Student Projects Fall 2016

The students in the class People, Environment, and Sustainability Fall 2016 were paired with businesses or organizations to work projects concerning sustainability. The students were asked at the end of the semester to submit their recommendations on how their clients should move forward sustainably with their projects. Below is a brief description of each project, and the students’ final recommendation reports can be viewed by clicking the title of the projects.

Nature’s Way

In 1968, Tom Murdock, the eventual founder of Nature’s Way®, searched for a way to improve his wife’s health. After relying on conventional options without success, Tom took a leap of faith in traditional Native American knowledge of the healing power of plants growing near their Arizona home. As a result, his wife’s health improved and she lived another 25 years. Now 40 years later, Nature’s Way is the preeminent brand of quality dietary supplements. Their main manufacturing facility in Green Bay, WI uses high quality, globally sourced ingredients to manufacture tablets, capsules, powders, liquid syrups, and coconut oil.

They identified working with their Supply Chain as a key area in their Sustainability Program that needed improvement. In this project students will help to define Supply Chain requirements and best practices in various local, national, and global sustainability programs, such as Green Masters and B Corporations. For the project to be successful, students will suggest specific initiatives and metrics relevant to their industry and company.

Cool Choices: New Features for Cool Choices’ Connected Community

Cool Choices was created to inspire individuals, communities, and small businesses to adopt sustainable practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Cool Choices relies on best practices from a variety of social sciences and uses games to bring about behavior change.

Cool Choices is piloting a social network for people who have participated in their programs, called Connected.  On Connected, past participants in the Cool Choices game (approximately 5000 now) can share what they are doing to be sustainable, get advice from others, etc. Their aim is to build a community of the people who have committed to making sustainable choices in their lives. In this project students will use Connected—creating content, interacting with other participants—and then recommend a set of features Cool Choices could implement to make the platform more engaging and effective.  In addition, they believe companies offering products that are branded as sustainable or green would benefit from access to the Connected community. They are interested in a strategy (or strategies) they can use to engage brands in Connected.  Students will develop an outreach and marketing strategy to brands that are or should be interested in this community.

StemHero/Transwestern: Water Rating Program

A Milwaukee based technology startup aims to break into the water consumption analytics market. Their bet: existing tools are too clunky, too expensive, and provide more data than what building managers need to: benchmark their usage, spot waste, and gage the results of efficiency programs. What strategy should the startup take to distinguish itself in an already crowded market of utility consumption apps, including Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager? As part of their consulting research, students will have access to real survey responses from building managers who took part in a recently completed national pilot. Students will have access to leaders in the startup (MeterHero) and the partnering commercial real estate firm (Transwestern). Students’ recommendations will shape if and how the app launches into the market this spring.

Wisconsin Microfinance Events

Wisconsin Microfinance is a nonprofit organization that funds microfinance loans in Haiti and the Philippines. WI Microfinance was developed to provide long term support to communities devastated by natural disasters.  They opened in Haiti after the major earthquake in 2010, and in the Philippines after the earthquake and typhoon in 2014. WI Microfinance raises money in the US that fund loans in the two countries.  Even though their work is limited to two countries, there is so much more they could do.

Last spring, they hosted dinner gala events in both Madison and Milwaukee.  They had 60+ people pay $100/plate for a wonderful night of food and presentations.  They will repeat these events again in April of 2017.  Students on this project will do a thorough research project on other local, regional, statewide and national non-profits, and identify various fundraising strategies and fundraising events that they host.  They’ll then present recommendations on fundraising strategies and events that WI Microfinance could hold and do the early stage development work on holding such an event.

Outpost Natural Foods

Outpost Natural Foods is a consumer-owned retail cooperative that exists so that owners have a healthy, diverse and sustainable community. Serving metro Milwaukee since 1970, today they have over 20,000 active owners, four store locations, two market cafes and a wholesale division. At Outpost they believe in the Triple Bottom Line and doing our part to maintain a healthy environment for the future. Outpost monitors and tracks their sustain­ability initiatives, measures our carbon footprint, set goals for the future and strives for continuous improvement. You can find their annual sustainability report here.

Outpost would like to design an effective awareness campaign around our sustainability & community programs. The goal of this project is to highlight areas of success at Outpost and engage stakeholders in the conversation. Deliverables will include a communication plan and timeline that includes social media engagement.

Trout Springs Winery

Trout Springs Winery was founded in 1995. There were only 16 wineries in the state in 1995; now there are over 130. According to their President, they have been an industry leader in innovative and sustainable techniques. They now want to expand their ideas and practices to other wineries and vineyards in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

They have been discussing with other wineries and vineyards a way to standardize sustainability practices in their industry.  One option would be to create a workbook to document Best Management Practices and sustainable techniques in the vineyard and in the winery.

This guide would be a continuum for vineyards and wineries to look at to compare what their sustainability score is and how to improve, as time and resources permit. Students will start with researching other comparable projects both in the US and internationally, do research on the Green Masters Program and comparable programs, and develop the first version of a workbook with real parameters achievable through specific techniques.

Oshkosh Corporation

Oshkosh Corporation is a manufacturer of vehicles and equipment that move people at work safely, efficiently and sustainably. They are known for producing fire trucks and airport rescue vehicles; concrete mixers and garbage trucks; aerial lifts and platforms; and light, medium and heavy military vehicles. The Defense segment of Oshkosh Corporation is primarily located in Oshkosh, where we have several large manufacturing buildings.

For this project a student team will examine leading sustainability programs at companies, preferably global manufacturing companies, who have successful sustainability programs, to benchmark how they involve and engage their workforce. What are their communications like? What kind of boots on the ground do they have? What are their incentives like? How do they link sustainability objectives with business objectives? How do they manage activities abroad, providing both a level of standardization while allowing enough freedom to allow for cultural differences? How do they share best practices? We’d then like them to look at what we are doing and make suggestions as to how we could improve what we are doing to engage, empower, and involve our workforce to improve our current Sustainability program. The final product would be a report on the engagement activities of the leaders in this space, along with suggestions as to which best practices they believe would be appropriate for Oshkosh and how Oshkosh could go about adopting these practices.

Pierce Manufacturing

Pierce is the leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus. Products include custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks and homeland security apparatus. In addition, Pierce designs its own foam systems and was the first company to introduce frontal airbags and the Side Roll Protection system to fire apparatus.

As a company that makes and distributes fire trucks, you can imagine that water is a great resource to their company. They have several areas in our operations where we use quite a bit of water. For this project, students will explore fresh new ideas on the water sustainability front and how Pierce can make sure they are responsible water stewards.

Plan and Coordinate the Ninth Annual Sustainable Business Council Conference 

For the last eight years, a team of students create a conference that over 300 people attended.  The students are responsible for inviting top speakers, organizing the conference, and marketing the conference to business people from around the state.  The team should also expect to be “on stage” at the conference, introducing sessions.  Their task would be to work with Tom on the planning and coordination of the conference.  The Conference has established an identity as the leading (and largest) conference bringing businesses together to learn about sustainability.  The conference will be held December 8th in Onalaska (just outside LaCrosse).