Europe Research Center

The Europe Research Center in Paris (ERC) opened in 2003, and plays an important role in helping HBS develop and strengthen relationships with European business and academic leaders. The ERC enables Harvard Business School faculty to study more effectively one of the world's most important economic regions during a time of significant transformation. To date the Europe Research Center has cooperated with over 125 HBS faculty members on more than 300 research and course development projects in 24 countries. Research topics range from the challenges of European economic and financial integration, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, international capital flows, investor relations, and consumer marketing to policy-making issues and the impact of new technologies on business.

Archives

Fritidsresor Under Pressure (A): The First 10 Hours

Margolis, Joshua, Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
May 2007

When a tsunami hit Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, the leadership team at a Swedish tour company must manage a devastating crisis affecting thousands of its customers and employees in Thailand. Documents the challenges the company faced in the first ten hours of the crisis. Amid the uncertainty of those first hours, the leadership team must make a range of decisions to orchestrate the company's response and manage the rest of its business. Describes the chaotic environment of a crisis, especially when the normal course of business is interrupted, and puts students in the shoes of a range of managers, each having to make decisions on his/her own, while coordinating with one another to enable the company to respond effectively.

Fritidsresor Under Pressure (B): The First Week

Margolis, Joshua, Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
May 2007

Supplements the (A) case.

Fritidsresor Under Pressure (C): After the Tsunami

Margolis, Joshua, Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
May 2007

Supplements the (A) case.

French Unemployment: The Crisis Continues

Alfaro, Laura, Patrick Vachey, and Vincent Dessain
May 2007

Supplements the (A) case.

Common Agricultural Policy and the Future of French Farming

Trumbull, Gunnar, Elena Corsi, and Vincent Dessain
March 2007

Presents the history and evolution of the EU Common Agricultural Policy, from early price supports to the 2003 decision to "decouple" payments to European farmers. Explores the logic behind agricultural supports, with a focus on the economic, political, and cultural context of French farming. Discusses efforts to reform the CAP in the context of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations against the backdrop of European enlargement.

Navigating Turbulent Waters: Glitnir Bank's Communication Challenge during a Macroeconomic Crisis

Kimbrough, Michael D., Gregory S. Miller, Vincent Dessain, and Ane Damgaard Jensen
March 2007

Glitnir Bank is an Icelandic company following an aggressive growth strategy that relies heavily on foreign debt. Access to such debt is suddenly curtailed when there is a downturn in market sentiment regarding the Icelandic economy as a whole. Students will reflect on the essential elements of a communications strategy, including the role of the media and analysts. Class discussion will focus on creating infrastructure that will increase the bank's ability to communicate effectively in an environment of macroeconomic uncertainty.

Vipp A/S

Austin, Robert D., and Daniela Beyersdorfer
February 2007

Rapidly growing Vipp sells highly differentiated (and expensive) "designer" versions of a product that most buyers think about in purely functional terms: Trash bins. Examines how the company successfully produces and positions a trash bin so that it is regarded as an "art object" (and which has been displayed as such as the Paris Louvre). Though it is a tangible product, a Vipp bin's price cannot be even remotely justified by its functional features; customers, rather, pay dearly for the intangible aspects of the product, which the firm works very hard to keep integrated with the physical product. Deals with a range of issues confronting creative economy companies, such as how to produce products with very important intangible components, how to assure and manage the design integrity of a family of products, how far to extend a brand, how to manage creative employees, and where to source creative work.

Marketing Chateau Margaux

Deighton, John A., Vincent Dessain, Leyland Pitt, Daniela Beyersdorfer, and Anders Sjoman
December 2006

Chateau Margaux, luxury brand or connoisseur brand? Although France is awash with unsold wine, demand has never been stronger for the very finest Bordeaux. How should Margaux sustain and grow its business? The Chateau management team is wondering if it can take more control of distribution instead of leaving it to the Bordeaux wine merchants. Also, can the Chateau build marketing and sales capabilities on its own? Who is the target market, wine connoisseurs or the newly rich? Corinne Mentzelopoulous, who took over the estate from her father in 1980, wonders whether a new lower-priced wine should be added to the portfolio.

