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Erb Students Net First Prize in Sustainability Challenge

7/20/2011 --

Distribution firm xpedx® to roll out supply chain scorecard based on their plan.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A team of dual-degree students representing Ross, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, took first prize in a nationwide competition among student members of Net Impact in June. The competition was sponsored by xpedx®, one of the largest and premier distribution companies in North America. The firm asked students to develop a sustainability survey and scorecard for its supply chain.

The Michigan team's entry beat proposals from finalist teams at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vt., and North Carolina State University. Mary Fritz, MBA/MS '13; Elise Hunter, MBA/MS '13; John Seaver, MBA/MS '12; and Rachel Smeak, MBA/MS '13 best tackled the question of how one assesses sustainability practices throughout a diverse supply chain.

"It was a fantastic learning experience with a strong focus on actionable results," says Smeak.

Later this year, Smeak and her teammates will have the opportunity to present their work to xpedx senior leaders at its business headquarters in Cincinnati, as well as at the 2011 Net Impact Conference.

More importantly, their winning scorecard will enable xpedx to verify its suppliers' sustainability goals and policies. xpedx will launch a pilot version of the scorecard with targeted suppliers this summer and will expand to the rest of its supply chain through early 2012. xpedx's supply chain includes the leading manufacturers in the print, packaging, and facility solutions industries.

"It's wonderful to see students help advance a company's sustainability efforts," says Liz Maw, executive director, Net Impact. "We're excited to see the long-term impact of the project."

Judges in the competition represented the Environmental Defense Fund, xpedx, and three of its suppliers: Sappi Fine Paper NA, Kimberly-Clark Professional, and International Paper.

"The students from the University of Michigan did the best job of applying this sustainability survey and scorecard to xpedx's commitment to maintain sustainable operations, offer sustainable product choices, and provide leadership in sustainable business practices across the supply chain," says David Wallace, xpedx's director of sustainability.

Competition judge Millie Chu Baird is managing director, office of chief scientist, at the Environmental Defense Fund. "I commend xpedx for the overall process and approach it used to create the survey," Baird says. "As xpedx implements the survey in the market with its new scorecard, it will not only move further toward its sustainability goals, but it will also help bring thousands of suppliers along with it."

For more information, contact:
Dominique Abed, (734) 763-81557,