Bringing Technology into the classroom to engage students in Sustainability – Victoria University of Wellington

yasawa-3The Managing Visitor Impacts course at Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand was designed to deepen student’s understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing them to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. A key part of the course is a group role-play scenario where students take a virtual fieldtrip based on a real Fijian island.

I spoke with Christian Schott from the School of Management at Victoria Business School about how he created and delivers this innovative course.

What is the Managing Visitor Impacts course?

The course was first taught in 2001 in recognition of the fact that tourism as an activity has both positive and negative impacts on the economy, environment, host community of a country or destination. These impacts need to be carefully managed and the course is designed around the concept of Sustainable Tourism Development as the impact assessment as well as the impact management framework.  The course also places great emphasis on applying a critical lens when examining current practices in tourism.

What happens during the course?

The students are put into groups of four students to work on a fictional contract with a fictional company, Synergy Tourism Consultants. The team had secured a contract to work on a (fictional) collaborative initiative between the Government of Fiji and NZ Aid to determine whether strategic sustainable tourism development of a remote Fijian island would result in the positive impacts (economic, environmental, socio-cultural) outweighing the negative ones.  As part of this fieldwork task students were exposed to many economic, environmental, social and cultural dynamics typical of a developing country as well as the island’s vulnerability to climate change.  Students were advised to ‘weave’ what they had learned in the lectures and readings into how they ‘digest’ what they learn on the virtual fieldtrip.

Students started their visit to the virtual island at the same point where boats arrive on the real island and proceeded to the Community Hall in the centre of the village to ‘virtually’ meet the community as part of the customary Fijian ‘I sevusevu’ (welcoming) ceremony by watching an ‘in-world’ video of the ceremony at the same place where it was recorded.  After this key piece of Fijian cultural protocol was satisfied, students set off on their fieldwork which included interviewing a range of community members (through videos embedded in the virtual island).  Informed by this fieldwork each project team had to decide whether they supported tourism development on the island or whether they would argue against tourism development.  The teams working on a sustainable tourism development proposal had to address five key criteria, while the teams proposing that no development should take place were asked to discuss the rationale behind their decision by addressing the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural reasons.  Following the group proposal each student was asked to write a reflective essay on this topic: reflect on how the fieldwork on the virtual island impacted on your learning (catalysts and challenges) and critically assess how such technology could be used by the tourism industry.

How is technology used in the course?

The virtual fieldtrip taken by students is based on a real Fijian island which I replicated using virtual reality software. The virtual island was based on extensive research I did in Fiji and accessible for students to explore by using the university computers or their home computer.  The project started by using Open Sim software (akin to Second Life) but has since embraced the latest in 3D gaming software by using the software package Unity.


This type of virtual reality technology, which can be further enhanced by using Virtual Reality headsets, thus fully immersing the student in the virtual environment, is very powerful in highlighting both the need for a more sustainable approach to Tourism Management by allowing the students to experience both the negative and positive impacts of tourism in a meaningful context (such as a village), as well as in forcing students to confront the realities and tensions that emerge when a tourism development plan is devised.


In keeping with the philosophy of using 21st century technology, both as a way of accessing information as well as developing skills for a more digitally focused future job market, the student groups reported the outcome of their fieldwork by using a wiki (online collaborative and media enhanced platform which can be accessed from anywhere in the world). Subsequently students write individual reflections about the experience of doing the virtual fieldtrip using a blog tool.

What have been some of the challenges? 

Technical support to resolve software and connectivity issues for the multiplayer version has been a challenge over the years; but with an increasing focus on digital technology and digital learning at VUW these issues are expected to become less prominent.  A few years ago when I was using Open Sim I was amazed to find that after using the program for about a year it became the victim of a cyber-vandalism which took several weeks to rectify; but the new version is no longer hosted on the web which means that cyber-attacks are luckily no longer possible.


