"Green" Eggs and Ham: Target Mapping Makes University Food More Sustainable and Unites Disparate Groups: Western Washington University Students, Professors, Administrators, and a Key Service Provider Used Target Mapping to Implement Sustainable Practices in Food Purchasing and Waste Management While Achieving Financial Expectations

By Taylor, Audrey; Lockhart, Julie et al. | Management Accounting Quarterly, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

"Green" Eggs and Ham: Target Mapping Makes University Food More Sustainable and Unites Disparate Groups: Western Washington University Students, Professors, Administrators, and a Key Service Provider Used Target Mapping to Implement Sustainable Practices in Food Purchasing and Waste Management While Achieving Financial Expectations


Taylor, Audrey, Lockhart, Julie, Myers, Olin Eugene, Seth, Vidana, Simon, Ira, Kenney, Chris, DeLise, Isabelle, Packard, Ben, Lind, Brendan, Management Accounting Quarterly


The campus community at Western Washington University (WWU), located in Bellingham, Wash., embraces sustainability through both administration support and grassroots efforts. One of the objectives of WWU's strategic plan states that engaged excellence is demonstrated "in environmental stewardship and sustainable practices throughout programs, scholarship, and actions." (1) Thus, the administration funded the WWU Office of Sustainability and launched a Sustainability Committee composed of representatives from all campus constituencies.

On the academic side, WWU's Huxley College of the Environment produces students well-versed in methods for achieving sustainability. Additionally, courses linking specific academic areas with sustainability have sprung up all over campus. (2) The student body voted to purchase alternative energy sources with student fees and is working toward carbon neutrality for student-related events and travel. It is in this milieu that the WWU Office of Sustainability, faculty members, and Huxley students approached Sodexo, the national corporation handling food services on campus, to increase its purchases of food from local producers. The "buy local" campaign aims to help achieve sustainability through decreased transportation costs, reduced environmental damage, and increased support for the local economy.

Audrey Taylor and Julie Lockhart of WWU's Department of Accounting got involved in this project by offering a methodology that would help move Sodexo's campus operations toward increased sustainable practices by linking metrics with goals. Target mapping is a method that takes an organization toward its goals through a series of steps, beginning with the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). (3) Initially, Taylor and Lockhart met with and explained the process to Huxley professor Gene Myers, campus sustainability coordinator Seth Vidana, and three undergraduate students from Myers's Campus Planning Studio course: Isabelle DeLise, Ben Packard, and Brendan Lind. The Campus Planning Studio is a hands-on, research-based class in which students evaluate methods of implementing more sustainable functions on campus. It is a problems-based course. Members of this team then met with two Sodexo representatives: Ira Simon, director of Dining Services, and Chris Kenney, director of operations.

Everyone was game to try the Target Mapping process to help Sodexo fulfill the request to buy more locally produced food. Target Mapping can help transform an organization. The steps are as follows:

1. List the Ambitious Target or BHAG.

2. List the obstacles that block the company from reaching the target.

3. Determine what would have to be true to make each obstacle disappear. That item is named an intermediate objective (IO).

4-5. Order the IOs chronologically until the Ambitious Target is reached. Determine which specific actions are needed.

6. Determine the metrics needed to monitor whether each IO has been achieved.

CREATING THE BHAG

An important piece for Sodexo in creating the BHAG was to include profitability in conjunction with the goal of buying local produce. Corporate headquarters had been putting pressure on Simon to improve profitability numbers for the WWU campus operations. Complicating this desire for financial success were University regulations limiting the profit that Dining Services (DS) could earn. The University requires that meals be sold at reduced prices so that meal plans are affordable. DS must stay within a predetermined profit range in order to maintain the contract with WWU. At the time, DS had not met its profitability targets because of an expensive expansion and update of one of the campus sites.

Adding fuel to the request to Sodexo was the State of Washington legislature, which was considering a law requiring state agencies to purchase local goods. …

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"Green" Eggs and Ham: Target Mapping Makes University Food More Sustainable and Unites Disparate Groups: Western Washington University Students, Professors, Administrators, and a Key Service Provider Used Target Mapping to Implement Sustainable Practices in Food Purchasing and Waste Management While Achieving Financial Expectations
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