Fifth Annual Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition

Case Competition 2018

Smeal College of Business in partnership with PepsiCo, IBM, Verizon, CNote and Opportunity Finance Network is pleased to announce the Fifth MBA Sustainability Case Competition for Fall 2018.  The competition will consist of two rounds.  The preliminary round will consist of electronic submissions of a case analyses.  A panel of reviewers will select five semi-finalist teams who will be invited to Penn State to present their cases for first ($10,000), second ($5,000) and third place ($2,500) prizes on November 29 through November 30th.  (See a complete set of rules, processes and dates below.)

Logo for Cnote

The case this year—focused on Cnote, the new award-winning impact savings platform —invites students to explore the quickly growing impact investing and social finance space through the experience of one of its exciting new entrants. Cnote, founded in 2015 by two female entrepreneurs with deep backgrounds in finance, is an award-winning savings platform providing sound returns while investing in female and minority small business owners across America. Within the larger impact investing space, Cnote has chosen to focus on non-stock financial vehicles with strong returns and social impact.  CNote positions itself as an alternative to your traditional savings account.

 Cnote partners with Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs), federally-certified community-based lenders with decades of successful experience empowering economically distressed communities. Cnote already manages over $14 million in savings with a goal of $1 billion. There is a lot of evidence that Millennials want to use their money to support socially responsible brands, companies and to exercise their values when managing their money.  With strong, community-based partners, a technology-enabled platform, and a willing market, Cnote has a bright future. But they face real challenges.  Despite a general interest, few in the market understand impact investing and convenience tends to trump higher ideals.  How will they overcome these challenges and succeed in providing a new impact investing vehicle?

The Rules 


  • Open to teams from any AACSB or EQUIS accredited MBA program in the U.S. and Canada.  (If other accreditation, please contact our office through Kathleen Rickley at
  • A maximum of two teams per MBA program. If more than two teams register, we will go by time stamped submission of payment.
  • Teams may consist of four or five members.
  • All team members must be currently enrolled graduate level students. We encourage involvement of graduate level students from other non-business disciplines as appropriate to the case.
  • At least three members on each team must be an MBA student.
  • No substitutions of players are allowed after the registration deadline.
  • Registration will begin on Thursday, August 16, 2018 and ends on Friday, September 14, 2018 by 4:00 p.m. EST. 


  • There is a $150 USD registration fee per team. Registration is NOT complete until we receive full payment.
  • Payment is not required at time of registration but will be due prior to Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. EST.

The Process

Round One

  • The case will be available to registered MBA teams that are paid in full on Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
  • No substitution of players are allowed after registration.
  • The preliminary round will consist of electronic submissions of case analyses by Wednesday, October 3, 2018 by noon, 12:00 EST.
  • A panel of reviewers will select five teams to be finalists. The finalists will be  announce no later than on Friday, November 2, 2018. 

Submission Criteria 

Submit no later than Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 12:00 non EST as a PDF file and should include:

  1.  Cover Sheet
    1. The ONLY page that includes identifying information of team members and school names.
  2.  One-page Executive Summary
    1. Margins (L, R, T, B) may be 1/2" to 1"
    2. Font must be Times New Roman, 11 point
    3. Single-spaced
  3.  PowerPoint Title Slide
  4. Maximum 10 PowerPoint Slides
    1. Maximum 10 PowerPoint slides
    2. "Slide notes" (Annotation on the slides) are not considered part of the submission.
    3. All slides contents must fit within the "presentation mode."
    4. Having additional slides that cite your work is not necessary.

Round Two

  • Teams will travel to University Park, PA for the final round held on Thursday, November 29, 2018 - Friday, November 30, 2018.  Smeal College will cover expenses for lodging meals while finalists are on campus.  Finalists will be responsible for their own travel expenses.
  • Finalists may use any audio-visual medium (including but not limited to PowerPoint slides) to supplement their oral presentation.
  • Teams will make their presentations to a panel of judges.
  • Teams will compete for first ($10,000), second ($5,000) and third place ($2,500) prizes.

At-A-Glance Dates 

Updated October 2017

Event Day of Week Date Time EST
Registration Begins Thursday August 16, 2018 8:00 a.m. EST
Registration Ends Friday September 14, 2018 4:00 p.m. EST
Fee Due - prior to: Tuesday September 18, 2018 5:00 p.m. EST
Case will be available Wednesday September 19, 2018 Noon, 12:00 p.m. EST
Round 1 - Submission of Case Wednesday October 3, 2018 Noon, 12:00 p.m. EST
Finalists Announced Friday November 2, 2018 Noon, 12:00 p.m. EST

Opening Dinner --

University Park, PA

Thursday November 29, 2018 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Round 2 - Breakfast & Opening

Live Presentations

Awards & Dinner Banquet

Friday November 30, 2018

7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

For further information email: Kathleen Rickley at