Category winner: Everything Is Connected:
A New Era of Sustainability at Li & Fung

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This case won the Production and Operations Management category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2018.
The case

Who – the protagonists

William and Victor Fung, Li & Fung’s largest shareholders.


Li & Fung

Li & Fung is a global leader in consumer goods design, development, sourcing and distribution. The Hong-Kong based multinational manages the entire supply chain for retailers and brands around the world by working with a network of over 15,000 supplier companies.


Shocked by the fire at a garment factory and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, senior managers gathered at Li & Fung’s leadership course knowing better strategies needed to be in place to ensure sustainable supply chain management.

Li & Fung announced the creation of a new unit called Vendor Support Service (VSS). The VSS was created to provide key services to vendors to help them upgrade, so working conditions would improve and hopefully aforementioned disasters would be a thing of the past.


In the space of five months in 2012 and 2013 a fire broke out on the ground floor of the Tazreen Fashions factory, killing more than 1,150 people, and the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing over 1,100 people.


Both factories were located on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city.

Key quote

“The hard part is to make sustainability part of our DNA, to get 27,000 people to understand that this is now as fundamental to us as the fact that we source globally.” – Li & Fung Head of Learning and Development.

What next?

Sustainability required Li & Fung to accept responsibility for the entire lifecycle of the products it sourced. Whilst committed to the mammoth task of overhauling the world’s supply chain, Li & Fung needed to convince its 27,000 employees, customers and consumers that is was worthwhile.

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Everything Is Connected: A New Era of Sustainability at Li & Fung
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The authors
Hau Lee

Hau L Lee and Sheila Melvin

Hau on winning the award, the case and the rise of sustainability as a subject.

Honoured and humbled

Hau said: “I feel very honoured for winning this award again*. It serves as a motivation for me to continue to make an effort to produce good work. It is a great recognition, and I am humbled at the same time.”

Good connections

Hau continued: “I have become good friends with the former chairman of Li and Fung, Dr Victor Fung, as we were often speakers at major industry events together, and as a result got to know each other well.

“I have also done some executive education programmes for the senior executives of the company, so I also got to know them well. This all helped when writing the case. Since then, the company has asked me to be the chairman of the Fung Academy, which also helps to develop innovations in sustainability.”

Keeping on trend

Keeping on trend

He added: “I think the case is popular because it is about sustainability, which is an emerging topic in production and operations.

“It also shows how a global company manages sustainability, touching upon challenges and opportunities in many emerging economies. Global business plays a big part in business schools’ current curriculums, and so the case matches that interest.

“Finally, it shows the positive effects of managing sustainability well, which is a good lesson for business executives.”

Sustainability cases

“There are many innovations that companies have made to manage sustainability well, and so we will hopefully see more cases on them,” Hau commented. 

“In addition, there are interesting new successes on controlling sustainability that have come out of even developing economies, and cases reporting on them could greatly enrich our curriculum on global business.”

Taking China seriously

Taking China seriously

He concluded: “China is still evolving, and a lot of changes are taking place there.

“Moreover, the country is ready to be an innovator in business, as opposed to just a follower or copier of outside best practices. 

“So I don’t think that we have a problem of over-coverage on China in business cases. We have to recognise that China is like a sleeping giant who just woke up.”

*Hau won the Production and Operations Management category in 2012 with the case Developing a Supply Chain to Deliver WOW!

About the authors

Hau L Lee is the Thoma Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Sheila Melvin was a case writer at Stanford Graduate School of Business when the case was written.


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