MScSM students with WWF panda

MScSM Students Win WWF Case Competition

Jiayi (Lillian) Li

Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) students Gurdeep Kang, Julia Shen, Amy Yang, and Ru Yap are the latest winners of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Designing Change for a Living Planet competition. The team represented the University of Toronto Mississauga on March 16, 2019, joined by teams from 17 Ontario colleges and universities.

The annual WWF Campus event connected students of all disciplines with professionals in various industries to share ideas about building a sustainable future. In addition to panel discussions and networking, the day ended with the design competition. Students had two hours to create concepts and prepare paper slides before presenting to a panel of WWF staff and expert judges.

The theme for the 2019 Designing Change for a Living Planet was plastic pollution. Kang, Shen, Yang, and Yap approached the design theme using systems thinking and focused on plastic pollution in oceans. Using their previous experience with plastic waste projects and consultation of case studies, the team analyzed the stakeholders and the potential partnerships between them.

“For a sustainability challenge, we wanted to make sure the solution tackled social, environmental and economic challenges. We asked ourselves questions like ‘How can the solution be beneficial for all parties involved?’” the team recalled. “We also wanted to address an issue and subsequent solution that would create considerable impact.”

Their winning design concept was a fishing net buy-back program. Fishing nets, when left in the ocean, not only contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre but also trap and harm animals. Kang, Shen, Yang, and Yap developed an implementation plan for the buy-backs of this plastic waste in Thailand. The team’s proposal begins with economically-incentivizing locals to collect and remove fishing nets. Corporations would collaboratively run these buy-back programs with local NGOs. The collected fishing nets would then transform into nylon thread to be upcycled into other products such as clothing and accessories.

The MScSM team collected $1200 in prize money and each obtained a mentoring opportunity with an industry professional in a sector of their choosing.

“What truly made this experience memorable was the collaborative and positive team experience. Every team member was passionate, motivated, optimistic, respectful and supportive throughout the process,” the team reflected on the event. “We learned that two hours was good enough to come up with an idea and sketch an implementation strategy. It was inspiring to see so many people from different schools get to work and come up with ideas. We are proud of our work, being able to apply a holistic approach in our winning design solution.”