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MIT Team Wins 2020 Patagonia Case Competition

A team of graduate students from across MIT, including MIT Supply Chain Management master’s program alum Elizabeth Raman Grubbs, was awarded first place in the 2020 Patagonia Case Competition in June.

The annual competition, hosted by outdoor clothing company Patagonia in partnership with the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas School of Business, invites graduate students from around the world to envision innovative solutions to problems of waste in the apparel industry.

Winning Team “Na(No Waste) Puff” included Raman Grubbs (SCM ’20); Sloan MBA students Della Bradt, Kelsey LaFreniere, and Trevor Thompson; and PhD candidates Giulia Agostinelli and Andrew Lew. Team lead Bradt (MBA ’20) notes that the competition was “an amazing way to connect with students across the Institute that I might not have otherwise met during my time at MIT. The diversity of academic backgrounds and perspectives was a huge asset and led us to develop a creative and implementable solution to a complex, industry-wide issue.”

Responding to the 2020 case prompt, “Waste Not, Want Not: Eliminating Patagonia’s Pre and Post-Consumer Textile Waste,” six finalist teams presented their solutions virtually on June 29, 2020. Winners were announced July 10. The 1st-place winning team was awarded $15,000 and an opportunity to collaborate with Patagonia on a plan for implementing their winning solution. 

While final presentations in prior years have been pitched live in California to members of Patagonia’s corporate strategy leadership team, this year’s finalists were able to present their solutions to a worldwide audience of Patagonia staff and invited guests. The move to a virtual event was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Raman Grubbs sees it in net positive terms. “Having the entire organization’s input was a benefit of having the virtual presentations. We even received some questions from different teams, asking for additional detail, after presenting,” she said.

In all, over 130 teams submitted applications, including three teams from MIT. Presidio Graduate School and Duke University teams were awarded 2nd and 3rd place respectively, with teams from Yale, NYU, and Esade Business School in Barcelona rounding out the list of 2020 finalists. This was the competition’s fifth year, and the second consecutive year in which an MIT team has won the top prize.

MIT's Team Na(No Waste) Puff took 1st place in the 2020 Patagonia Case Competition. Team members pictured left to right: Giulia Agostinelli, Elizabeth Raman Grubbs, Della Bradt, Kelsey LaFreniere, Andrew Lew, Trevor Thompson.