May 02, 2019

Business Ethics Student and professors stand for a photo

Four Catholic University juniors flew to California this April to compete at the International Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC) held at Loyola Marymount University. The team of business majors — Emma Flanagan, Brendan Dillon, Billy Wilson, and Nick Spinelli — won first place at the competition, beating 30 teams from five countries.

This was no overnight success, though. The team had been working with Business School faculty Frederic Sautet and John Tieso, and the school’s Career Development team since October of 2018 to prepare three presentations for the competition: a 25 minute presentation given by all four team members, a 10 minute presentation given by Wilson, Spinelli, and Dillon, and a 90 second presentation given by Flanagan.

Business ethics students standing with their first place trophyThese presentations summarized the team’s extensive findings on unethical issues within Starbucks' coffee sourcing. As this was the team’s third year representing Catholic University at this competition, they were well prepared for the task ahead, but they did have a new challenge after IBECC announced this year that it would be restructured into the International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition (IBESCC).

For this added challenge, the team had to make some changes. “Our research not only had to focus on unethical issues within Starbucks' coffee practices, but also how our team's recommendations reflected the goals set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Flanagan.

Wilson said the Busch School’s mission helped the team prepare for the competition. “We felt as if our presentation and the solutions that we gave truly represented the unique way that the business school looks at business, as a force for good,” he said.

With the Busch School’s support and the hard work of each of the team members, the competition and the win was certainly a memorable experience for the team. Reflecting on the experience, Flanagan said, “It was truly an honor to compete at such a world-renowned and international competition of this kind.”

Liz Shoemaker, B.A. 2020, Marketing and Communications Intern. For more information, contact