The greatest success has been how the students have responded to the virtual fieldtrip.  Each year I do formal research on the pedagogical impact of the virtual fieldtrip and the findings have shown year after year that students respond in a very positive way and feel that it assists their learning about this important topic in a variety of ways.  A particularly noteworthy aspect is that the virtual fieldtrip fosters experiential learning which renders the learning process more meaningful and effective than for example reading a book chapter or journal article about the Fijian island instead. There has also been substantial interest from the academic community, which has resulted in the publication of a book chapter and several conference presentations about the virtual fieldtrip and its impact on student learning.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

To align how and what we teach with contemporary society and technology I think that there is a place for virtual fieldtrips in many disciplines; particularly in disciplines where a real fieldtrip would be highly beneficial but is not feasible because of financial constraints or concerns about liability on real fieldtrips.  Appropriate resourcing by the institution both in terms of funding for the development of the software and in terms of technical expertise to resolve issues is imperative.

What’s next for the initiative?

I have been running experiments to explore the use of virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift as an even more immersive and effective way of experiencing the virtual island and its communities; I currently use the software as a screen version.  There are still some limitations with VR headsets for such a large and multifaceted environment but I will continue to pursue their incorporation into virtual fieldtrips.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

The United Nations proclaimed 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in recognition of the tremendous potential of the tourism industry, which accounts for some 10% of the world’s economic activity. This is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution of sustainable tourism towards development among public and private sector decision-makers and the public while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change. The year aims to promote tourism’s role in the areas of

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
  • Cultural values, diversity and heritage, and
  • Mutual understanding, peace and security

Many business schools around the world have programmes focused on the topic of sustainable tourism.

Ted Rogers School of Management in Canada has a course on sustainable tourism called ‘The Golden Goose’. The course examines social responsibility and sustainability issues at both the micro and macro levels of the industry and examines the impact and solutions to both local and global issues. Case study analysis is an integral component of the course and the major focus will be to discuss and debate solutions and strategies for ethically optimizing business while minimizing adverse effects. They also have an Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Research that further explores these topics.

Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism in Australia is actively contributing to the International Year through its research projects including its Tourism and Economics programme, Tourism Business in the Asia Pacific programme, Sustainable Tourism and Climate Change programme, Visitor Experience programme and Sustainable Tourism for Regional Growth Training programmes. The Institute has also designed a Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard that tracks global progress towards sustainable tourism development.

Corvinus University of Budapest  and the Municipality of Budapest established a joint agreement with the Department of Tourism to promote research and development goals in regarding the complex cultural development of the Ferencváros district. The first project aimed at re-designing a special dining and cultural street of the district with an aim to increase sustainable tourism. The student research project involved over 60 students, working with four professors. 700 Hungarian and 300 international visitors were surveyed over the three months of the project.

Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK is working with Positive Impact, a not-for-profit organisation that provides education for the sustainable events industry, to produce an industry report that outlines a number of key sustainable areas and points of action for the event industry. This includes an estimate of the global carbon footprint and global food waste of the events industry as well as an investigatory piece about the power of behaviour change that events have including social impacts. The report is being presented as part of the ‘Year of Sustainable Tourism Development’.

The International Centre of Studies on Tourism Economics (CISET) at CA’Foscari University of Venice in Italy supports and promotes tourism as an engine of economic growth and social development, capable of producing material and cultural wealth for local, national and international businesses and destinations. The approach of the centre is a blend of academic expertise and business know-how, based on a strong synergy between research studies and consultancy services. CISET provide the tourist industry, local administrations and future tourism operators with the tools to approach the market in innovative ways.

JAMK’s Tourism and Hospitality department in Finland organised the 12th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations last June. They also played a major role in establishing, and is now coordinating, the International Centre for Responsible Tourism Finland. In the summer of 2016 they organised an international summer school called ‘For Seasons in Responsible Tourism’ and are launching a new course in 2017 on Responsible Tourism.

A faculty member at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has developed a course called Managing Visitor Impact designed to deepen students’ understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing students to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. A key part of the course is a group role-play scenario where students take a virtual field trip based on a real Fijian island.

