Student Projects Spring 2010

Sustainability, as you will see, is a broad and multi-faceted issue.  This semester we will be working with a wide range of “clients” on projects that will support their efforts to move in a more sustainable direction. Each group was also required to create a promotional video along with their final report. Not all projects warranted this however, so some groups made videos on other subjects. A full list of this semester’s videos can be found here.

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Sustainable Advantage for America’s Dairyland: Opportunities and Challenges

Wisconsin holds a premier market spot in U.S. dairy markets ($26 billion impact), especially in specialty cheeses.   Wisconsin is the largest cheese producing state and produces 44 percent of all specialty cheese.  Over the past 10 years there has been a renaissance in artisan and specialty cheese.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would like a team to provide recommendations on whether the state should support an effort to develop a sustainable “mark” or “label” for the dairy industry.  What would be involved in credibly developing such a label and how much additional value would such a label generate for producers and retailers?  In developing your recommendations, please identify specific challenges, and how you would propose to address these challenges.

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I’m Organic (www.imorganic.com)

The mission of I’m Organic™ is to help individuals who care about the earth spread the organic message. I’m Organic offers organic apparel, tote bags and other items on its website, as well as through wholesale distribution in retail/online stores and promotional products for companies that want to promote their own brand in a sustainable way. In January 2009, a UW-Madison MBA student was tapped to run the company.
They are looking for a team to help with new product development.  Please provide recommendations specifically aimed at college-age individuals concerned about the environment. The project would include determining new product offerings, as well as suggesting ways to update the existing designs of products offered on the website. In addition, the team should recommend target retailers (such as the UW Bookstore) and ways to promote the new products.

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Springs Window Fashions

Springs is the largest provider of residential window coverings in this country.  Over the last few years, they have done a number of projects with my classes that have helped them think very systematically about greening their business.
Blinds and shades have energy saving benefits in both the summer (helps keep house cooler) and winter (helps keep house warmer).  They have test data that quantifies the value of each type of blind.  They also have other technical data relating to reduction in solar energy gain in the summer or loss of thermal energy in the winter.  How can these be translated into more consumer friendly, tangible terms and then related to something that is more common / known.  Blinds also block UV rays which damage furniture, flooring and furnishings – how can they come up with a way to quantify this and make it tangible?

 

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The Greening of “Willy” Street

The Marquette Neighborhood Association would like to present compelling recommendations to the Madison Streets Division (and possibly other city service departments) identifying options for ensuring the reconstruction of Williamson Street (a.k.a Willy St) is “green” or “sustainable”.
The Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) is one of Madison’s oldest; it was founded in 1968 to deal with threats to neighborhood schools, address traffic concerns, and oppose inappropriate development. Early MNA members built many of our important neighborhood institutions – the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, the Willy St. Co-op and Common Wealth Development. MNA’s community activism remains a strong unifying force.They are looking for a team to provide recommendations for how the reconstruction of Willy Street can be made more sustainable.  As part of those recommendations, please provide best practices from other cities that have used sustainable principles during street reconstruction and develop a prioritized list of what green features MNA could ask for.  In order to increase the likelihood that our recommendations are adopted by the Streets Division, please be prepared to talk about the economic costs (and any economic benefits you can identify), the social benefits, and the environmental benefits of your recommendations.  In other words, MNA will need to argue a business case for the recommendations, so you may need to use business principles like return on investment to make a compelling argument.

 

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Lands’ End

Lands’ End is a 46 year old global retailer based in Wisconsin, offering classically styled American sportswear, accessories and Home products for the entire family. They are committed to a superior level of service and connect with their customers through catalogs, on the Internet, through Sears retail stores and in their Inlet shops. Lands’ End employs more than 7000 people and we design, test, sell, source, service, pack, and ship over 45,000,000  units each year.  As a company with a history of innovation, they are strongly committed to minimizing their impact on the environment and they are beginning the journey towards sustainability via a focus on product, policies and actions.

 

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1) CO2 Footprint for Supply Chain of LE Product

Develop recommendations for how to calculate the carbon ‘footprint’ for several heritage Lands’ End products. Research current methods for calculating/estimating carbon equivalences of supply chain activities related to Lands’ End products. This should include product manufacture at representative Lands’ End vendor sites, logistical and traffic activities, warehousing and shipping activities.
– Should they share this information with their customers in the early part of the journey so they can make more informed purchasing decisions and position Lands End as a supporter of a sustainable business practices? Alternatively, is it too early to involve customers in the process?

 

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2) Alternative Energy Proposals: Solar Hot Water

Develop a recommendation on whether to install a significant solar hot water system to provide pool heating and domestic hot water for the Lands’ End Comer Center ( athletic center). As part of the recommendations, investigate and evaluate all sources of funding and rebates available to determine how to justify this project within the Sears Holding Company’s fiscal guidelines. Develop and present funding request within SHC format and guidelines.

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Use of Fabric Dies

A client would like to document the Environmental Impact of Fabric Dyes.  The client has taken steps to identify and quantify the environmental impact of their apparel manufacturing operations. However, the impact of the manufacturing, use, storage, and disposal of the dyes used are not well understood. Provide recommendations with respect to the toxicity and desirability of continuing to use the types and quantities of dyes currently used and their “lifecycle” impact on the environment. Suggest alternate dye technologies or process improvements that would reduce this impact.

 

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JenEhr Family Farm Accounting Project

The-Every CEO has a handful of key numbers they watch.  Indicator numbers that help quickly give a big picture view, with indications of coming trends.  What are those numbers for a small local organic farm?  How does a small organic farm even find those numbers?  And then how can those numbers be used in making more timely management decisions.

 

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Plan and Develop a 2010 Report to the Business Community on Sustainability Activities in WI

Last year, a group of students put together a business conference on sustainability that attracted over 300 people.  A team will develop a report on the status of business sustainability efforts in WI.  I am open to recommendations on what model to use for the report (perhaps other states, Sustainable Business Councils, or even other countries have done such a report), but one example that we can draw on is the 2009 Report To the Community from the New North.  Your task would be to work with Tom on the planning and development of the report.  You would need to either author the substantive sections, or find authors that would be included.  We have some survey data on sustainability efforts of large companies, but you may want to gather additional data from other companies.  You would find advertisers that would pay money to advertise, and the money would be used to offset the costs of printing the report (the report would also be made electronically on the WI Sustainable Business Council website, as well as the DNR’s website).  You would be responsible for both the substance and the production of the report.  Given how many companies are now producing sustainability reports, having this experience under your belt could be a great resume builder..

 

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Partnership for Sustainability

Partnerships for Sustainability (PFS) is a nonprofit organization designed to provide businesses of 250 employees or less in Southeastern Wisconsin with the tactics, training and tools to improve top-line revenue and bottom-line efficiencies through sustainable business practices.

 

Small businesses are increasingly feeling the demand from customers to provide green products and solutions. They are also being asked to show how they run a sustainable company. Walmart’s introduction of the Sustainability Index in July 2009 sent shock waves through supply chains as the largest retailer in the world demanded that all 70,000 of their vendors meet the requirements of the index. Small businesses, making up about 85% of the workforce, must be transparently committed to sustainability.
They would like a team of students to develop recommendations on what role social media can play in helping them do education and outreach to potential clients? They would also like specific recommendations on how small businesses can use social media to better demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.  What are the dangers? Proposed recommendations may be based on existing research and actual small-business cases.