Imagine working for Harvest Moon Inc., a family-owned corporation based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and manufacturer of granola and cereal bars. Schneider Lebensmittel Import-Export GmbH, located in Cologne, Germany, imports and distributes food products to specialty grocery stores in various European countries. Your team has been assigned the task to draft, negotiate and execute a contract between Harvest Moon and Schneider Lebensmittel.
While the situation is fictitious, the experience was real to the nine University of St. Thomas College of Business and 17 University of Applied Sciences – Fachhochschule Trier, Germany, business students who completed the first Business, Law and Ethics in the European Union study abroad course last June. The course was a cooperative teaching venture between the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC), the University of St. Thomas and the Fachhochschule Trier. The study was led by Dr. Douglas Jondle (CEBC), Professor Susan Marsnik (UST) and Dr. Michael Hakenberg (Fachhochschule Trier).
The challenges inherent with negotiating international business contracts set the stage for an interesting and realistic 12-day learning experience. The group traveled through Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, with visits to Cargill Cerestar BVBA and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). While visiting Cargill, the experts engaged the students on international business and legal issues, and discussed different positions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods.
At J&J, the subject focused on corporate social responsibility and the role the J&J credo plays in shaping strategic decisions. In addition, students visited and interacted with officials at the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice. The visit to the European Court of Justice included a private audience with a high court judge, The Honorable Dr. Peter Jann.
Students, divided into three negotiating teams from each school, attended lectures at the Fachhochschule Trier, participated in numerous cultural events, embraced language and cultural issues, and experienced intra- and inter-group dynamics. Being true to the mission of the University of St. Thomas College of Business, students learned firsthand the value of forming bonds of trust and respect that forge highly principled global business leaders and lasting friendships while meeting the challenges of negotiating a fair and equitable contract.