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A Source of Valuable Lessons: Al Fuller and Integrated Packaging Corporation

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At Integrated Packaging Corporation, President and CEO Al Fuller is doing well
and doing good. Integrated Packaging Corporation (IPC) has been Proctor and Gamble’s Minority Business Enterprise “Company of the Year” and was named a “Top 100 Industrial Company” by Black Enterprise Magazine. Annual growth catapulted the company onto the Inner City 100 for two consecutive years. Only a true business gazelle makes it even for a single year onto this list of the fastest growing firms in the nation’s central cities.

Fuller’s business is so successful in large part because he manages to create real value with a frequently invisible workforce: inner city residents—mostly minority and sometimes with checkered job histories. From his early days, Fuller was committed to a cause: to create a successful manufacturing business that also generated good jobs for people in communities like his home town of East St Louis, Illinois.

"Al Fuller is the kind of visionary entrepreneur to inspire and inform the next generation of business leaders," notes Hitachi Foundation President and CEO Barbara Dyer.

There has been a surge in demand among today’s MBA students—tomorrow’s business leaders—for greater emphasis within the standard MBA curriculum on the role of business in creating a more sustainable world—stories like Al’s. Yet today only 30% of business schools require content in a core course on how business can act as an engine for positive social or environmental change (Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2009, The Aspen Institute).

Through the “Pioneer Employer Case Competition: Raising Wages, Increasing Profits,” The Hitachi Foundation partnered with Net Impact to introduce MBA students across America to specific cases focusing on the business advantages of creating improved standards and increased wages for frontline workers. The competition challenged students to analyze the case study “Integrated Packaging Corporation: Struggling to Do the Right Thing,”* which explores how Fuller successfully revitalized a failing corrugated box plant in New Brunswick, NJ while dramatically improving the standard of living for his employees, and poses the question whether this model can successfully be expanded into another inner city, Detroit, MI.

“This case delves deeply into the management challenges of blending value for the firm and value for society," said Dyer.

The following videos provide further context on the IPC story, in the voice of Al Fuller himself, as well as exploring its value as a learning tool for MBA students:

In a twist on the traditional case competition, The Hitachi Foundation and Net Impact also challenged students to devise and implement a strategy for integrating cases involving improved economic opportunities for workers into their MBA core curriculum.

The competition featured an esteemed panel of thought leaders on the topic: Al Fuller himself, President and CEO of Integrated Packaging Corporation; Orson Watson, PhD, co-author of the IPC case and former professor of management who himself has taught the case to MBA students; and Laurie Ginsberg, Senior Program Manager in the Business and Society Program at The Aspen Institute.

Click here to read about the winners of the Pioneer Employer Case Competition.

In the following video, participants in the case competition share key lessons they learned in driving curriculum change on their campus:

The Hitachi Foundation and Net Impact are also developing a summary of lessons learned from the students’ own curriculum change efforts, available for download soon.

Are you an MBA student or business school faculty member? “Integrated Packaging Corporation: Struggling to Do the Right Thing,” and others like it are available for download through Harvard Business Publishing as case number 9-307-065. The case was authored by Professors Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard and Orson Watson.

The full video library linked to the Integrated Packaging Corporation case and featuring interviews with case co-author Orson Watson, Al Fuller himself as well as MBA students, is available here.

Other tools and resources for students or faculty seeking to drive curriculum change on their campus can be found through Net Impact.

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