A chocolate eagerly unwrapped in a child’s hand may taste all the sweeter when sustainably sourced. Motivating consumers to pluck sustainable sweets from grocery store shelves, however, has posed a business challenge with which even large companies like Mondelez International, maker of Cadbury Creme Eggs, struggle.
Students enrolled in Corporate Social Responsibility, a class within the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have partnered with Mondelez to help understand how millennials view corporate social responsibility. Tom Van Dorselaer, adjunct professor of marketing at Haslam, says the project is part of the company’s Cocoa Life initiative. Van Dorselaer selects students based on their leadership qualities and allows the class to unfold in the collaborative manner of a business meeting.
“We have a CEO and are organized into three units: Consumer Market Knowledge, Integrated Marketing Communications and Supply Chain,” Van Dorselaer explains. “Our goal is to survey the college-age demographic and produce actionable insights. We work in a high-energy environment that is cross-functional in order to advance the mission of our team.”
Matthew Hilman Walker, a senior supply chain management major, solves operational problems for the class in his role as supply chain team leader. He has coordinated with Mondelez executives in Chicago and Belgium to procure supplies and financing.
“It is a real-world supply chain challenge because we have to build rapport with people who are physically far away and work with them to troubleshoot if necessary,” Hilman Walker says.
Haley Anderson, a senior marketing major, leads a team of six that works on public relations, marketing and video production. They are tasked with raising awareness of the project and driving participation.
“Our number one mission is to have a clear, concise message to our target audience,” Anderson says. “Sustainability is a great business tactic, but it also carries a lot of meaning. As our generation enters into the workforce, it’s going to be important that we carry these messages into the companies that we work for.”
Hunter Morrow-Elder, a senior double major in marketing and management, serves as the team’s CEO. He feels marketing and operational efforts are a critical component of generating survey participation. The end result will be a data set the project’s consumer marketing knowledge team will analyze and report back about to Mondelez.
“We’re operating with a project-based mentality that goes beyond a typical classroom,” Morrow-Elder said. “We have business objectives and are looking for insights as they relate to corporate social responsibility. It’s early on, but one suggestion we’re considering is to explore more in-depth packaging that could influence a buying decision in favor of responsibly produced products.”