Walmart offers $30,000 in eco-friendly competition

Corporate giant Walmart Canada has extended an environmental competition to students across the nation to promote environmentally sustainable business practices. The Walmart Green Student Challenge is open to all post-secondary students and invites individuals or teams of up to four people to submit their ideas for evaluation.

“We want any type of student who is engaged or is passionate about the environment to come to us with their sustainable business ideas, and we’ll make it into a fun event,” said Andrew Telfer, manager of sustainability at Walmart Canada.

An undeniable draw to the contest is its impressive set of prizes. The top five contestants will be rewarded, with the first place winner receiving $30,000. This will also be matched with a separate donation to the student’s school.

Telfer explained, “Walmart kind of wanted to make a splash, and we wanted to get a lot of student interest, so we put up $100,000 in cash prizes.” So far, it seems to be working. “We’re getting quite the response,” Telfer acknowledged. “There’s been a lot of interest, and it’s really great to see.”

Stops have already been made at several Ontario universities, including Wilfrid Laurier, to explain the competition, and will continue at post-secondary institutions across Canada.

One of the main ambitions of the Walmart Green Student Challenge is to promote the idea that “that green initiatives are good for business,” said Telfer. “A common misperception here in Canada is that to go green costs money … meaning to implement sustainability initiatives actually will cost the company money.”

Mike Morrice, a Wilfrid Laurier University graduate and executive director of Sustainable Waterloo Region believes a change is beginning to occur within this mindset.

“Large corporations are understanding that when they integrate sustainability into what they do, they are more profitable as a result as well,” he said. “Sustainability in business creates a competitive advantage.”

Walmart, he noted, has become a leader in corporate environmental sustainability. “I think Walmart has actually been moving towards changing the industry, particularly around supply chain and sustainability,” Morrice said. “That’s a meaningful opportunity for a business of their size to kind of change the marketplace.”

The contest, Morrice continued, “might inspire some students to think creatively about sustainability and entrepreneurship to solve some aspect of the massive environmental crisis that we’re currently in, and that’s great.”

Morrice created the idea for his own organization, Sustainable Waterloo Region, while still completing his Laurier undergraduate degree. The competition, he believes, has the potential to turn similar ideas into valuable action.

“Typically what we’re seeing across the board is community-based, small scale solutions to this global challenge that we have, and ultimately this is a part of that,” he explained.

Morrice continued, “It’s incentives like these, and small changes like these, and contests like these, that when you add them up together hopefully results in some meaningful change and solutions to the climate crisis.”

The Walmart Green Student Challenge will be accepting entries until Jan. 20, 2012.

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