COMM 487/597 — Instructor: Prof. Werner Antweiler
Course Project

The projects are aimed at particular firms or facilities and their concrete (local) environmental challenges and environmental management practices. Students are encouraged to seek direct contact with companies to learn about their business practices for addressing the related environmental problems.

About the Project

The purpose of the project is to develop an in-depth understanding of the business practices of a particular company as it pertains to the development of an environmental technology, environmental good, or environmental service. The key objectives of each presentation are to (a) present the company and the industry in which it operates; (b) identify the environmental challenges faced by the particular facility and the industry in general; and (c) critically assess the record of a facility's current approach to environmental management and its environmental record in light of economic-ecologic trade-offs.

Project List

Thursday, November 16, 2017: renewable energy
  • Team A: Pattern Energy / Meikle Wind Farm in Peace Region, BC.
    or Northland Power: Gemini Offshore Wind Farm in The Netherlands
  • Team B: Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India / photovoltaics
    or Solana Generating Station, Arizona / parabolic mirrors
  • Team C: Borealis GeoPower / Geothermal power plant in Canoe Reach, BC.
    or MeyGen Tidal Power Plant, Scotland
Tuesday, November 21, 2017: water management
  • Team D: Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant (North Vancouver).
  • Team E: Nexus eWater, Greyter Water Systems (Greywater Treatment).
  • Team F: Victorian Desalination Plant (Melbourne Australia).
Thursday, November 23, 2017: urban mobility: busines models and policies
  • Team G: Bike-Sharing, Mobi by Shaw (Vancouver)
    — compare against other companies and cities.
  • Team H: Car-Sharing, Evo by BCAA (Vancouver)
    — compare against Daimler's car2go.
  • Team I: Mobility pricing
    —compare Stockhholm, London, and Seattle.

This list is a suggestion. Within each theme, I am ready to accommodate similar projects or companies upon request, provided that the project is feasible within the time constraints of the course. In some instances I have accommodated entirely different environmental management topics, for example if a group of students is working on a university-funded resesarch program. You are welcome to suggest suitable alternative projects.

Teams should meet with the instructor to discuss the outline of the presentation and report.

Team Selection

Teams must be formed by the beginning of the third week of classes at the latest. You need to form a team of three or four students. Projects will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis in order of the e-mail submitted to the instructor. Include the names of all team members and their student numbers. In addition to specifying your first choice, you should also identify at least two alternative projects in case your first choice is already taken. Please click on the "Teams" button in the menu above to sign up for the project and check on the status of assigned projects. Applications will only be accepted if at least three students have signed up for a team. To facilitate team formation, I will help identify students who are still looking for team members at the beginning of classes. Students who fail to sign up voluntarily for teams will be assigned at random to those teams that still have less than the maximum number of students.
 
After forming a team, team members should exchange their e-mail addresses or other suitable contact addresses. Teams should plan on regular meetings to start the research. Teams that experience any problems organizing meetings, or experience "free-riding" issues, should contact the instructor immediately well in advance of the presentation.

Preparing the Presentation

After you have formed a team and have been assigned a project, your team has about one month time to research the project. In this course, project vary each year and generally fall into two broad categories: environmental issues projects and company projects. The latter is more common.

For an environmental issue project: start with the available research and research data of the underlying environmental problem. How does the problem affect human health or the ecosystem? Itemize the different solutions or mitigation strategies that are either available currently or are still under development or experimental. What are the main challenges in deploying such solutions? Can businesses deploy solutions themselves, or do they depend on government regulation to set standards? What are the incentives for businesses to develop appropriate solutions? What prevents them from developing or deploying solutions? Continue ranking the available technologies in terms of efficacy and cost. What are the environmental-economic trade-offs? Also discuss the interaction between stakeholder groups: businesses, governments, communities.

For a company-related project: start with the company and identify the company's business model. Understand the company's strength and weaknesses. Identify the company's core core competence (often: a particular technology) and delineate it against that of competing companies and technologies. You should also discuss pertinent industry dynamics, interactions with governments (e.g., incentives, subsidies, regulation), supply chain issues (sourcing and distribution), complementary technologies (e.g., fuel cells and hydrogen production), and consumer issues (e.g., product perception, consumer inertia). Ultimately, you should conduct an analysis of both the economic value proposition (i.e., profitability) and the environmental value propostion (i.e., environmental gains).

