The Business of Being Ethical: Do Something Good
From left: Adam Stoverink, Bridgett Skeirik, Anna Snodgrass, Cornelia Swardh, Peyton Boxberger and Cindy Moehring celebrate the placement of Montay Coffee in several Northwest Arkansas Walmart locations.
The Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Sam M. Walton College of Business encourages business students at all levels to incorporate ethics and integrity into their workday and career. From speaking up when seeing something wrong to understanding how algorithms can influence online outcomes, ethics are an ever-growing focus for the business world.
For the Fall 2021 semester, Cindy Moehring, founder and executive chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative, and Adam Stoverink, director of M.B.A. Programs at Walton College, challenged the Walton M.B.A. Class of 2022 to “do something good” for the Walton M.B.A. Ethics Project, which called for teams to integrate ethical principles into strategic decision-making. Student teams met the challenge head on.
Ten student teams were formed. Each team of four to five students was then given $1,000 seed money thanks to a generous donor.
“The whole point of the project is to think of something good to do and then go do it,” Moehring said. “I want students to experience bringing their ‘do good’ idea to life on their own with all of the strategic and operational successes and challenges that come with that along the way.
"Once students graduate and enter the business world, they will face ethical dilemmas regardless of their major in school,” Moehring said. “I want them to be prepared to handle those dilemmas and make wise, proactive business decisions that are good for the bottom line and good for society. Part of the initiative’s mission is to bring the business community and Walton College closer together. This project does that because each of the M.B.A. student teams were mentored by one of the initiative’s external advisory board members.”
The ethics project has been incorporated into the business leaderships and ethics course taught by Stoverink.
“Throughout the semester, students learned several important lessons, but two of these lessons rise to the top,” Stoverink said. “One is experiencing first-hand the positive impact that business leaders can, and should, have on society. And second is the challenge of navigating a variety of tough decisions, some of which will have significant moral and ethical considerations.
At the end of the semester, the teams presented their projects to a panel of judges who are Walton M.B.A. alumni, faculty and corporate leaders in Northwest Arkansas.”
MONTAY COFFEE: GOOD. INTENTIONAL. COFFEE.
The concept for the winning team, Montay Coffee, was inspired by team member Samuel Skeirik’s personal relationships to Haiti and the Haitian coffee industry. Research found that Haitian coffee exports decreased by more than $120 million from 1989 to 2021. The team wanted to maximize impact and found they could do this by focusing on trading with Haitian farmers, making them more competitive in the global economy.
To source their beans, the M.B.A. team of Skeirik, Peyton Boxberger, Cornelia Swardh and Anna Snodgrass — along with Skeirik’s wife, Bridgett, who served as a consultant — worked with Avanti Coffee Co., a direct trade coffee company in Haiti. Bridgett previously worked as a missionary in Haiti and is an expert in Haitian language and culture. Locally, the Montay Coffee team works with Basecamp Coffee Company in northeast Fayetteville, which uses Montay beans for its guest roast.
Since starting the company, Montay Coffee has had an 11-12 percent return on investment and approximately a $10,000 economic impact. The potential in Haiti is upwards to $700 million for the coffee industry based on its unique elevation.
The team’s main goal is to raise awareness about Haitian coffee and encourage others to buy Haitian coffee. When you buy Montay Coffee, you help coffee farmers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic escape poverty and become financially independent. Montay runs a lean operation to drive profits back to farmers and into Haiti’s economy.
Skeirik credits Walton College, the MBA Program and the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative for the success of the company.
“Walton College gave us the resources to make a CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry start-up successful in six months,” Skeirik said.
While the project was a success during the year, it continued to have an impact after the project had concluded. Three members of the team – Boxberger, Swardh and Snodgrass – have opted to keep the company going, along with Bridgett Skeirik. Samuel opted out of the company to avoid any conflict of interest with his employer.
“What a proud professor moment! A coffee company that started from a project in my class just hit the shelves of 11 Walmart stores in Northwest Arkansas,” Stoverink said.
Coffee aficionados may purchase Montay Coffee beans at select Walmart stores in Northwest Arkansas and at Basecamp Coffee Company in Fayetteville.
LET’S TALK FALL 2022
The Let’s Talk program, produced by the Walton College Business Integrity Leadership Initiative, consists of a speaker series and a book. The Fall 2022 program is focusing on speaking up when something seems wrong and how to create a workplace culture that encourages it.
Guest speakers include author and retired professor Mary C. Gentile, Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins and Theranos’ whistleblower Erika Cheung.
Walton College students, faculty, staff and the public may attend speaker sessions online and/or in person.
Learn more about speaking up when things seem wrong in the workplace by registering for the fall Let’s Talk program.
[Julie Storing, associate M.B.A. director, and Mackenzie Brown, a junior majoring in marketing at Walton College, contributed to this article.]
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