Beauty, but make it green: UBC Sauder students win big at L’Oréal innovation case competition

Posted 2020-04-14

A team of three second-year BCom students won the 2020 L’Oréal Brandstorm National Finals in Montreal on March 9. The beauty giant challenged students to develop new ways to reduce or eliminate plastic in the industry. With their innovative methane-based packaging concept, Danique Ehmann, Claire Polkosnik and Matt Chin secured victory, summer internships at L’Oréal, and the chance to represent Canada in the competition’s global finals that will be held online in June.

For its 29th year of competition, Brandstorm brought together more than 40,000 students from 65 countries and regions in pursuit of one challenge: build a plastic-less future in the beauty industry. It’s no small task considering the packaging industry for beauty and personal care products is estimated to represent nearly $35 billion in global sales.

“Incredible,” “very exciting,” and “surreal” are the ways second-year Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) students Danique Ehmann, Claire Polkosnik, and Matt Chin describe their first-place finish in the 2020 L’Oréal Brandstorm National Finals.

“It was crazy, because we went there just to have a good time, for the experience,” says Ehmann, who’s specializing in Global Supply Chain and Logistics Management. “And then we won, and the support that we’ve got online from the UBC Sauder community and all of our friends has been crazy.”

Competing as Team FWD, Ehmann, Polkosnik and Chin were selected from a pool of 150 teams to compete in the National Finals, held in L’Oréal Canada’s Montreal headquarters. Only ten teams from six different schools were given the chance to pitch their concepts to a panel of judges that included Frank Kollmar, L’Oréal Canada’s president and CEO, Elise Hanen, the company’s vice-president of human resources, and Rachelle Claveau, president of Publicis Montreal, L’Oréal’s marketing agency.

Team FWD’s winning concept paired two innovations: methane-based packaging and concentrated tablet versions of liquid-based products. The packaging concept cuts out plastic by employing a methane composite that breaks down as part of a circular production process. The tablets, on the other hand, concentrate five times as much product in the same volume to reduce water consumption and the size of the carbon footprint associated with shipping.

“I think the reason why we won is because we took it a step further,” Ehmann says. “Everyone else just did packaging, but we also thought about the consumer side of it.”

With their win, Team FWD will participate in the worldwide virtual finals in June and pitch their ideas to L’Oréal executives based in Paris. The team has also secured summer internships with the company’s marketing team, and the opportunity to attend the One Young World Summit 2020.

A team effort

The team adds that the support they’ve received from the UBC Sauder community has been invaluable, especially from team coach Tim Silk, a senior instructor in UBC Sauder’s Marketing and Behavioural Science Division, and from Laine McDonald, a business development manager at the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre.

“Tim has been such a big part in our success,” says Chin, who’s specializing in Finance. “I feel like we would definitely not be here without the support of Tim and Laine. UBC Sauder has really given us those resources to help us succeed.”

“I just really want to emphasize how grateful and appreciative we are of the help we’ve gotten from Tim and Laine, and the mentorship and support that we’ve gotten from the UBC Sauder community. It has been kind of unreal,” says Polkosnik, who’s specializing in Marketing.

UBC Sauder was also represented at the National Finals by a second group of talented students, Team Grow, which included Jennifer Tsang, Maxine Chen and Philman Yeung. The students introduced an innovative seed-infused packaging concept that featured 100 per cent biodegradable packaging made of seed paper and seaweed lining that grows into flowers.