Presentation

Our classroom is set up for multimedia presentations. You only need to bring a USB memory stick with your PowerPoint or PDF presentation. You are also required to send a copy of your presentation to me before 09:00 on the day of the presentation. You also need to provide me with a handout showing all the slides in the presentation (with space for notes). I strongly recommend that you rehearse your presentation at least once before your actual presentation. Make sure that you stay within your allotted time frame of 15 minutes for your presentations. There is a five point penalty for exceeding your allotted time frame by more than 3 minutes. In fairness to the other presenting team on each presentation day, I need to cut off any team that exceeds 20 minutes. Each presentation is followed by a 5-minute question and answer period.

When delivering your presentation, try to convince the audience through the logic and consistency of your arguments. Do not embellish facts, and avoid swamping your presentation with incomprehensible statistics. Use numbers and statistics sparingly, and when you use them, they should make a point. Keep in mind that statistics should be presented in a way that make them comparable and intuitive. Avoid using absolute figures (e.g., GDP in $); rather use relative figures (e.g., GDP per capita). If you can visualize statistics, this often works better than presenting numbers in a table. Typical mistakes in presentations involve the over-use of presentation technology. Avoid clutter on presentation slides and technical gimmicks.

In regard to the style of your presentation, avoid reading from a prepared script. Try to speak freely (although you may consult your notes or presentation slides). Make eye contact with your audience. Do not rush through your presentation. Instead, emphasize the important issues. Remember that "less is often more". You should prioritize your material and apply a relevance test before including material in your presentation. While I require that all team members participate actively in the presentation, team members do not need to speak for an equal length of time. Each presentation will be followed by a discussion during which the audience is required to pose questions to the presenting teams. Members of the audience should be prepared to ask challenging questions. Participation during this phase will contribute to your participation grade

Evaluation

The presentation grade is determined as a weighted average of the following evaluation criteria: (i) breadth and comprehensiveness of the research; (ii) depth and thoroughness of the research; and (iii) effectivness of communiation. These items will be weighted 3-4-3. Grades will not be assigned until all presentations have been held, and then will be posted in the grades retrieval system on this course web site.

Peer evaluations across teams will form part of the process of assigning grades for the presentations. Presentations may be video-recorded for evaluation purposes or on request by individual teams. All presentations are audio-recorded and the recordings made available to the corresponding team members only.

The scores from the peer evaluation forms are averaged and combined with the instructor's evaluations by assigning a weight of 1 to each student and 16 for the instructor. This procedure gives the instructor a weight of about one-third and the students a total weight of about two-thirds, and results in an evaluation raw score. Raw scores are normalized to percentage grades by fixing a target mean and a target standard deviation. Typically, the resulting grades fall within a 10-12 point range.

Report

Following the presentation, each team then prepares a written report detailing the elements of the project and responding to feedback on the presentation from the class and instructor. A report should be no less than 5 pages and no more than 10 pages in length. Appendices with figures and/or tables may be added freely. An additional page should list all sources and references. Reports are due on the last day of classes. A single mark for the project will be provided based on equal weights on the presentation and report.

In addition to your research the report should also reflect any questions or points raised during the discussion immediately following the presentation. The course syllabus contains details on the permitted length of the report. Remember that a key point of this exercise is to demonstrate the ability to condense, prioritize and rank the importance of information. Information sources (including web sites) must be cited appropriately either in footnotes or in a separate bibliography at the end of the report.

Below is a section overview of a typical report that is focused on a particular environmental problem:

  1. Overview of the environmental problem
  2. Origin (sources) of the environmental problem
  3. Effect of the environmental problem on public health or the ecosystem
  4. Available technologies or solutions for mitigation
  5. Comparison of efficacy and cost of mitigation strategies
  6. Overview of competing businesses and/or business models that provide mitigation technologies
  7. Stakeholder issues and public policy issues
  8. Conclusions and Recommendations

Below is a section overview of a typical report that is focused on a particular business:

  1. Company Overview: history, purpose, partners, ownership
  2. Core Competence: technology, R&D, assets
  3. Company Structure and Operation: internal organization, production and production locations, outsourcing, supply chain issues, sourcing partners, distribution partners, cash flow, company financials.
  4. Business Environment and Industry Context: competitors, strategic partners, competing technologies, complementary technologies
  5. Consumer/Customer Issues: perception issues, marketing
  6. Evaluation of Business Model and Value Proposition
  7. Evaluation of Environmental Benefits
  8. Conclusions and Recommendations
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