Consumers are more likely to give their loyalty to a brand that they perceive as socially conscious. Ever since the rise in popularity of the Food Network and the resultant food-mindedness, consumers are becoming more aware of food waste. Now a brand is factoring that concern in as it enters an exciting new partnership.
Subway has announced its partnership with Cornell University’s MBA 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 MBA Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion Program work on multidisciplinary teams to apply their knowledge to corporate or NGO-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, each 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,” says John Scott, Vice President Quality and Sustainability for Subway restaurants.
“This is an opportunity for these Cornell students and Subway to learn from each other while finding a way to improve communities,” Scott says. “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.”
Working with Subway, students have immersed themselves in the brand’s sustainability efforts, 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 front- and back-of-house operations. The team surveyed more than 2,000 franchise owners on current waste management efforts and conducted extensive industry research.
Cornell SGE Immersion Program Director Professor Mark Milstein says, “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. 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 MBA students to hone those skills, while they offer a tremendous resource to companies like Subway.”
Cornell MBA candidate Pamela Graybeal says, “This has been a great way for both parties to learn from one another. The complexity of waste management infrastructure across the US 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.”
Andrea Seek, Director of Global Sustainability for Subway, adds, “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. 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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