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Jan. 19, 2017

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This fall, IKEA asked our students to answer the question, “How can IKEA Canada create the most value through contributing to the development of the circular economy?”

For the second consecutive year, IKEA sponsored a student competition for second-year BBA students in the Lazaridis School. Titled the IKEA Sustainability Challenge, the competition was founded by Lazaridis School alumnus Mike Ward (BBA ’86), director of North American and Nordic operations for IKEA, and Laura Allan, an assistant professor at the Lazaridis School.

Students worked in small teams to come up with the most innovative solution to IKEA’s question. Students met with IKEA executives, visited an IKEA store, and created a video as part of the competition. Five finalist teams pitched their ideas to IKEA Canada executives on Dec. 2.

The Palm Oil Substitution Project, comprised of team members Spencer Barnes, Jake Fell, Matthew Imrie, Triet Nguyen and Zach Wilson, won the competition. Their idea was to produce yeast oil to replace palm oil, which shares its unique qualities but doesn’t have specific climate requirements and uses 100 times less land. The team proposed it would connect consumers with what they care about and weave sustainability into the supply chain, addressing the competition’s challenge of closing the loop on the circular economy.

The other finalist pitches included

  • IKEA 360°– a self-contained dome to give consumers the store experience without having to travel to the big box stores, thus reducing emissions;
  • Hemp-based Bioplastics and Biofuels – used to create a new line of biodegradable furniture and products that require less land, water and pesticides to produce;
  • Kinetic Floor Tiles – made from recycled materials these tiles use foot traffic to create an energy source to power stores; and
  • Carbon Glass – that takes carbon waste from production and uses it to create new products to replace traditional glass ones.

“These were a fantastic set of presentations–very innovative, very creative–highlighting how business and sustainability can be mutually beneficial,” said Micheál Kelly, dean of the Lazaridis School. “I’d like to thank IKEA Canada for once again partnering with us on this exciting immersive educational experience. Together, we hope that the challenge inspires students to infuse sustainability into all of their future endeavours.”

“We’re very proud to be associated with you,” said Brendan Seale, sustainability manager for IKEA Canada and a judge of the finals, of its partnership with the Lazaridis School. Seale stressed to students that it’s not what we can be good at, but rather “What can we be good for?...Business can truly be a positive force in the world.”

Other judges included IKEA Canada’s Deputy Country Retail Manager Liz Wilson (BBA ’87, MBA ’94), Corporate Press Officer Stephanie Harnett and Robin Laporte, CEO and climate change strategist for Neutopia ecoSOLUTIONS.

Laporte, who gave a keynote on how businesses can better incorporate sustainability to improve their bottom line, was left inspired by the students participating in the competition. “I’ve never been in a room where everyone wants to change the world.”

Students on the winning team will be invited to interview for a summer job with IKEA Canada focused on business sustainability. They will also present their idea to the IKEA Canada Sustainability Forum and have lunch with IKEA Canada’s Acting President David McCabe.


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