The Teaching Agrotourism course at University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur in Switzerland focuses on the interface of agriculture and tourism by combining aspects of sustainable agriculture and ecological tourism. The focus is on the interaction between tourism and a sustainable family-farming project. As compared to any kind of mass tourism, this specific form of tourism is directly supporting this regional livelihood. Chur faculty also do research focused on entrepreneurial tourism development in Georgia.

EADA in Spain is doing research on sustainability in the tourism and hospitality industry focused on how the industry can use sustainability not just as a way of absorbing societal costs and changes in the business environment, but to create value and transform those costs into higher revenue.

The Degree in Tourism Management at the Universidad de Occidente in Mexico aims to train experts in the management of tourism organisations and projects with the ability to make ethical, social and environmental decisions. It looks at innovation within this industry and how it impacts society. One of the three focus areas of the programme is centred on Tourism and Sustainable Development

The official website for the year provides a range of resources and links to events happening all over the world around this topic. It also has links to publications that cover the topic of sustainability from a business perspective that can be used in the classroom. The Global Compact also has some resources on the Tourism industry including a webinar on Good Practices to Address Human Trafficking in Travel and Tourism.


For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.


2016 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)

It is once again time for PRiMEtime’s year-end review. 2016 was another exciting year with a lot of innovative new initiatives and approaches at business schools around the world embedding responsible leadership and sustainability into their programmes. PRiMEtime provides an extensive and growing database of examples from schools around the world on how to embed sustainability, ethics and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education as well as tips on how to move forward. (Click here for Part 1).



Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management’s Impact Investing Lab launched in 2013 aims to become a reference point at the national and international level to support the development of impact investing as a new investment approach and engages students in its development. In February a number of business competitions for students developing new business ideas were featured around the SDG issues including events at the University of California, Berkeley, INSEAD, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Singapore Management University.

As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies to highlight in the classroom. Featured sustainable business examples collected from faculty in 2016 included:


JAMK University of Applied Sciences’s United for Refugees Programme supports continuing education of newcomers and asylum seekers in Finland, in particular those with extensive professional experience who are also highly educated. The University of Western Australia’s Social Impact Festival brings together individuals and organisations who are committed to making Western Australia a better place. The festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth all focused around exploring the different aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals.



The Student Ambassador Campaign at Antwerp Management School aims to engage students in sustainability discussions and, in particular the SDGs and involve them in a range of activities to make their campus and communities more sustainable. The Public-Private platform at Copenhagen Business School is a combination of interdisciplinary research, teaching and public engagement that helps moblise, foster and develop society wide solutions to pressing matters of public concern.

The month of June was focused on exploring programmes and opportunities at business schools aimed at Indigenous students in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. As the guardians of 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, the 370 million Indigenous people living around the world are increasingly being represented and supported by a range of innovative programmes business schools. A first post introduced Indigenous people around the world and provided a range of resources that can be used in the classroom to raise awareness about not just Indigenous issues but also Indigenous business. The University of Waikato in New Zealand has developed an MBA that fosters Maori values and Indigenous ways of doing business while also exploring real world business challenges that involve and are relevant to indigenous business and industry. In Canada, Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University has gone from having very few Indigenous students to having a range of programmes including an Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business & Leadership open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. At the University of New South Wales in Australia, the Nura Gili unit provides pathways for prospective Indigenous students to study in all faculties and programmes including student support, tutorial and study spaces. It also promotes Indigenous studies programmes, academics and researchers.



The Managing Visitor Impacts course at Victoria Business School in New Zealand was designed to deepen students’ understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing them to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. IAE’s International Development Department invited companies from industrial sectors in Argentina to come to the school to share experiences and reflect on how to improve sustainability in these sectors. In the US, San Francisco State University’s College of BusinessHigh School Summer Sustainability Workshop pairs faculty and MBA students with high school students to explore a range of sustainability topics including fair trade, life cycle analysis, and responsible consumption and production. The Nestle/Nova Best Paper Award, a partnership between Nestle and Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal allows students to develop their final Master’s thesis around the area of marketing specifically children consumer behavior. TERI University in India is focused on implementing several of the SDGs in particular Goal 12 around Sustainable Consumption and Production. They have partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and Switch Asia to create a special training programme around the topic.



