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Subway, Cornell University Students Partner to Reduce Restaurant Waste

The partnership will help further the brand's commitment to reduce waste across the nation's largest network of restaurants.

Subway restaurants announced its partnership with Cornell University's M.B.A. program. The partnership brings innovative thinking to help further the brand's commitment to reduce waste across the nation's largest network of restaurants from sustainability-minded business students.

Students from Cornell's graduate M.B.A. Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion Program work on multidisciplinary teams to apply their knowledge to corporate or nongovernmental organization-sponsored projects focused on social and environmental issues. For Subway, the students' assignment is to develop recommendations to further reduce waste at the restaurant level across a network of more than 24,000 independently owned restaurants in the United States—all with varying local waste removal contracts, as well as differing state and local guidelines.

"Partnering with Cornell University's SGE Immersion Program allows us to tap into the next generation of business and sustainability leaders who will give us new insights and ideas for continuing to reduce waste at the restaurant level," said John Scott, vice president of quality and sustainability for Subway restaurants, in a statement. "This is an opportunity for these Cornell students and Subway to learn from each other while finding a way to improve communities. For the students, it's a chance to see the challenges and opportunities we face as a global company firsthand and explore ways to address those challenges. And for Subway, we're thrilled to get a fresh and unique perspective from the students to help us find a different way to lighten our environmental footprint."

"Sustainability is a context for sharpening management decision-making skills, and businesses are in a unique position to address the world's most pressing problems,” said Cornell SGE Immersion Program Director and Professor Mark Milstein in a statement. “The SGE Immersion Program emphasizes the application of creativity, innovation and critical thinking to solve real business and sustainability problems. Immersing themselves in a business challenge like this one allows our M.B.A. students to hone those skills, while they offer a tremendous resource to companies like Subway."

Working with Subway, students have immersed themselves in the brand's sustainability efforts, while working to address one of the world's most pressing concerns—waste reduction. The four-student Cornell team visited Subway restaurants to review current practices in both front of house and back of house operations, surveyed more than 2,000 franchise owners on current waste management efforts and conducted extensive industry research.  

"This has been a great way for both parties to learn from one another,” said Cornell M.B.A. candidate Pamela Graybeal, of Chadds Ford, Pa., in a statement. “The complexity of waste management infrastructure across the U.S. has such a large impact on how a company like Subway—with its expansive network of store locations—can develop a waste management plan that works for all."

"After the Cornell students present their findings, we will thoroughly review their report, and a project team will evaluate the feasibility of implementing their recommendations," said Andrea Seek, director of global sustainability for Subway, in a statement. "We know we will all be learning from this effort and are excited to use the students' work as a catalyst to drive future change."

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