This past spring, 10 students in the Certificate of Advanced Study in Sustainable Enterprise (CASSE) Capstone course worked alongside Macy’s to create sustainable solutions for the company. This interactive consulting course provided graduate students enrolled in the course a chance to produce real solutions for a large business.
Throughout the Capstone course, students are partnered with an organization or business to create and collaborate on a sustainable project for the organization’s needs. Students are expected to invest 250 hours over the semester, as well as attend weekly meetings with the organization.
Todd Moss, associate professor of entrepreneurship and faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership, oversaw two teams of five to research, develop and present two different proposals to their corporate partner.
To find new strategic partners, Moss looked to resources that were already available — the Whitman School’s recruitment events. During a visit to Whitman, Macy’s recruiters met with Moss to discuss the course and opportunity to collaborate with students and were extremely excited for the opportunity. A year later, the partnership launched with the spring 2020 Capstone class.
The first team worked on a more sustainable solution for single-use poly bags that are used to ship clothing garments from manufacturers to the retail stores. Retailers and customers alike receive clothing in the single-use bags and either recycle or throw away the bag. It’s unclear how many of these bags are being disposed of, but there are most likely millions of bags being used just once. Students were tasked with finding either an alternative or a more strategic way to use them to reduce waste.
In addition, the second team worked to develop a sustainable forestry policy for the company to share with wood and fiber suppliers. Before this project, Macy’s had no policy in place. This policy would develop standards for Macy’s to provide to suppliers for cellulosic fibers, wood products, packaging and other materials for more safe and sustainable products.
Due to COVID-19, students were unable to work collaboratively with the organization for the entire semester — with a transition to online learning and the closure of many Macy’s stores — but they continued to develop solutions and concluded the research virtually. Before leaving campus, students were able to visit the Macy’s flagship store in New York City to get a behind-the-scenes look at its supply chain and other day-to-day operations to develop their research.
Despite some project limitations, Moss and the students were able to experience first-hand how integrated supply chains can be disrupted and how retailers have to adapt. Moss and the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership plan to continue the strategic relationship with Macy’s with future projects.