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U of Waterloo team wins Walmart’s Green Student Challenge


On Wednesday, a University of Waterloo team won the Walmart Green Student Challenge at the TMX Broadcast Centre in Toronto.

Walmart president and CEO Shelley Broader announced the winners—Arthur Yip, Jake Yeung, and Alan Thai—following a five month-long competition and a final presentation and Q&A session with five top CEOs.

Broader said of the winning team, “They are the next generation of business leaders and they will help change the way business is done by making it more sustainable while adding to the bottom-line.”

The idea —one of 100 submitted to the competition that captured the attention of the CEO panel was an integrated energy hub for retail distribution centres.

Broader told the audience that there wasn’t a bad idea presented today; it was really about comparing a good business idea with a sustainable idea.

The winning group’s hub idea would integrate solar rooftop panels, and be connected to the smart electricity grid to provide grid balancing and auxiliary services. Net economic benefits from the hub idea were estimated at $1.35 million per year over 20 years.

Arthur Yip, chemical engineering student at the University of Waterloo, said: “The Challenge really encouraged us to think about sustainable business from a different angle, because at the end of the day the idea can’t just save the environment, it has to be good for business.”

The idea appealed to the CEO panel because it puts together existing technologies, and offers a lot of applications to distribution centres. For example, fork lifts could be powered from solar and wind power on site.

Broader announced that along with winning $30,000 for the team and $30,000 for their school, the University of Waterloo grads will get the opportunity to tour Walmart’s state-of-the-art distribution centre in Balzac, Alta., with Andy Ellis, the company’s senior vice-president, supply and logistics.

Ellis said Walmart said we’ve tried to be as creative as possible(when it comes to sustainable technologies) and that Walmart has developed a lot in a short space of time. However, pointing to the rapidity in the sustainable technology space, he says that in two years, the Balzac facility is 55 per cent more efficient than its sister site built two years ago in Mississauga.

“These team from U of Waterloo have taken it to another direction; I think it will be very interesting to get them out there to hear their ideas. It’s about a centralized way of working, which is probably the next step,” said Ellis.

One of the judges, Jean LeBoutillier of Unilever agreed, “We’ve all looked at wind, solar, hydrogen… their proposal was creating a closed system that has having all these technologies working together… the appeal here is the closed system.”

The University of Waterloo team faced competition from the other four finalists from the University of Cape Breton, York University, University of Western Ontario, and University of Calgary.

All five semi-finalists presented their idea to a panel of Canada’s top CEOs consisting of Broader; John Guarino, president of Coca Cola Refreshments; Jean LeBoutillier, Unilever president; Michael McCain, president and CEO, Maple Leaf Foods; and Peter Robinson, CEO of David Suzuki Foundation.

The Walmart Green Student Challenge looked for the next big green idea that will change the way Canada does business.

It asked post-secondary students from across Canada to come up with the best, the brightest and most innovative sustainable business idea.

Teams were scored on their submissions for originality and ease of implementation.

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