Student Projects Fall 2006


Aveda is a leading plant-based, skin care and beauty company. They also are a leading company in the corporate social responsibility area. They are interested in benchmarking their efforts against other leading CSR companies. This project will involve researching who are other leading CSR companies – including small businesses, medium sized businesses and large businesses. In order to answer this, you will need to develop criteria for what makes a leading CSR company. Once criteria are defined, how are other companies assessing themselves against these criteria? What kind of metrics are used to measure their performance on corporate social responsibility? What metrics should Aveda use? Once the metrics are defined, how should Aveda determine their progress against these metrics?

Good for Business

Good for Business is a consulting company that is dedicated to helping clients capture and communicate their cause (the reason why they are in business). They are branching out into a new area where they are identifying key social issues and trying to identify corporate leaders that are associating themselves, or who could be associating themselves, with these issues. The goal is to identify the right businesses (finding businesses with a cause that would resonate with a particular issue), and enlist their help to create communication messages that would bring about change.

One new area of focus for them revolves around who is involved in influencing our government. Included within this focus is voter apathy (i.e. regular citizens seem less inclined to influence our government), campaign finance reform, the role of the private sector in influencing and shaping governmental policy and related ethical issues. They are looking for a team of students to identify businesses that would welcome the opportunity to work in this area and enlist their help in identifying the messages that would be used to bring about change. It may be that the team would provide recommendations on what criteria should be used to identify companies aligned with this concern, and then use those criteria to identify the key companies that could be targeted. It might be that the team would find other ways to make progress on identifying good candidate businesses and perhaps suggesting the beginnings of the messages that could be used.


Envest is a non-profit organization that provides capital to microfinance institutions in developing countries that lend money to the poor who have no access to credit from traditional financial institutions. Envest will lend money in a manner that will lead the world toward an “ecoeconomy” as described by Lester Brown in “Plan B 2.0.” Operations will begin in Nicaragua due to the strong microfinance sector there and the CEO’s familiarity with the country. Envest will buy loans from microfinance institutions in Nicaragua in a similar manner that Fannie Mae buys home mortgages from banks in the US. Envest will bundle the loans and sell them to institutional investors in the US. The goal is to create a secondary market for microfinance loans, which could significantly increase the amount of capital available to the microfinance sector.

1. Develop Guidelines for Purchase of Portfolio

Envest requests the assistance of a group of students to develop a set of guidelines to determine what kind of loans should be bought. The group will evaluate the use of the loans provided by microfinance institutions to determine whether such loans will lead toward an ecoeconomy. The deliverable is a set of guidelines that describe which sectors Envest should support, and which sectors it should not support. For example, Envest would certainly buy a loan made to a woman who makes school uniforms to buy solar panels to provide electricity for her sewing machines, and Envest will certainly not buy loans made to a cattle rancher to clear more pasture. This project will evaluate the entire range of loans made by a microfinance institution to determine what Envest should support to promote environmentally sustainable poverty alleviation.

The primary qualifications for members of this team are good analytical abilities and passion for making the world more sustainable. Ability to read and write Spanish is a plus, but it is by no means obligatory.

2. Evaluate the feasibility and legality of securitizing microfinance loans

Envest requests the assistance of a group of students to evaluate the feasibility and legality of securitizing microloans in Nicaragua. This will involve determining what the legal requirements are to buy, bundle and sell microloans from Nicaragua. It will also involve researching the process of structuring a bundle of loans that will be sold to institutional investors. The deliverable will be a road map for Envest that will explain what we need to do to securitize loans from Nicaragua.

This project would be ideal for students interested in finance. Interested students should be able to read and understand a balance sheet and an income statement. Passion for alleviating poverty and making the world more sustainable are a must.

WI Partners for SustainAbility Wisconsin

WiscPSA provides education and resources to help strengthen and “green” local economies, encourage local self reliance and social equity, and improve the quality of life in our communities and the earth as a whole. Currently our two major programs are the Buy Local Initiative featuring Dane County ( as the pilot program, and the statewide Greener Business Network ( The GBN is a unique statewide green business information clearinghouse which profiles and promotes Wisconsin businesses and organizations whose practices and purchasing choices provide real environmental benefits. The GBN encourages consumers, businesses and organizations to make purchasing choices among the green businesses in their local area to the greatest extent possible.

Project Idea:

A current challenge is tracking consumer behavior trends that are local and sustainable. Tracking green/ethical expenditures would illuminate opportunities to further promote sustainable consumption and production of green products and services. We would like to work with a set of recommendations on how we might go about creating a Wisconsin trends report and to approach this in such a way that it could serve as a national template. A special focus would be on partner organizations that are either currently collecting relevant bits of information around the state or that could be persuaded to take on a piece of the data gathering. WiscPSA would compile an annual report with the various pieces of data which have been collaboratively produced. Initial categories to consider may include: Food (organic, free range eggs), Green Homes (energy efficient appliances, green mortgages), Travel and Transport (public transit, ecotourism), Personal (clothing, cosmetics), and Finances (socially responsible investing, local banking).

