Event Recap

Twenty-eight University of Chicago College students who formed eight case teams recently competed in the final round of the 2024 Climate Case Competition. The Competition—presented by the Energy & Climate Club and Phoenix Sustainability Initiative and sponsored by EPIC—provided students with the opportunity to critically investigate a modern-day climate problem for a chance to win up to $3,000 in cash prizes.

The Competition partner this year was Marathon Capital, the largest independent investment bank solely dedicated to servicing the clean economy. Marathon Capital presented the following challenge:

While meaningful progress has been made in decarbonizing electricity production, carbon-intensive supply chains present an equally important challenge for the international community. Assume you are advising a Fortune 500 major logistics company with segments dedicated to maritime, air, and overland shipping. How would you decarbonize scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions for your client, assuming they committed to a goal of reaching net zero by 2040? How much would this endeavor cost over the next 15 years, and what technologies and operational changes would you suggest?

In answering this prompt, the students were expected to present the financial feasibility of their strategy and an analysis of the solution, or solutions, that would contribute to their strategy.

The 10 total teams who participated in the Competition presented their strategies to a panel of EPIC and Marathon associates earlier in April. The teams were then narrowed to eight, with a board of Marathon and independent judges hearing from the teams again on April 25. The top six teams were then announced at an April 25 symposium.

The six teams, three with qualitative solutions and three with quantitative solutions, won 1st place, 2nd place, and Honorable Mention prizes for their projects. Meet the teams and explore their projects:

INN (Qualitative 1st Place)

Team Members: Amy Ma, Evelyn Wang, Kyle Anderson, Aidan Liu

Project Summary: INN developed a comprehensive strategy to achieve decarbonization by the year 2040 for our hypothetical client, EPIC Shipping, in response to growing environmental concerns and regulatory pressures. This strategic initiative is underpinned by the company’s commitment to sustainability and its recognition of the critical need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its global operations.

“In my daily life, I’ve often heard people throw around the word net zero. I never really understood the sort of implications behind such claims. For this project, we had to read over 70-page long sustainability reports by these companies. It demonstrated to me the amount of effort, analysis, and careful consideration that has to go into making any sort of sustainability plans. The attempt to balance economic gains as well as caring for our environment is something really important and something that is a really fascinating industry.” – Amy Ma, College ’27

More on the project…

JAB (Qualitative 2nd Place)

Team Members: Annie Yang, Jonathan Yin, Brendyn Burkitt

Project Summary: JAB focused on decarbonizing maritime shipping while revolutionizing the industry with new technologies. The solution achieves decarbonization through fuel substitution, energy efficiency, and infrastructural upgrades. The team recommended multiple phases of alternative fuel adoption, starting with biofuels and transitioning to hydrogen in the long term through dual engines.

“Some of my family members have worked in the shipping industry their whole life. Being able to analyze it from a different view was pretty fulfilling for me. In my studies, I’m very focused on economics and business. Seeing how factors like environmental policy and other goals that are more than just increasing bottom line profit impact businesses was really interesting to see.” – Jonathan Yin, College ’26

More on the project…

Nature Navigators (Qualitative Honorable Mention)

Team Members: Alex Szmyd, Samantha Francis, Rakan Mouasher

Project Summary: Nature Navigators focused on transforming the overland shipping industry via two pathways. They suggested transitioning to lithium battery powered trucks for shorter distance routes, given their relatively low mileage and long charging time, and hydrogen fuel cell powered trucks for longer distances.

“One of the best things to come out of this project besides meeting my two teammates was that I got a few interviews with a startup called Aspen Power to learn more about solar power.  I don’t think I really would have looked down this avenue as a career path had I not started this project, it helped me realize that I’m very interested in this space.” – Rakan Mouasher, College ’26

More on the project…

POS (Qualitative Finalist)

Team Members: Eugenio Merloni, Lavinia Cavalet, Faris Lovejoy, Vaani Kapoor

Project Summary: POS approached this project schematically, trying to analyze each of the market trends in the industry and weighing the pros and cons of market trends of power and efficiency technologies and solutions. Their phased-out solution attempts to momentarily take ships out of commission and decarbonize the fleet by 2040 in the most economical way possible.

