For Daniel Isaacs, a cup of coffee turned into a learning opportunity for his students.
This summer, Isaacs took a coffee break from designing a new Online MBA Sustainability in Business course. As he walked to Temple University’s Saxbys café, he thought about the central questions for his course, which included how businesses are looking to reduce waste and increase efficiency and profit through sustainability.
At the Saxbys counter, Isaacs, an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Temple’s Fox School of Business, asked, “What does the café do with its used coffee grounds?”
“The manager responded, we throw them out — anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds each day,” Isaacs said. Then he realized, “I had a real-world example that my students could use to apply the sustainability concepts that we would study.”
Using the figure from Temple’s Saxbys café as his guide, Isaacs estimated that close to 500,000 pounds of used grounds were left unused annually between Saxbys’ 14 Philadelphia-area locations. Isaacs explained that “to maximize efficiency, companies need to search their value chains for waste.” And citing Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, he added that, “waste equals food.”
Isaacs challenged his MBA students to develop a consulting project around the use of Saxbys disposed coffee grounds. The students, from Fox’s Online and Part-Time MBA programs, were to create strategies for how Saxbys could best put to use the used grounds. This provided the students with an opportunity for experiential learning, which is integral to the Fox School’s fabric.
The result: In August, two students delivered their findings and recommendations to executives in a presentation at Saxbys’ corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Ittai Marom and Ashley Murgatroyd compiled the strongest findings from the class to develop a comprehensive presentation.
For Murgatroyd, she liked the idea of offering the grounds to local farmers for use in their composting piles. “In theory, that works,” she said, “but from a practical sense, composting can only take a certain percentage of coffee grounds, so the grounds would have needed to be more widely dispersed.”
Marom believed strongly in a redesigned atmosphere at Saxbys locations, with space in each café reserved for growing plants and herbs, and producing compost to be used to make and bake products for the individual shops.
Isaacs said he has since spoken with representatives of Saxbys, who conveyed their positive feedback from the presentation. CEO and founder Nick Bayer referenced one of Saxbys’ core values: “We do more with less. We believe in finding ways to be sustainable in everything we do every day.”
“Years after you finish a degree, the courses that stand out are those that involve practical, hands-on learning,” said Marom, who will complete his Fox Part-Time MBA in May 2017. “I don’t think I’ll soon forget this course, and this project.”
“In MBA classes, it’s important to learn theories that you can ultimately put into practice,” said Murgatroyd, who will complete her Fox Part-Time MBA in December 2017. “That’s what we accomplished for Saxbys, and it was great to see their senior leadership group process our research and evaluate our suggestions.”