HEC Montréal CSR Challenge: Online case-cracking for MBA students

Ten students of the MaastrichtMBA programme participated in the HEC Montréal CSR Challenge on March 5 and 6. Although a bit disappointed that they didn’t bring home a price, the event was considered a big success. “It was fun and interesting. We learned a lot. And it’s a great opportunity to work with people from all over the world on topics that matter.”

The challenge

The HEC Montréal CSR Challenge is an annual bilingual Case Competition for MBA students, hosted by HEC Montréal and Association des Étudiants MBA (AEMBA). It is a two-day case-cracking event that focuses on the problems and challenges of environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. For the first time in the twelve-year history of the Challenge, ten students of Maastricht participated in two teams: The Sustainable Troopers and Circle5. In total thirty teams of twenty-three business schools from all over the world joined the competition.


All teams had to prepare one (local) case beforehand and present it on the first morning of the Challenge. The teams were then mixed to work on the second case, about Exxon Mobil. Based on the scores on both cases the eight best performing teams were selected to participate in a third case. The other twenty-two teams took part in a workshop. Although the Maastricht teams didn’t end up in the top 8, the participants were excited about their participation in this competition.

Prepping and coaching

The challenge is not just any challenge; its high level requires thorough preparation. In Maastricht teams were prepped and supported by, among others, Sabine Janssen, head of UMIO’s Service Science Factory. The students were impressed by the support of MaastrichtMBA. We spoke to two of our participants from both teams: Natalia Salazar and Anargyros Kiourkos. Natalia, Ecuadorian and living in Austria: “We had several coaching sessions with experts in the fields of CSR, sustainability and social enterprise. The university staff was extremely helpful. The teams had several meetings to get to know each other, understand each other’s skills and strengths and to prepare for the competition’s first case.” “The support given by the university helped immensely”, Anargyros, Greek and based in Switzerland, agrees. “Next to that I did some research by reading articles, watching video’s etc.”


Key takeaways

Natalia looks back on a fruitful event: “This was a great opportunity to network with my peers at the MBA program and with participants of other universities.” Anargyros Kiourkos: “It was a pleasure working with people from all over the world. The fact that the event was 100% online because of the pandemic allowed teams from far away countries to participate.” For Anargyros the key takeaway of the event is that all over the world people have interesting ideas for addressing many of the great challenges of today. “Working with people from different backgrounds and cultures can bring interesting perspectives and ideas to the table.” Natalia: “I was surprised to experience that – while working on the second case – in such diverse teams, with people you’ve never met before, we were able to work towards solutions in just a couple of hours.”

Know your numbers

Do Natalia and Anargyros have tips and tricks for future participants? “Prepare, be creative and bold and know your numbers”, Anargyros states. “Get to know the people you are working with and build a strong team spirit”, Natalia adds. “Keep calm, listen to others and respect their opinions. Get acquainted with the worldwide trends in CSR and sustainability, the country’s economy and key industries. And last but not least: be professional and have fun!”


Participation in this great event exceeded expectations. “It was fun and stressful at the same time”, according to Anargyros. “It was hard work, but definitely worth it!” Natalia: “I would love it if MaastrichtMBA would organise similar competitions in the Netherlands or Europe in the near future. I would certainly sign up. And if you have the opportunity to participate in next year’s HEC Montreal CSR Challenge; go for it!”

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