Dec. 20, 2021Print | PDF
Organizations and individuals are looking for ways to reduce waste and create a cleaner way to do business for the current and future health of the planet. With that goal in mind, second-year undergraduate students at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics were invited to participate in the seventh annual IKEA Sustainability Challenge.
This year, teams were asked to propose solutions to the question, “How can IKEA Canada kickstart immediate and substantive climate action, driving impact through our own business activities, and empowering other businesses to become more sustainable?”
The challenge was initially developed by Lazaridis School alumnus Michael Ward (BBA ’86), CEO and chief sustainability officer of IKEA Canada and assistant professor Laura Allan with the goal of raising awareness about sustainability issues as an important principle of business practice.
Ward told us, “We put a lot of thought into the challenge question this year because we are at a very important point in our collective experience – if you look at the science, we are at a key time regarding global warming. The next decade is critical.”
This year, the challenge was facilitated by Rima Khatib, assistant professor of business technology management and Patricia McLaren, associate dean of undergraduate business programs. Twenty-three teams from the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Economics (BA Economics), and Bachelor of Business Technology Management (BTM) programs entered the competition and were given two weeks to develop their proposals. One week later, their video submissions were due and evaluated by a panel of sustainability experts. The expertise of Eric Meliton, manager of the Sustainability Office at Wilfrid Laurier University; Rebecca Garlick, program manager at Sustainable Waterloo Region; and Carley Bringeland, business banking associate at Vancity Community Investment was helpful in selecting the finalist teams.
From the 11 semi-finalist teams, five were chosen as finalists to present to a panel of IKEA executives and sustainability experts. The teams were given eight minutes each to present, with five minutes for questions from the judging panel.
Up first, team Mining for a Sustainable Future shared their proposal of IKEA partnering with sustainable mining organizations and developing a buy-back program for their metal items. Their idea was to incentivize consumers and small businesses to sell their metal waste to IKEA, who would then process it back into useable materials.
Creating Change One Step at a Time followed with their suggested partnership with Pavegen Systems, a people-powered, kinetic technology floor tile that creates clean electricity. Tiles would be installed in IKEA stores across Canada and be used to power elements including lights and LED screens.
The next proposal from Carbon Zero Heroes recommended IKEA implement a fleet of electric vehicles. By doing so, IKEA would be able to reduce their carbon footprint by removing air pollution related to their shipping and delivery services.
Team IKEA Green Parking took a ground-level approach, recommending green parking lots for all IKEA stores. By repaving current lots with permeable pavement made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and building rain gardens around the perimeter, IKEA would be able to make their parking space both functional and environmentally friendly.
The final group to present was Jord Bin, who tackled the problem of shipping waste by developing recycled aluminum packaging. A return program would then be created, whereby customers would have the option for their bin to be picked up directly from their homes and receive a credit to put toward future purchases.
After the presentations, IKEA Canada judges Michael Ward, Eri Mathy, country business development and transformation manager, Kristin Newbigging, community operations manager, Liz Wilson, country customer fulfillment manager, and Melissa Barbosa, country sustainability manager had the tough task of picking the top teams.
“There were five amazing ideas today – we were so impressed by each team. Thank you for participating in this important challenge. It will be the collective effort of many of us to get us in the place we need to be to live together in the limits of one planet,” Ward shared after the finalists were announced.
First place – IKEA Green Parking
Each team member received a $1,000 prize courtesy of IKEA Canada.
Second place – Carbon Zero Heroes
Each team member received a $600 prize courtesy of IKEA Canada.
Third place – Jord Bin
Each team member received a $400 prize courtesy of IKEA Canada.
Creating Change One Step at a Time
Mining for a More Sustainable Future
Each team member received a $200 prize courtesy of IKEA Canada.
“This an amazing learning opportunity for our students to actively participate in improving sustainability in business. I am very proud of our students who accepted this year’s challenge and showed continuous dedication and professionalism. Thanks to IKEA and Laurier, this competition continues to prove that our students will make a better future!” shared Rima Khatib, closing off this year’s event.
Congratulations to our finalist teams and thank you to all who participated in the 2021 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, supporting the next generation of graduates and business leaders.
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