This idea is inspired by a report titled, “The Ethical Consumerism Report 2005” published by The Cooperative Bank:

MOCO Market (Willy Street)

MoCo Market’s slogan is “Modern Convenience, Community, Connection.” The market location is 804 Williamson Street right between the proposed Central Park, Wil-mar Neighborhood and Downtown. Besides the community being important to us and our customers, the environment and the workplace also mean a great deal. Two potential projects exist:

I. Waste and Recycling Project – We want to reduce waste generated by the MoCo community (both employees and customers). Please make recommendations on various approaches that could be used. If possible, for each of the ideas, I would like the following recommendations and analysis:

* Two vendor sources – design must coincide with the MoCo design style of modern minimalism

* Marketing Promotion – logo embossing, discounting, loyalty programs, etc.

* Cost Analysis – product cost, suggested retail price, savings vs. disposable products

A. Tupperware for buffet eating

B. Grocery Bags

C. Drink Cups

D. Coffee Mugs

E. Beer Cases – the market will have an option to mix & match cases of beer. Would like re-use the heavy duty “Point Beer” cases.

* Recycling – recommendations for receptacles in the market that make it both easy for customers to recycle and for the employees to dispose of the recycling.

II. Alternative Commuting – MoCo Market’s target customers are dwellers, bikers and walkers. Dwellers are those who live or work in the downtown Madison area and can easily walk to the market from either their home or their workplace. I would like to promote walking and biking to work as an alternative to using cars. Please provide recommendations on how to do this. Additionally, the market will have two showers and laundry services for employees or customers wanting to bike to work from remote locations. The customer will be able to reserve shower time online. Recommend a monthly fee and marketing plan for this service.

Burt & Francie’s Neighborhood Cafe and Cheese Market

Jon and Danielle are opening Burt & Francie’s Neighborhood Cafe and Cheese Market. Dani is a graduate of UW-Madison and a former student of Tom’s. We knew we wanted to open our own business so that we could make a living doing something we loved and food, specifically local food, has become our passion. We now live in Wausau, Wisconsin and want to create a table of high quality, simply prepared food that highlights the area’s bountiful produce, meats, and cheeses. It is our hope to share the stories behind the food we offer, and connect our customers to the folks producing or growing their meal.

Our exclusive focus on specialty cheese made in Wisconsin will make Burt & Francie’s a destination throughout the state. An online store will allow our customers from outside the area to purchase cheese and other local specialties (grass-fed beef, grass-fed chicken, maple syrup, etc.) to be delivered right to their home. We are interested in the best way to conduct a sustainable mail-order business. Burt & Francie’s will be distributing cheese across the country and we need to find the least harmful way of doing that, especially in the summer when coolers and ice-packs are necessary. In developing your recommendations, please consider at least the following questions:

1. Is there a green alternative among the frozen bricks used in packaging frozen goods or goods that need to be kept cold during the hot summer months?  If not a green choice, a less harmful choice?

2. Are there ‘green’ cardboard boxes using recycled materials or some other sustainable process?

3. Is there a green choice for the fluffers used in filling the rest of the box (e.g. papers, white Styrofoam popcorn, etc.)

4. Are there harmful glues used in making the box and the tape that we can avoid?

5. Is there a green option among the freight companies? UPS is our likely choice.

6. Is the cost prohibitive for a new company, or are these alternatives about making informed choices among options that are priced relatively the same?

7. Is there a local source for all of these goods, or must we order from New York or Los Angeles?

8. Least impact ways to do direct mailings to a list of customers (list created on our own and not bought from some third party)

Fullcircle Furniture (A project of Madison Environmental Group, Inc.)

Madison Environmental Group, Inc. is an interdisciplinary, team oriented research and consulting firm. As sustainability consultants, we assist clients and communities to Build Green and Live Green – creating economic advantage and reducing environmental impact.

Fullcircle Furniture is a Madison Environmental Group project that is partially funded by a grant from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. The purpose of the project is to assess the economic feasibility of utilizing materials otherwise destined for area landfills to create beautiful furniture and interior designs. The guiding principles for the design of the furniture are: functional, beautiful, affordable, repeatable, and transportable.

Madison Environmental Group’s designer has created furniture designs for three design lines, and prototypes utilizing salvaged commercial doors are currently being built. A showcase, which project participants will be invited to, will be hosted in November.