IESA in Venezuela has developed an innovative programme focused on effective governance from training legislators and members of parliaments to be able to do their jobs better. On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People PRiMEtime featured an innovative partnership at La Trobe University to develop future Indigenous business leaders in the Public sector. A post in May provided an overview of the range of resources offered by the UN Global Compact on the topic of Anti- Corruption specifically as it relates to Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Part 2 provided a range of ways that academic institutions can get involved in UN Global Compact anti-corruption projects.



Glasgow Caledonian University brings together big names from across the fashion industry through their Fair Fashion Centre to offer different perspectives on sustainable development and help identify new solutions for fashion and retail industry. Reykjavik University hosts Festa, the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded by six Icelandic companies to further discussions on CSR in Iceland.

In July a special three part series on developing partnerships with the UN Global Compact locally was featured. Part 1 looked at how business schools are working with Global Compact offices locally and promoting the Ten Principles of the Global Compact. Part 2 looked at how business schools are promoting and providing training around the Ten Principles of the Global Compact. Part 3 looked at how schools are working with Global Compact Local Networks on specific sustainability issues. It also explored eight places to find business partners for sustainability projects (Part 1 and Part 2)

There were also a series of blogs featuring a number of resources to assist schools in engaging in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as an overview of the different ways that management education and the UN are collaborating.


Looking Forward

2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year. As we start really diving into the SDGs we will, and are already seeing a growing number of schools not only raising awareness about the SDGs on campus but really embedding them into their operations, research, reporting and curriculum. Then of course there is the Global Forum for Responsible Management Education – 7th PRME Assembly which will be taking place on the 18-19 of July in New York City. In 2017 Primetime will be focused on celebrating the 10-year anniversary of PRME and focused on further exploring how business schools can be key players in moving the SDGs forward.

For more innovative examples of how business schools are embedding sustainability, and the SDGs, you may be interested in following where I will be posting one example a day for 100 days featuring many PRME Signatories.

Thank you for a fantastic 2016 and for contributing all of your good practice examples and stories. We encourage you to engage with the discussion and promotion of PRME and the Sustainable Development Agenda on all levels, including through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As always if you would like to share your initiatives with the PRiMEtime community please do get in touch at

Happy New Year!

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Italy, Australia, and New Zealand



As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Italy, Australia, and New Zealand.

Manuela Brusoni and Veronica Vecchi, SDA Bocconi School of Management, Italy

Consumer banking sector Intesa Sanpaolo: Within the Intesa Sanpaolo Group, Banca Prossima is the bank with the mission of serving non-profit organisations, with a specific service model, products and consulting services dedicated to this type of customers. The Bank has developed a rating model for social businesses that integrates the traditional methods of bank analysis with elements peculiar to the third sector, such as the ability in fundraising. Furthermore, Banca Prossima launched in 2011 “Terzo Valore”, a crowdfunding portal which allows anyone to lend or donate money to non-profit organisation projects directly, without intermediaries and with principal repayment guaranteed by the Bank.

Food sector Barilla: Barilla is the top quality and leading pasta producer in the world, which promotes the mediterranean diet as the best and healthiest solution for the people and the planet. Barilla founded the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) to informs not only policy makers and insiders of the agri-food chain, but all the people on the big topics linked to food and nutrition with regards to climate change and the world’s paradoxes. Barilla has been considered the most sustainable pasta supplier by the “Sustainability Index Programme” of Walmart.

Fashion Brunello Cucinelli: The core mission of the company is based on a contemporary form of humanism that over the years the international press has identified as a “humanistic” capitalism, where profit can be sought without damaging mankind. Its clients view Brunello Cucinelli as an expression of a sophisticated concept of contemporary lifestyle and the brand is firmly rooted in quality excellence, Italian craftsmanship and creativity; these pillars are considered the foundations on which sustainable growth can be built in the long run.