Bang & Olufsen: Design Driven Innovation

Austin, Robert D., and Daniela Beyersdorfer
October 2006

A successful company, recognized worldwide for exquisite design of consumer electronics products, strives to better integrate software design into its traditional physical product design processes to meet the demands of a post-iPod world. Details the Bang & Olufsen "design driven innovation" process, that works very differently than many companies' product development processes, but allows this company to produce very high profit margin products that retain their margins for a very long time in an industry in which products come and go very quickly. The case helps students understand processes and practices that support the creation of highly differentiated products. It also deals with issues of change in an already successful context, and of managing highly creative staff who are vital to a company's business model.

IR at BP: Investor Relations and Information Reconnaissance

Miller, Gregory S., Daniela Beyersdorfer, and Anders Sjoman
October 2006

BP's IR director has begun a program to use information regarding external views of BP and the industry as part of the firm's planning and operational activities. This information is generated as a portion of their award winning investor relations program, and had previously been used only to enhance communications. Allows a discussion of the relative merit of more formally including this information in BP's planning and operations. Also provides "best practices" insights into IR.

IKEA's Global Sourcing Challenge: Indian Rugs and Child Labor (A)

Bartlett, Christopher A., Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
September 2006

Traces the history of IKEA's response to a TV report that its Indian carpet suppliers were using child labor. Describes IKEA's growth, including the importance of a sourcing strategy based on its close relationships with suppliers in developing countries. Details the development of IKEA's strong culture and values that include a commitment "to create a better everyday life for many people." Describes how, in response to regulatory and public pressure, IKEA developed a set of environmental policies that grew to encompass a relationship with Greenpeace and WWF on forest management and conservation. Then, in 1994, Marianne Barner, a newly appointed IKEA product manager, is surprised by a Swedish television documentary on the use of child labor by Indian carpet suppliers, including some that supply IKEA's rugs. She immediately implements a strict policy that provides for contract cancellation if any IKEA supplier uses child labor. Then Barner is confronted by a German TV producer who advises her that he is about to broadcast an investigative program documenting the use of child labor in one of the company's major suppliers. How should she react to the crisis? How should the company deal with the ongoing issue of child labor in the supply chain?

RFID at the METRO Group

Ton, Zeynep, Vincent Dessain, and Monika Stachowiak-Joulain
June 2006

Introduces radio frequency identification (RFID) as the next generation of automatic identification technologies that is expected to improve the performance of retail supply chains through reduced shrink, increased product availability, and improved labor productivity. Showcases the implementation of the technology by the METRO Group, the world's third-largest retailer. Places students in the position of Dr. Gerd Wolfram, managing director of METRO's internal IT service group, and Zygmunt Mierdorf, the company's chief information officer, who, in mid-2005, evaluate the results of the RFID rollout and decide on the next stage in the implementation.

Blogs at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (A)

McAfee, Andrew P. and Anders Sjoman
June 2006

In May 2005, JP Rangaswami, the chief information officer at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW), wonders how to extend the bank's use of blogs. Corporations are now increasingly using these tools to diffuse news, opinions, and knowledge and improve collaboration. At DrKW, there are already over 300 internal blogs and Rangaswami now wants to encourage their internal spread. He has to make a compelling case for using blogs as well as make them easy to use. In addition, Rangaswami wants the bank to allow external blogs that others can view on the Internet. However, given the strict disclosure regulations that govern the bank's operations, Rangaswami wonders whether there are any safeguards that would help convince the bank's executive staff to allow external blogs.

Deutsche Borse and the European Markets

Crane, Dwight B., and Monika Stachowiak-Joulain
May 2006

Introduces radio frequency identification (RFID) as the next generation of automatic identification technologies that is expected to improve the performance of retail supply chains through reduced shrink, increased product availability, and improved labor productivity. Showcases the implementation of the technology by the METRO Group, the world's third-largest retailer. Places students in the position of Dr. Gerd Wolfram, managing director of METRO's internal IT service group, and Zygmunt Mierdorf, the company's chief information officer, who, in mid-2005, evaluate the results of the RFID rollout and decide on the next stage in the implementation.

Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer

Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, Vincent Dessain, Daniela Beyersdorfer, and Anders Sjoman

April 2006

The Dutch "Verenigde Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer Cooperative" (VBA) was on of the world's largest flower exchanges. Around 6,300 flower growers, one half of them located in the Netherlands, used the auction to sell cut flowers and plants to more than 1,000 wholesalers. In 2004, the value of the flowers and plants traded at Aalsmeer exceeded 1.6 billion euros, representing 36% of the world's trade in cut flowers. Every morning, VBA held 55,000 Dutch auctions to match buyers and suppliers. While formidable in size, VBA management worried about the future of the exchange because direct sales between growers and buyers had started to bypass the auction. Kenyan growers, for instance, often shipped roses directly to wholesalers. VBA's management considered a number of strategic initiatives and tactical moves in response to the growth in direct sales. Should the exchange allow non-Dutch growers to become members? Would it make sense to have the wholesalers bear a larger fraction of the trading cost? Philip Smits, CEO of VBA, knew that expanding VBA membership and adjusting trading commissions were guaranteed to be hotly contested topics at the upcoming general meeting.

Fraikin SA

Kester, W. Carl, Vincent Dessain, and Monika Stachowiak-Joulain
April 2006

Provides an example of a so-called "whole business" securitization. In early 2004, Fraikin, France's leading industrial vehicle rental company, compares several alternatives for refinancing a large bridge loan within a year. Presents three primary options: a classic leveraged buyout, an asset-backed loan, and a loan based on securitizing Fraikin's truck rental contracts. Asks students to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option, particularly the securitization. Elicits discussion about why securitization appears to be the least cost financing alternative and whether it is worth the high transaction costs involved.

Wikis at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein: (A)

Anders Sjoman, McAfee, Andrew
March 2006

In October 2005, Myrto Lazopoulou, head of user centered design at the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW), contemplates how to spread the usage of wikis inside the company. As a "social software" like chats and blogs (both already in use at DrKW), wikis facilitate collaboration. At its barest, a wiki is a Web site that anybody visiting could edit without having to know HTML or Web-authoring tools. The IT department at DrKW had decided to experiment with the technology in late 2004, and now, soon a year later, it had to decide whether and how to roll out the tool for widespread use at the investment bank. Is DrKW ready for such technology?

Migros

Reinhardt, Forest L., Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
March 2006

In October 2005, Urs Riedener, head of marketing at Swiss retailer Migros, is contemplating the company's competitive position. Primarily a retailer for foods and near-foods products, the cooperative Migros, with close to 600 retail outlets in Switzerland (but only four outside its domestic market), is facing stiffer competition, both from existing competitors (such as Coop) and new arrivals (such as hard discounters Lidi and Aldi). Riedener and Migros management have so far always had faith in Migros' position in the marketplace, built around its governance structure (the customers were also the owners, creating a close link between the retailer and the market) and its emphasis on never selling harmful products. Socially, ecologically, and ethically produced products were key aspects of Migros' product offering. Riedener knows that Migros benefited from a unique position--and he wants to make sure that Migros defends it from both new and old competitors.

Investor Relations at TOTAL

Miller, Gregory S., Vincent Dessain, and Anders Sjoman
January 2006

Examines investor relations and financial communications in a large company with a diverse group of financial stakeholders. Total is an "energy major" based in Paris, France. The importance of its product and its impact on economies and environments combine with the size of the company to make Total highly visible to investors, governments, environmental groups, and other shareholders. The highly technical nature of Total's many internal activities and the breadth of its complex operations further impacts communication efforts. In addition, as a Continental European firm (in particular, French), Total has strong societal expectations regarding its interactions with employees/citizens vs. shareholders. Examines how Total creates a consistent and clear financial communication that provides information to these diverse stakeholder bases and their different desires for the company. Also asks students to consider how this communication strategy will need adjustment due to a period of high oil prices and a resulting windfall profit during 2005.