Leadership Crisis Challenge: Olick International

by: Susan Ashford

Publication Date: August 4, 2009
Length: 52 pages
Product ID#: 1-428-769

Core Disciplines: Communications, Ethics, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Sustainability

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Winner of the 2011 University of Michigan Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize
In this crisis simulation, students are cast in the roles of executives at Olick International, an $11 billion agricultural processing company that has been accused by an environmental organization of illegally cutting down old growth forests and replacing them with palm through its Indonesian smallholder farmers. The environmental group claims that the farmers are negatively impacting biodiversity, forest cover, and greenhouse gas emissions through slash and burn agriculture. Olick considered moving to a plantation-based sourcing model, eliminating the need for the smallholder farmers and the farmers in turn protested. In Round 1, students are asked to address the company’s board of directors with recommendations on how to move forward, and then are confronted with new challenges in Rounds 2 and 3 as events quickly unfold.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Make and defend judgment calls in complex environments where information is often missing, incomplete, or misleading.
  • Determine what a company’s environmental, social, and corporate responsibilities are to the communities in which it operates.
  • Adapt quickly in fluid situations and demonstrate agility and wisdom when making decisions under time constraints.
  • Balance competing demands from multiple stakeholders while exercising integrity and courage under pressure.