As part of assessing the economic feasibility of this business, Madison Environmental Group would like students to explore and report on several areas:

1. Who should the target customers be for Fullcircle Furniture?

2. Where and how can Fullcircle Furniture be sold regionally (within 200 miles)?  Should Fullcircle Furniture operate through furniture dealers or should it sell independently?

3. How can Fullcircle Furniture be marketed?

The key benefits for students participating in this project are:

1. Providing input and assistance in assessing the feasibility of a new environmentally friendly business.

2. Gain experience with developing a focused marketing approach for a product.

3. Be invited to our Fullcircle showcase event.

Opuwo Beads and Seeds project

Overall I am trying to bring all of the jewelry makers of Opuwo together as one in a co-op.  This idea was proposed by one of the locals who was tired of the daily chaos they deal with trying to individually push themselves on the tourists.   As for the project that I feel your students might be able to help the most in the business management aspect, specifically how to set up the business so that it benefits each jeweler so they don’t feel they need to still go and individually harass buyers.  I’m not sure how these types of co-ops have been started in other places.

Please research and provide a recommendation on how best to organize these jewelry makers.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of a co-op?  Of a corporation?  Of a partnership?  Of a sole proprietorship?  Of other alternatives?  Once a recommendation has been made, what is needed to organize and legally develop this structure?  Can it be done in Africa?  What other limitations or barriers might be encountered?

Green Built Home

Green Built Home is Wisconsin’s residential green building program and has been promoting green building to builders and the public since 1999. While the program has been quite successful in many ways (including having certified more than 2400 homes as Green Built and being named 2006 Green Building Program of the Year), public awareness of green building in general and Green Built Home in specific has been slow to develop. For builders to get excited about building Green Built Homes, they have made it quite clear that the public demand for them needs to be more intensive. The challenge is how do we create a strong and vocal public discourse on green building and a demand for Green Built Homes in the Madison area and across Wisconsin?

GreenStar Homes

GreenStar Homes is a small residential construction company specializing in energy- and resource-efficient building practices that are better for the health, safety and welfare of people, communities and the natural environment. GreenStar is a new company that has completed three custom homes in the Madison area and is poised for significant growth. In order to foster this growth, increase revenue and decrease risk, the company is interested in offering green building consulting services in addition to general contracting services. By offering comprehensive green building consulting services, GreenStar will be able to work in a much wider geographic area, with a wider range of clients, and not be limited to such a geographically small and niche market. The question becomes, what services are most in demand and how can these services be promoted to potential clients?

Home Savings Bank & Appendix C

Home Savings Bank is a local customer-owned community bank that has made a commitment to sustainability. The bank has adopted the Natural Step and is the first bank office in Wisconsin to seek LEED certification. The bank has developed a “Greener Choices” checking account using the Natural Step framework, and is reviewing internal bank products and processes in light of the Natural Step.

A student project would involve developing a multi-pronged marketing plan, emphasizing the Bank’s commitment to sustainability. The marketing plan should recognize and emphasize the “green” financial products and services. This plan should include an update of the marketing plan for Greener Choices checking and making recommendations on target markets, message, and media. Students are encouraged to focus their efforts on marketing to a customer segment aged 25-35.

The student team would work with Jim Bradley, President of Home Savings Bank, on the project. Meetings would be held at the bank’s office on the Capitol Square.

Note: Because of the possibility of developing competitive market advantage with product and service design for Home Savings Bank, students on this project group will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement with the bank. Basically, this means that you won’t try and sell your marketing plan ideas to other banks or financial institutions. In addition, at the conclusion of the project, the final report will be reviewed with the bank, and certain parts may be deleted before being published on the web.

City of Madison – Sustainable Cities Financial Structures

Appendix E

The Sustainable Design and Energy Committee was formed by the City of Madison Common Council for the purpose of implementing a plan where the City will be “acknowledged as a progressive leader regarding renewable energy and conservation…” The Committee is currently implementing the recommendations of the Mayor’s Energy Task Force, which published a blueprint of strategies and actions for this purpose.

A key need and ingredient to long term success is the implementation of a financial structure that measures project results and aids in the distribution of the benefit to the key areas that need to be connected with the implementation of the design and energy recommendations, including a new Office of Sustainable Development which will lead the design, implementation and outcome evaluation of projects. In order to accomplish this, traditional economic silos must be altered and integrated and favorable results need to be seen at the departmental budget level, the project result level, and to fund the propose office. Several cities have implemented such financial structures which leverage and balance the benefits from energy and design projects.

The intent of this project is to study models from 3-4 other cities with long term, successful sustainable city programs to determine their financial structure for capital and operating budgets, revenue sources for staffing, internal city department incentives or return on improvements, projects and incentives with private and public sectors. The key result will be a recommendation of a financial structure that will best fit Madison, a list of pros and cons, and a list of key implementation guidelines learned from the experience of other cities. A list of cities will be provided.