisoned in terms of what boundaries they see or don't see. I think ideas we didn't think were possible can be possible."

Kjell Christensen, Ship Broker

Crafting a case study is challenging and nuanced

Kjell shares that it was an interesting discussion about how they approached the task of not influencing the students too much, which meant carefully weighing words and using as many illustrations as possible.

“A lot has been changed from the first draft,” says case writer Liselotte with a chuckle. She’d scanned Odfjell’s annual reports to see how they were written, taking fonts, colors and other design choices into account to ensure the case booklet was a product representing both parties well.

“I was impressed by how well she captured our business's challenges, facts, and background in the first draft,” said Øistein about Liselotte's solid work.

It was no easy task, however, admits Liselotte. She was herself a finalist in last year’s competition. Her memories of the 24-hour time crunch were essential in helping her craft the complexities of Odfjell’s perspectives into a concise, digestible information package for the solvers.

“When I started writing this, I was very interested in the shipping industry, but I didn't have much knowledge about it. The Odfjell team described the situation's complexity in a way I needed to explain to the solvers.

Odfjell is a large company, but small in the chain and the team made me understand that customers, benefactors, and consumers have many different needs and beneficiaries. The whole process was very memorable because I had never worked in a team like this, especially professionally. Looking at how Odfjell works and how they communicate with each other, it looks like a very good sense of community.”

Liselotte Wedervang, Case writer

Ship Broker Kjell Christensen and CSO Øistein Jensen presented the case for the competing teams. Photo by Gabriela Huzevkova, NHHS

The result and reveal

Yesterday morning, Kjell and Øistein gave a presentation on Odfjell as the case study company, covering its global reach and the pervasiveness of sustainability in all that Odfjell does, from new cleaning gadgets to investment strategies. 

"We have done a lot, but how do we capture the value of being one of the sustainability leaders in the industry?" was the final challenge to the students.

The teams of four were then given just ten minutes to deliberate on the one question they could ask Odfjell before being sequestered for the next 24 hours to solve the case riddle.

Babeș-Bolyai University seemed to hit the nail on the head when asking about the company's goals of increasing awareness of its sustainability efforts, which Øistein carefully maneuvered around to avoid the risk of infringing on the students' task at the competition, while the team from Glasgow University impressively pulled out facts from Odfjell's 2019 annual report.

The final round will go live at NHH tomorrow, Friday October 7 from 12:00 to 16:00. Global Head of Tanker Trading Bjørn Hammer, Senior Ship Broker Siri Sundal Shield and CEO Harald Fotland are the Odfjell representatives in the jury who has the tough job of choosing the winner.

Written by Zayana Zulkiflee

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