Ten Thousand Villages in Crisis: Can the Fair Trade Pioneer Survive and Flourish in an Economic Downturn?

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CASE STUDY. This case examines major challenges faced by Ten Thousand Villages Canada in 2013, in the aftermath of the 2007–08 global financial crisis.

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Ten Thousand Villages in Crisis: Can the Fair Trade Pioneer Survive and Flourish in an Economic Downturn?: Abstract

This case examines major challenges faced by Ten Thousand Villages Canada in 2013, in the aftermath of the 2007–08 global financial crisis. Ten Thousand Villages is one of the oldest fair trade organizations in North America, its history stretching back to the sale of crafts from overseas in 1946. The case narrative begins with an overview of Ten Thousand Villages (history, producer partnerships, Canadian operations), then introduces the financial challenges facing the organization in 2013. Told from the perspective of a senior manager who must develop a plan to save the organization from impending bankruptcy by reaching the break-even point within twelve months, the case lends itself to a discussion of how the company can be saved and whether the steps taken by Ten Thousand Villages (as explained in the teaching notes) will ensure its survival. By studying this case, students are expected to gain an in-depth understanding of the real-life challenges faced by social enterprises seeking to balance the pursuit of their social missions with long-term financial sustainability.

Teaching objectives

  • Better understand the challenges facing social enterprises struggling to achieve financial sustainability while pursuing their social mission
  • Develop decision-making criteria for improving the financial situation of the organization, keeping its social mission in mind
  • Identify options available to the organization: analyze the impact of each option on the organization and its stakeholders (e.g., employees, volunteers, suppliers)
  • Evaluate the impact of a real-life decision of a social enterprise on its social mission and financial sustainability

Main themes covered

  • Social entrepreneurship

Concepts and theories related to the case

  • Theories of social entrepreneurship
  • Fair trade
  • Stakeholder management

Additional information

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Please contact HEC Montréal Case Centre.

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