Student Projects Spring 2016

This semester the students in Systems Thinking and Sustainability completed 11 service-based learning projects. The students chose these projects and worked on them over the course of the semester. 

Wisconsin Sustainability Report
For the last six years a group of students put together a report on the status of business sustainability efforts in WI This annual report is valued by the business community and other decision makers in the state. Wisconsin is the only state to prepare a triple bottom line sustainability report, modeled on the reports prepared by businesses.

The student group chose metrics to capture state economic, environmental, and social performance. They also designed the layout for the report, found the appropriate graphics, and wrote the text.

Wisconsin Microfinance Gala
Wisconsin Microfinance is a nonprofit organization that funds microfinance loans in Haiti and the Philippines. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, millions of poor people were left with almost nothing to their names. 6 years later, the people of Haiti are still poor, and still live with little hope for the future. WI Microfinance provides funds for loans to a single community in Haiti.

This group’s job was to 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 chose to put on a dinner gala in Milwaukee complete with a 7 course Philippine meal and a silent auction.

Visual Impressions: Social Media Plan

Visual Impressions is a contract apparel decorator that focuses on the promotional item industry. They screen-print, digitally print or embroider apparel. This ranges from t-shirts, to golf shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and other items like aprons. Last year we shipped over 38,000 orders and printed over 9.7 million impressions.

The goal of this project was to present a social media plan for how Visual Impressions can leverage their sustainability story to promote the company so as to obtain new customers, more business, and more recognition.

Inpro: You can’t get to the other side of a mountain by only climbing half of it…

…That is an analogy that represents two really big challenges (among others) that could restrict our growth as an economy and restrict business’s ability to function. One is a changing climate and weather and what that does to business (operations, supply chain, etc.) and the other is increasing resource constraints.

How do companies address these issues and set effective goals? Moving forward, Inpro’s goals need to be set in science and set according to the challenges we face. This project focused on how to discover the correct targets to create effective change. The team was charged with consulting Inpro’s Sustainability Manager on how measure carbon and water footprint and to recommend carbon and water reduction strategies appropriate to Inpro’s manufacturing and operations processes.

 Lands’ End: Packaging Reduction

Lands’ End is a 46 year-old global retailer based in Wisconsin that designs, tests, sells, sources, services, packs, and ships 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.

In order to reduce their “eco-footprint”, Lands’ End is interested in reducing packaging in their most heavily packaged items, Men’s Dress Shirts. Some of the questions this team worked to answer were: How can they reduce the amount of, or eliminate, packaging materials used at Lands’ End when shipping Men’s Dress Shirts to the consumer? How does this affect the presentation of the product when the consumer opens the package?

Heads-N-Tails: Marketing Plan

Heads-N-Tails, LLC is an up-and-coming aquaponics farm and social enterprise that seeks to address food security by implementing sustainable farming practices and offering meaningful internship opportunities for students and recent graduates.

The final suggestions to the company were to include a social media campaign strategy, suggested subjects for blog posts and website content, and creative ideas to attract and educate CSA members and retail/wholesale consumers on the values and the superiority of Heads-N-Tails product.

Kohler: KPIs for Innovation for Good

Kohler’s Innovation for Good (IfG) is a prototype program that aims to connect Kohler employees around the world and address pressing business challenges through the innovative use of time, resources and passion to make positive change in the world.

As Kohler tries to scale the program, one of the challenges they are facing is how to measure success. Since metrics define and drive behavior – how might they create and implement the appropriate measures that support IfG without force-fitting it into how the business is run today? Problem Statement: What are the appropriate Key Performance Indicators that will support the IfG program as an integral business initiative? How might we be able to clearly communicate to participants that their efforts are making a difference in a world that we seldom experience? How might we gain broad based executive buy-in and secure the necessary resources to reach more Kohler employees?

CNH Industrial: Type 1 Losses

Type 1 losses occur when equipment is left on and uses energy and water when no production is occurring. The student team was be responsible for: Reviewing energy and water meter data and production schedule for the first quarter of 2016, Identifying equipment that was on when there was no production, Quantifying the energy and water used during that time, and Making recommendations for the equipment with the highest energy and water losses.

American Family: CSR Reporting Matrices

With the evolution of American Family Insurance’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) Strategy, they are now faced with the tough question of how to evaluate progress on becoming more sustainable. There are many different ways to evaluate a company’s CR performance; there is the GRI, CDP, Green Masters or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, but which method is the best? Is it a hybrid? What are the pros and cons of each of these systems? Can these systems be used to create dashboards to track progress? What are Fortune 500 companies using to evaluate themselves?

Oshkosh: Rooftop Solar Feasibility 

Oshkosh Corporation is a manufacturer of vehicles and equipment that move people at work safely, efficiently, and sustainably. The Defense segment of Oshkosh Corporation is primarily located in Oshkosh, where there are several large manufacturing buildings. They started an Energy Reduction Strategic Initiative in 2015 where a cross functional team focuses on reducing natural gas and electricity consumption.

One area that they would like investigated more is the possibility of capturing solar energy using roof systems. This group was charged with finding the latest technology for capturing solar energy, what Federal/State grants may be available, and the feasibility of solar in Wisconsin. Final deliverables include a recommended layout for a solar system on the roof with financial and environmental metrics.

Bayview Foundation: Solar Paneling 

The Bayview Foundation manages 102 units of quality affordable housing surrounding the Bayview International Center for Education and the Arts. They are working with Green Madison and Focus on Energy on some conservation approaches and would love to convince MG&E to do a solar pilot to power the center and provide additional energy for the surrounding neighborhood.

This team of students identified solar installers, how many panels could be installed, identify the cost, identify all possible rebates and incentives, identify successful previous pitches to MG&E, and design a pitch that could be used to cost share the cost for solar panels on our roof.