The Financial Case for a Circular Economy

Week 6 of the Global Retail Challenge

This is the sixth in a series of updates from the 2019 Global Retail Challenge, a seven-week design thinking case competition featuring student teams from around the world. Learn more here.

This week’s assignment offered the students the opportunity to take a hard look at the financial case underlying their project ideas. The goal of each team was to ensure that an adequate financial business model was in place to support their proposed plans. Students were reminded that it is possible to develop a good idea that creates value but may not be financially sustainable over time. 

Students developed basic financials to better understand the size of the total addressable market for their ideas in order to ensure that they can acquire users affordably and achieve revenues that exceed costs at scale. Guru Larson, Global Environmental Lead, Columbia Sportswear and Jenna Tresscott, Manager, Sustainability Strategy, Accenture provided excellent feedback for the teams.

Some key takeaways for the teams included the following:
  • Use the financial analysis to iterate the business model – For example, if a national rollout does not make sense financially at first, consider a regional business model and test your way to success. Consider all options, as another alternative may be a franchise model.
  • Don’t be afraid to make financial assumptions. You can’t prove a new-to-the-world idea with financial data from the past. All you can do is test the assumptions behind your idea. So, make some bold assumptions and then use feedback to help test, iterate, and confirm those assumptions.
The mentors awarded top honors this week to six teams, congratulations to:
  • Team 4 - Ashesi University A,
  • Team 5 - Vanderbilt University,
  • Team 6 - Florida State University,
  • Team 8 - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
  • Team 10 - Ohio State University, and
  • Team 12 - Columbia University. 
Here is a look at an excerpt from Team 12’s financial story:

This was our last virtual workshop before the students arrive in Montreal this week. This week the students will bring all of their ideas together and present their projects in-person at McGill University.

Stay tuned next week for a wrap-up of the competition!

Take a look back at our first five weeks:
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5

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