Getting to Zero Waste – Case Studies

  1. Philanthropic Fiasco (value/alignment)

Your work for a multinational firm that engages in a variety of food-related businesses, including: farming, processing, retailing, and restaurants. The firm has contributed a portion of profits to a charitable project as part of its CSR efforts for many years. An NGO researched one of their recent projects and found that while the community appreciated the effort, the service which was provided (free shoes and clothing for children) was of lower priority than other needs (better/stable income, clean water, toilets, and schooling for children), and it also contributed to the closing of a local small business. The company wants to continue its charitable efforts, but it needs to ensure that they are partnering with communities to deliver valuable projects. They also would like to try to leverage their expertise to help add value to the projects they take on.

Discuss how future efforts might be approached to ensure desired outcomes are achieved, as well as whether any boundaries or specific aims might be set to help tie the efforts to the firm’s regular activities.



  1. Coconut Castoffs (rethinking waste)

As a firm which produces coconut milk, water, oil, and other related products, your business creates large volumes of coconut husks and shells, most of which end up in the local landfill. New legislation is being enacted which will significantly increase the cost of disposing of organic materials in the landfill. Your team has been tasked with coming up with ways to divert this waste from the landfill, so that it might be put to more productive uses, and avoid the upcoming cost increase.

Don’t worry about viability. Just to come up with a list of ideas that the team could research and adapt upon.



  1. New Horizons (evolving)

Your team runs a small recycling firm, which processes used metals (Primarily steel, aluminum, and copper), and sells them on the open market as commodities. It’s a low margin business with a lot of competition and little to no loyalty from buyers. Most of your raw materials currently come the informal recycling sector. Discuss opportunities to move from being a basic service provider, to one that might leverage your existing capabilities, in ways which might create greater value than your existing line of business. Look for ways to integrate social and environmental concerns/benefits while rethinking the firm to create stories that help improve your status within the communities you serve.



  1. Holistic Hotels (walking the talk)

Holistic Hotels is a group of boutique properties that are known for their plush rooms, serene atmosphere, and gourmet organic meals. They’re customers expect them to run a highly sustainable operation, and they post signage which suggests their operations are in tune with their customers’ expectations. An investigative reporter was able to get behind the scenes access at one of their properties and found that the firm was not living up to its image.

The resulting expose has put the firm in crisis mode. Ignore the crisis management needs (There’s another group handling that), discuss ways in which your hotels might go beyond asking customers to re-use their towels to achieve more sustainable operations. Try to think through each of the departments (Housekeeping, Front Desk, Food & Beverage, Engineering, Security, Management), and look for risks and opportunities in each area.



  1. Floundering Fishermen (new approaches)

Fishing has been a way of life for your family for multiple generations. Starting with a small boat, your great grandfather began a business which now runs several trawlers. Your company is one of the largest in the coastal town it is operated out of, so it’s an important part of the community. In recent years, catches have steadily gone down, while complaints about bycatch have gone up. The government is discussing regulations which would ban the nets you currently use, and they may also put stricter limits on the amounts of fish which can be taken and the days in which fishing is allowed. Discuss the issues of overfishing/bycatch and ways in which the firm might continue providing a similar (if not greater) amount of fish to the market.



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