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NatureWorks LLC: Green Chemistry's Contribution to Biotechnology, Innovation, Commercialization, and Strategic Positioning

Company name
NatureWorks LLC, Cargill Inc. 

Author(s) 
Andrea Larson, Alia Anderson, Karen O'Brien

Source 
Darden School of Business 

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NatureWorks LLC: Green Chemistry's Contribution to Biotechnology, Innovation, Commercialization, and Strategic Positioning

Year published 
2007

Last year covered in case 
2006

Abstract

In 2002, NatureWorks LLC, a small subsidiary of U.S. agricultural giant Cargill Inc., was recognized for its development of the first synthetic polymer class to be produced from renewable resources, specifically from corn grown in the American midwest. The product held the potential to substitute a renewable feedstock for petroleum-based polymers. With this enormous vote of confidence, the company was poised to move forward from a niche market in which it was selling tens of thousands of tons polylactic acid to a mainstream one with possibly hundreds of thousands of tons in sales. But how could it position itself to do so profitably?

Teaching note

  • N/A

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

    Other Readings

    • NatureWorks LLC   pre-reading for case 
      Chris Laszlo, Meredith Myers, Institute for Sustainable Value in Business at the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, 2005. 

      Based in Minnesota with manufacturing facilities in Blair, Nebraska, NatureWorks LLC is a stand-alone company wholly owned by Cargill. NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer commercially available greenhouse-gas neutral polymers derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources with cost and performance that compete with petroleum-based packaging materials and fibers.

    Audio/Visual Material

    Discussion Questions

    • N/A 

        Green Chemistry Principle

        • Principle 6 Design for Energy Efficiency
        • Principle 7 Use of Renewable Feedstocks 
        • Principle 10 Design for Degradation

        Industry
        Textiles and Fibres
        Plastics

        Teaching Topic
        Business government relations
        Environmental issues
        Innovation
        Corporate Citizenship
        Social Marketing
        Sustainability

        Management Discipline
        Business, government and society
        Strategy
        Operations
        Technology

        Business Logic
        Product differentiation
        Reduced cost

        Environmental Issue
        GMOs
        Toxicity
        Food vs. Fuel debate
        Recycling

        Region
        North America

        Self Identified as Green Chemistry?
        Yes

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