Case | HBS Case Collection | October 2009 (Revised October 2010)

Cosan: Thinking Outside the Barrel

by Forest L. Reinhardt, Noel Maurer and Ricardo Reisen de Pinho


The Cosan case introduces students and executive education participants to political economy and business strategy in the biofuels industry. Cosan, based in Brazil, is the largest grower and processor of sugarcane in the world and the largest sugar and ethanol producer in Brazil; it is also the world's largest exporter of ethanol for vehicle fuels. Rubens Ometto, Cosan's CEO, has staked out a leading position in the Brazilian ethanol and sugar industries by virtue of his efficiencies in agricultural production and in downstream logistics. He now needs to consider whether, and how aggressively, to expand abroad, either with production facilities or by exporting Brazilian output. He also needs to decide the appropriate vertical structure for the firm: whether he should be involved more extensively in agriculture, processing, distribution, or retail. The answers to these questions depend on his views of the future of the industry and on the governmental institutions that will affect the distribution of value along the value chain.

Keywords: Renewable Energy; Global Strategy; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Industry Structures; Business and Government Relations; Business Strategy; Vertical Integration; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Energy Industry; Brazil;


Reinhardt, Forest L., Noel Maurer, and Ricardo Reisen de Pinho. "Cosan: Thinking Outside the Barrel." Harvard Business School Case 710-017, October 2009. (Revised October 2010.)