Results from the 2009 Net Impact Challenge: MBAs and Professionals Take Action

net-impact-logo-120MBAs and professionals stepped up to the network-wide Net Impact Challenge this year, highlighting impact projects ranging from corporate sustainable commuting programs to university composting initiatives.

As the third annual competition, Net Impact’s Executive Director Liz Maw said, “This year’s teams have raised the bar to a new level. The entries we received highlight the incredible work Net Impact members are doing in their offices, campuses, and communities. We are proud to support them through our network.”

For Net Impact’s nearly 250 student and professional chapters around the world, the annual Net Impact Challenge is a chance to receive recognition for their efforts to make a more sustainable world using the power of business. “Our chapter really wanted to find a way to put the ‘Magnify Your Impact’ motto into action,” said Matthew Holtry, a Net Impact Challenge project leader from the Penn State Smeal College of Business who developed a campus supplier sustainability scorecard. “For us, the project was a win-win-win. We got to add sustainable value to our campus while expanding the MBA curriculum and getting more exposure for our Net Impact chapter on campus.”

So here’s what all the hype is about:

Winning student teams came from the Ross School of Business and the UNC Kenan – Flagler School of Business.

Greg Buzzell, Eva Dee Owens, Aaron James, and Zach Robin, led an initiative at the Ross School of Business to green their cafeteria.

Thanks to their efforts food scraps, utensils, cups, plates and bowls purchased at the Ross Cafeteria are now 100% compostable—keeping up 50% of cafeteria waste out of landfills. The Net Impact team also played a key role in the university-wide Student Sustainability Initiative by lobbying for the adoption of university-wide green building standards and encouraging the university to hire a sustainability director. Project co-leader Greg Buzzell said “Net Impact students’ concern and passion for tackling social and environmental problems combined with their savvy business skills truly made this project a success.”

Emily Martin and the Greening Committee at UNC Kenan – Flagler Business School (KFBS) worked to raise awareness about campus greening by hosting a series of educational events.

“We leveraged Net Impact’s brand name at KFBS to gain traction with the administration, both at KFBS and at the larger University,” said Emily. Thereafter, they implemented default double-sided printing and energy efficiency measures to walk the talk on campus. Finally, the team engaged administration and the central departments of the university to support green events practices, energy conservation, and sustainability benchmarking.

Net Impact’s growing network of professional members also submitted impressive entries to this year’s competition.

Jon Braun, Kim Kurz, and Jim Grange at Yes! Communities, which consists of 18,571 manufactured homes in 67 communities across the US, began a venture to reduce utility costs and environmental impacts in its office and manufactured home communities. The team started by greening their offices with projects focused on waste reduction, energy conservation and The Green Commute to Work Challenge. The commuter challenge engaged 63% of their office and generated over 9,200 miles by alternative methods of transportation. Through a new paperless billing system, the company has saved 240,000 pieces of paper. The team then brought these practices to their communities through green events and education, which includes a new resident “move in kit” with several CFLs, faucet aerators, and simple steps to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Through these successful efforts, the team drastically increased awareness of sustainability actions in mobile home communities and generated over $340,000 in savings on utilities.

Melissa Stevens and Michelle Carpenter at Mohawk Fine Papers led an environmental program focused on waste reduction, resource conservation, sustainable forestry, fiber recycling, and the use of renewable energy. These efforts helped place Mohawk as the lowest emitter of greenhouse gases in North America within its manufacturing category in a recent industry benchmarking study. “Net Impact’s dedicated efforts to share innovative social businesses practices through the local chapters, national conference and Issues In-Depth calls have become a valuable resource for stakeholder outreach,” said project leader and Net Impact member Melissa Stevens.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Net Impact teams at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business for developing a sustainable procurement scorecard, theKellogg School of Business at Northwestern for building an impressive set of stakeholder engagement programs, and imc2 for their team’s work to prevent the emission of more than 12 tons of carbon through a Commuter Challenge.

Winners were selected through a competitive judging process by Adam Werbach, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, Nick Aster Founder of, David Yarnold, Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Fund, Lisa Neuberger-Fernandez, Global Policy Lead at Accenture, and Brie Johnson, Marketing Communications at Strauss Family Creamery.

If you’re interested in connecting with Net Impact’s 15.000 professionals and student changemakers, find a local chapter, join Net Impact, and come to the 2009 Net Impact Conference. And don’t worry if you didn’t get a chance to participate in this year’s Net Impact Challenge. Get involved with members like the leaders of the projects above and you’ll be ready for next year’s competition in no time.

More details about the projects can be found at

Net Impact 2010 will be hosted by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Stay tuned for coverage!

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