Learn more about how SDA Bocconi is engaging students in impact investing.

Suzanne Young, La Trobe Business School, Australia

Yarra Valley Water which has mapped their practices against the SDGs based on understanding what issues the organisation can influence.. These included clean water and sanitation, industry innovation and infrastructure and gender equality.

As another example, the National Australia Bank has a focus on working towards a more inclusive society, including financial inclusion. They are using the SDGs as a way to mobilise innovation to drive business and societal success. The Bank is supporting agribusiness customers to value natural capital for instance. The SDG of Decent Work and Economic Growth and No Poverty provide a lens for their work, especially in impact investing.

Learn more about La Trobe’s participation in the CR3+ Network.

Christian Schott, Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

The youth hostel association of NZ is one of the largest accommodation providers for budget conscious travellers in NZ and have set sustainability as a guiding principle for the entire organisation.  Their efforts to integrate economic, environmental and social sustainability have been exemplary and they are willing to take calculated risks to trial new or innovative ideas that have the potential to enhance their sustainability ambitions.  I have been working closely with YHA Wellington which is an exemplar of the broader YHA NZ network.

Whale Watch Kaikoura An inspirational Maori owned and Maori operated tourism business that carefully balances the need for environmental and economic sustainability with a strong commitment to social and cultural sustainability. Both Maori cultural interpretation and environmental protection are core principles of this whale watching business.

Learn more about how Christian Schott is bringing technology into the classroom to teach sustainability.


Global Student Networks Engaged in Sustainability in Management Education

Almost every business school now has at least one club on campus that aims to bring students interested in responsible leadership and sustainability together. Many of these clubs are part of global networks.

These campus clubs not only provide a space for interested students to meet, but are an important resource for sustainability faculty and staff champions working on embedding responsible leadership on campus. All of these clubs are engaged in bringing the Six Principles of PRME to campus in different ways.


Oikos is an international student-driven organization for sustainability in economics and management founded in 1987 in Switzerland. The organization focuses on embedding environmental and social perspectives in management and economic programmes and curriculum. There are over 1000 members in 40 oikos chapters around the world. Although the numbers may seem small, these students are very active and committed. The oikos Fellowship Programme offers students scholarships to research sustainability in economics and management. Oikos also has a joint initiative with GRLI called Commit (Change Of Management Education & Methods In Teaching) launched in 2015. Schools active in oikos include the University of St. Gallen and the Faculty of Economics and Management at Witten/Herdecke University.

Net ImpactNet Impact

Net Impact is a community of more than 80,000 students and professionals creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world. The focus of Net Impact has shifted over the years from curriculum change to helping students find post-graduation jobs in the field of sustainability, therefore driving transformational change in the workplace. However, Net Impact clubs on campus are still active in the curriculum change space and regularly publish Business as Unusual, a guide rating graduate programs’ integration of social and environmental themes. There are three types of Net Impact chapters: undergraduate, graduate and professional.Net Impact also has an active alumni group. Schools with gold status Net Impact Clubs include American University of Beirut, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Duquesne University.


Enactus, formerly known as Students for Free Enterprise, is a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable future. Students, organized into clubs on university campuses, work on projects with their local communities. There are 70,000 club members in 36 countries. Local Enactus clubs organize annual national competitions to showcase how students are transforming lives and enabling progress through entrepreneurial action, with winners going on to represent their country at the Enactus World Cup. Schools with an active Enactus club include Hertfordshire Business School and Thammasat Business School.


AIESEC is a global platform made up of students under the age of 30 interested in world issues, leadership and management. Their goal is to prepare responsible and entrepreneurial young leaders by providing practical leadership experience to students. The organization empowers students to take part in volunteer opportunities locally and abroad and provides links to opportunities for internships. The organization spans 126 countries and territories and all aspects of its operations are managed by students and recent graduates. AIESEC also has a strong alumni network. Schools with AIESEC clubs include Beedie School of Business, University of Wellington, and the George Washington University.


%d bloggers like this: