Undergrads help market a sustainable SFU campus

May 01, 2012

One of the ideas suggested by the groups involved a campus take on the infamous Canucks fans known as the Green Men

A group of Beedie School of Business undergraduate students have been using SustainableSFU as a model to develop their business plan writing skills – and planning a more sustainable campus in the process.

In his class focused on ethics in marketing, Beedie School of Business PhD student and lecturer Todd Green set for his students the task of drafting marketing plans based on a real-life, non-profit organization that operates on SFU’s Burnaby campus.

After the previous cohort’s experience working with International China Concern, a charity which helps abandoned and disabled children in China, Green decided to shift the focus closer to home. While attending SustainableSFU’s annual Sustainability Festival, Green was inspired by the organization’s goal of working towards a sustainable campus and decided that he would ask his next group of students to develop a working marketing plan for SustainableSFU.

“I felt it was important for the students to gain an insight into working with non-profit organizations,” explains Green. “Most students choose projects based on large, for-profit organizations such as Apple or Starbucks for their case studies at university, so I wanted them to see what it was like to work with a very different framework. The tight budget which non-profit organizations work with would force them to be creative.”

With support and guidance available from both Green and staff at SustainableSFU, the students produced professional marketing plans for the organization intended to cover the next year.

A number of marketing initiatives were suggested by the students, with many of them showcasing a creative edge in their recommendations. Many of the proposals involved staging some form of competition to further student engagement with SustainableSFU. One suggestion involved asking students to design a mascot for the organization, while another proposed holding a case competition related to sustainable issues in order to raise awareness on campus.

Another group demonstrated their creative edge by designing a compostable coffee cup sleeve, the idea for which came after the group researched statistics and discovered that over 30,000 coffee cups are discarded on the Burnaby campus each month.

One of the more colourful proposals involved a campus take on the notorious Canucks fans otherwise known as the Green Men. The plan called for actors clad from head to toe in green spandex to roam the campus and reward people for carrying out environmentally friendly acts.

“By working with Sustainable SFU on the project, many of these students will get to see the fruits of their labour. It was interesting to see that the students all had very  different takes on what would make a successful marketing plan for the organization and the quality of ideas suggested was impressive,” says Green.

Duncan Wlodarczak, Executive Director at SustainableSFU briefed the students at the start of the semester on what the organization would look for from the marketing plan, as well as acting as one of the guest judges at the final class presentations.

“The creativity the students showed with many of their ideas was impressive and each group made at least one recommendation which SustainableSFU will likely put into practice in the future,” says Wlodarczak. “Being able to tap into the knowledge of these students was like undertaking marketing research and will be extremely beneficial to the organization as we move forward. There is potential for some of the students to work with us in the future on implementing some of their ideas.”

For Green, who last week defended his PhD dissertation on Corporate Social Responsibility, the benefits of the class are obvious: “From a practical point of view, the students gained some great experience. Many of the students have suggested that they will include this work on their resumes and would consider working for a non-profit organization in future. Beyond that, I think the students really felt that their suggestions can and will make a big difference for the campus.

For more information on SustainableSFU, visit http://sustainablesfu.org/

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