“When I first walked in, I didn’t know what I could bring to the table. I used to be very excited and very interested into sustainability issues, but then in the past couple years, I dedicated myself to other things. Learning about all these market trends and doing all this research really brought back that excitement about working towards a more sustainable future.” – Lavinia Cavalet, College ’25

More on the project…

Green Strategies (Quantitative 1st Place)

Team Members: Tamami Tamura, Annabel Mendoza, Christine Jonglertham

Project Summary: Green Strategies examined how Kuehne + Nagel, the world’s leading ocean and air freight forwarder by revenue, can approach decarbonization of Scopes 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. They encourage K+N to leverage their market power through contracts and partnerships to strengthen non-fuel solutions, such as efficient vessel design, across the logistics industry.

“I really enjoyed the prompt because it allowed us to bring what we learn in the classroom as data science majors, like machine learning, and apply it to something that’s like a real-life scenario.” – Tamami Tamura, College ’25

More on the project…

MPSY (Quantitative 2nd Place)

Team Members: Luigi Soriano, Judah Purwanto, Hayley Yeung, Eugene McCarty

Project Summary: MPSY proposed a 3-pronged strategy of electrifying vehicles, introducing sustainable aviation fuels, and building solar paneled warehouses to bring DHL’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions to zero. To address Scope 1 emissions, they proposed that DHL electrify the rest of their current road vehicle fleet, and that DHL commit to sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) through extending their existing partnerships with bp and Neste. To combat Scope 2 emissions, they proposed that DHL convert all of their existing buildings and facilities to be 100% powered by green sources.

“I think when we first saw the problem, we were a little overwhelmed. There were a lot of directions that we wanted to take it and we attacked all of them at once. It was very helpful to have everyone at EPIC, PSI, ECC and all the other teams give us good feedback on our solutions.” – Luigi Soriano, College ’24

More on the project…

Solar Express (Quantitative Honorable Mention)

Team Members: Eric Fang, Riley Bruce, Charlie White, Jared Maksoud, Isaiah Matute

Project Summary: Solar Express used Kuehne and Nagel’s Annual 2022 Report and Sustainability Report to get a grasp of their market power, the technologies they were already using, and how we could work to further augment their sustainability goals to align with our decarbonization plan. The final total cost of a total decarbonizing KN to net-zero was $4.96B discounted back to today. They found that this seems to be relatively feasible for KN considering they should generate a total sum of FCF of $16.87B over the same period. With their cash alone it can be done, but if they factor in the use of a green premium which is standard, they can back solve to get an NPV neutral project. For this decarbonization project to come at no cost to KN, they would have to charge a green premium of 15.1% over the next 16 years.

“I’m happy that the competition issue was climate change because we can really apply that towards solving an important and pressing issue of our time. I also appreciated the chance to speak to people in the industry and also in the college during the process, like our Booth mentor Alastair Nojek, who was really instrumental for advising us with the entire process. We also met with several consultants in the industry that helped us with our sustainability metrics and models. I really appreciate the chance to interact with a lot of people, and also to use a lot of the skills that we’ve learned in school.” – Eric Fang, College ’25

More on the project…

Green Data (Qualitative Finalist)

Team Members: Tanvi Siddhaye, Chen Wei Hu

Project Summary: Green Data focused on the Fortune 500 logistics company United Parcel Service, a large player in the logistics market and an equally large CO2 emitter on the global scale. Their solution involved a total adoption of sustainable aviation fuels, total ground transportation electrification, and 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2040 in order to reduce UPS’ Scope 1 and 2 emissions to zero by 2040.

“This opportunity came at an intersection of both tracks of my studies, economics and environmental science. I learned a lot about accounting and financial modeling in the world of climate. I think some cool and maybe even upsetting things that I learned is that there is not a lot of transparency of emissions data. When it comes to large fortune 500 companies, they’re really good at greenwashing in their greenhouse gas reports. So that was a fun thing to investigate and really deconstruct why those things are happening and also model it in a quantitative way.” – Tanvi Siddhaye, College ’25

More on the project…