Dec. 3, 2019Print | PDF
BBA Alumni joined current students on Friday, November 22 for the fifth annual IKEA Sustainability Challenge finals. Judging this year's finals were IKEA Canada executives Mike Ward (BBA ’86), CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer, Geoffrey Macdonald (BBA ’02), CFO and Melissa Mirowski, Country Sustainability Manager who were joined by sustainability expert Mike Morrice (BBA ’08, BSc ’08), Founder of Sustainable Waterloo Region and Green Economy Canada and third year BBA student and semi-finalist from last year’s challenge Carolyn Hotchkiss, who spent her summer co-op term working with IKEA Canada in their sustainability department.
Second-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students were invited to participate in the competition. They were asked to propose solutions to enhance IKEA Canada's store concept to create an engaging shopping experience for today's tech-savvy consumers. Students were also asked to consider the company's goals of becoming more sustainable, accessible and affordable.
The challenge was initially developed by Mike Ward and assistant professor Laura Allan with the goal of raising awareness about sustainability issues as an important principle of business practice. Shortly after developing the challenge, Ward took on a role with IKEA outside of North America. This is the first year he has been able to attend both the challenge launch and finals.
Mike told us, “It’s great to be at Laurier for the Sustainability Challenge with all the second-year folks. They did a great job, with just a few weeks to work. Amazing ideas – we thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s always nice to be back home at Laurier.”
38 teams entered the competition this year and were given only two weeks to develop their proposal. From there, 18 finalist teams were chosen and given the opportunity to visit IKEA Burlington to further improve upon their proposal. One week later, their video submissions were due and evaluated by a panel of sustainability experts. The expertise of Christine Barbeau, Aisling Dennett, Katarina Milicic and Andrew Spring was helpful in selecting the finalist teams.
From the 18 semi-finalist teams, 5 were chosen as finalists to present to a panel of IKEA executives and sustainability experts. The teams were given 10 minutes each to present, with five minutes for questions from the judging panel.
"This competition positions our business students to apply their creativity and knowledge to a real business problem," said Micheál Kelly, dean of the Lazaridis School. "It is one of many immersive learning opportunities designed to prepare them for the business world upon graduation."
Up first, IKEA Design Space shared their proposal to enhance the IKEA shopping experience with augmented reality that allows shoppers to match IKEA furniture with existing pieces they already have at home. This would be supported by the development of an app that allows users to request feedback from IKEA experts, or even from the IKEA community. In-store, the team recommended creating #IKEArt displays with IKEA furniture and art pieces that would encourage photography and social sharing.
IKEA CUBE followed with their customer-centric unique buying experience (CUBE) proposal to create opportunities for shoppers to connect with IKEA in urban centres. They recommended that IKEA create comfortable, accessible spaces for commuters, students or mall shoppers where they have the opportunity to experience IKEA products, shop via in-cube kiosks, and earn coupons and discount codes specific to each cube location. This would also increase brand awareness and trust, and reduce the emissions of the tens of thousands of cars that visit IKEA each year.
The next proposal addressed opportunities for IKEA to update existing in-store displays to reflect the sustainable practices the company is already committed to. IKEA Connect helps shoppers make the connection between their purchases and their impact on the planet, and then takes it a step further by showing them how they could easily adopt more sustainable practices at home. The team proposed in-store education and a carbon footprint tracker to educate customers on sustainability both within IKEA and at home.
The IKEA Visualization Studio would meet consumers where they are – in downtown areas. Creating spaces where tech, artists, designers and curators can all come together to collaborate on designs, visualize with augmented reality, and ultimately purchase their dream room, and top it off with a trip to the upscale IKEA food bar.
The last group to present was Mobile IKEA. The proposal was to create a fleet of IKEA pop-up stores that could bring the IKEA experience to underserved neighbourhoods. Using low-emission or electric vehicles, IKEA pop-up shops would offer not only the most popular IKEA products, but the whole experience – including IKEA dining. Food would be served on a “pay what you can” scale. This initiative primarily focuses on IKEA's affordability challenge.
Judge, alumnus, and recent Green Party candidate for Kitchener centre, Mike Morrice reflected on the presentations. “I’m so impressed by what the students put into the whole process - the thought that went into both thinking about how to create a competitive advantage for IKEA but also to do so to differentiate them as a sustainability leader in the country. The Laurier students that I saw today were reflective of everything I always know of them – which is just knocking it out of the park.”
“I appreciated all the energy and passion and effort people put into it. I know it’s a difficult time to pull it all together, but for us it’s super engaging and nice to hear what the future leaders of our community are thinking.” Geoffrey Macdonald told us after the winners were announced.
Leanne Hagarty, a lecturer at the Lazaridis School of Business who helped coordinate the challenge thanked IKEA for their generous contribution to an immersive learning experience for our students. She also thanked the students who engaged willingly and creatively in the challenge and expressed her pride in their commitment to sustainability.
$800 scholarship to each team member and a guaranteed interview with IKEA Canada.
$600 scholarship to each team member.
$400 scholarship to each team member.
$200 scholarship to each team member.
Congratulations to our finalist teams and thank you to all who participated in the 2019 IKEA Sustainability Challenge!
Thank you to all the judges for your time, expertise, and thoughtful consideration of all the proposals presented to you. It was wonderful to have so many engaged Lazaridis alumni back on campus, supporting the next generation of graduates and business leaders.
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