San Francisco - Net Impact announced the winner for a case competition with International Paper, a global leader in the paper and packaging industry, and Staples, Inc., the world's largest office products company. After a competitive application process, three finalist teams created strategic plans for recovering more paper and packaging from underserved markets, including large, multi-tenant locations, company campuses and universities. Students from Blekinge Institute of Technology, located in Karlskrona, Sweden, submitted the winning strategic plan. The other finalist teams included Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan.
"We were very impressed by the high caliber work of all teams," said Liz Maw, executive director, Net Impact. "It's exciting to see bright students working together with today's corporate leaders to uncover significant environmental opportunities through the recovery of more paper and packaging."
Since February, the three finalist teams have been working with key leaders at International Paper and Staples to answer questions and review the progress of their strategic plans. The Blekinge team proposed solutions for increasing the efficiency of paper recovery, branding the program and communicating real-time recovery rates for the companies.
"The competition was a great way to practically apply the theories, frameworks and methodologies of our Master's program in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability," said Lea Thuot, a student at the Blekinge Institute of Technology and member of the winning team. "The program we presented to International Paper and Staples should allow them to increase the paper recycling in the U.S. and assist the paper industry to meet future targets for paper recovery."
The competition is a great example of effective cross-sector collaboration. International Paper and Staples were able to leverage the business expertise of top students in the Net Impact network.
"The student teams demonstrated great ideas in their proposed recycling plans," said Mark Buckley, vice president, Environmental Affairs, Staples. "It's this type of thinking that will help improve paper and packaging material recycling in the future."
"The students were quick studies of the challenges and opportunities for recycling in our industry," said David Kiser, IP's vice president, Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability. "Their proposal identified creative tools to track, monitor and promote a successful program."
Staples and International Paper are currently considering ways to integrate elements of the Blekinge team's plan into their existing program to recover more renewable paper products and put them back to use.