CF Industries’ New Strategy: Turning Business Pressures into Fuel for Sustainable Growth

by: Stuart L. Hart

Publication Date: May 28, 2024
Length: 14 pages
Product ID#: 4-194-907

Core Disciplines: Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case follows CF Industries, a major fertilizer manufacturing company, its CEO Tony Will, and his leadership team in preparing for an annual strategy review and board meeting in the summer of 2020. Long-term threats to the demand for nitrogen fertilizer—stemming from the rise of electric vehicles, plant-based meats, and animal product substitutes—have caused great concern for the company’s long-term outlook. These considerations, coupled with the pressure to decarbonize the company’s energy- and emissions-intensive operation, could fuel an overhaul of CF Industries’ strategy.

Students will put themselves in the shoes of CEO Tony Will and evaluate the outlook for the company and the overall nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing industry in order to craft a new corporate strategy to present at a July board meeting.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Craft a new strategy for CF Industries that addresses the negative pressures on nitrogen fertilizer demand and incorporates sustainability considerations.
  • Explain the implications that sustainability-related goals have on corporate strategy and apply insights to corporate strategy development.
  • Compare short- versus long-term risks and returns of making sustainability-related investments from financial, reputational, and competitive perspectives.
  • Discuss the role corporations can play at a systems level to influence industry shifts using a combination of market-based and non-market strategies.