Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Is Sustainable Lumber a Myth? the Case of Latvian Timber Industry

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Is Sustainable Lumber a Myth? the Case of Latvian Timber Industry

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter for this case involves strategic management, sustainability, international law, and business ethics. Firm positioning as an environmental leader represents a growing strategic trend. Incorporating sustainable business policies is a practice that many stakeholders are demanding. With these concepts in mind, this case is most appropriate for discussion and analysis in undergraduate management, business law, or ethics courses where the topics of leadership, management, ethics, and sustainability are covered. This case is also appropriate for discussion in any courses where the instructor is ready to discuss ethics in international business and society. This case is designed to be taught in approximately one or two class sessions.


This case describes the hypothetical management decisions Matt Lelander, a fictional marketing and purchasing manager of a British home improvement store, must make. The principle dilemma revolves around the choice of whether to continue purchasing lumber from the Latvian state owned lumber company. It has come to the attention of the purchasing manager, Matt Lelander that the rate of consumption of Latvian forests appears to be unsustainable. However, Matt realizes that the Latvian state lumber company is certified as a sustainable provider of lumber by the internationally recognized Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Mr. Lelander is acutely aware that his customers value purchasing lumber from sustainably harvested sources and that they rely on FSC certification when making their purchases. Further, Mr Lelander is presented some legally challenging issues with regards to contract performance and bribery. The case provides detailed background information on the Latvian state owned lumber company, FSC, the current situation of Latvian forests, applicable laws, ethical frameworks, and competitive market considerations. At the end of the narrative the reader is asked to formulate ethically and strategically sound recommendations.


The case provides detailed background information on Latvia, the Forrest Stewardship Council (FSC) and an ethical discussion revolving around corporate social responsibility. Students are asked to formulate ethically, strategically, and legally sound decisions for the purchasing and marketing manager. Some external research will be required by the students to fully and completely answer the proposed questions and to finish the required report.


This case has several learning objectives:

1. Identify and evaluate any potential ethical or legal lapses in Mr. Lelander's decisions.

2. Explore the various potential responses available for a manager presented with these allegations.

3. Contemplate what provisions an organizational code of conduct and corporate governance plan should contain for this organization.

4. Discuss what procedures and policies an organization could or should implement to avoid these types of issues.

5. To lay a foundation for ethics discussions by introducing ethical theories and their applications.

6. To develop an appreciation for the complexity of ethical decision making through identification of affected stakeholder and examination of those perspectives.

7. To gain an enhanced understanding of the process of making and enforcing policies in business.

8. To practice strategic management and marketing decision making.


The overall discussion of this exercise usually takes about two or two class periods in a class of 35-40 students. This discussion can be structured in three parts; brainstorming and listing all the ethical and legal issues, narrowing the list, and constructing a feasible proposal to all questions which should be presented in front of the class.

An alternative approach is to discuss and narrow all the potential legal and ethical issues and then assign the students (as groups or individuals) the task of preparing and turning in a well written report (usually by the next class period), just as our fictional Mr. …

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