New Approaches to Business Ethics – University of South Australia

Many schools have been teaching business ethics classes for years, some as electives, some as part of the core. The question is no longer whether or not business ethics should be taught, but how to best teach it. One school that has been testing out a new approach is the University of South Australia Business School. Here they have created a course that is not only part of the core, but is not textbook based. I spoke with Thomas Maak from the University of South Australia Business School about their new approach.

Introduce your new course on business ethics.

“Business ethics” is a new course for all post-graduate management students. Previously an elective offering, we decided to make an introductory course on the ethical challenges for businesses compulsory, demonstrating a long-standing commitment of School and faculty to research and teaching in the area of ethics, sustainability and corporate integrity. The course design is novel in that it focuses on the ‘grand challenges’ for businesses and their leaders rather than a textbook-driven approach. It is built on the understanding that in order to succeed in an environment of contested values managers at all levels need to understand the real challenges, develop skills, relational and ethical abilities, as well as moral imagination, and demonstrate responsible leadership.

How does the course work?

“Business ethics” follows a 10-week schedule (30 hours in total) and a highly interactive format. That is, following a short introduction into the topic students are then engaged in classroom discussion, short cases and some group work. The first session provides the context and identifies some of the key challenges and is entitled ‘Business in an environment of contested values’. Week 2 forces student to rethink their assumptions about the purpose of business and engages them in a discussion on purpose beyond profit, including social performance and hybrid organizations. In week 3 we review the history and significance of CSR and how its meaning has shifted over the decades. Subsequent sessions include social innovation and the advancement of human dignity; stakeholder management and resolution of stakeholder conflicts; how to deal with daily temptations and the weakness of will; and ethics and the (mis)-use of power in organizations. The last session of the course outlines the pathways to responsible leadership and a roadmap for students on how to become a responsible leader.

Hence, the last three sessions expose the students to the challenges of moral and financial corruption, the corrosive nature of power, and the intricate relationship of toxic leadership and institutional pressures. For example, we discuss the omnipresent practice of gift-giving and how it may lead to the corrosion of character – stressing the virtues of transparency and integrity; we explore the dangers of groupthink and organizational pressure and what leaders must do to ensure and enhance respect, dignity and well-being at work. While these themes are timeless the discussions with students from different cultural backgrounds and the discussions of current cases ensure an intriguing contemporary business ethics landscape.

What is unique about the approach you are taking?

The course is driven by the ‘grand challenges’ that business faces and the responsibilities that emerge from it. Literature and textbooks are used as reference and background only, not as a foundation. Instead, the course seeks to develop critical insights and reflective abilities, and guiding practical knowledge, such that students are equipped to master future ethical challenges in informed ways – through integrative thinking. To support that learning process guest speakers make the course and respective challenges tangible, up-to date cases illustrate the topics at hand and a weekly reflective journaling exercise helps to capture the key takeaways. In addition, students work in groups on a CSR character analysis, choosing a company and investigating its CSR performance and authenticity. They also present and discuss their findings in class.

What do you mean by ‘grand challenges’

By ‘grand challenges’ I refer to the challenges in a ‘vuca’-world and the aspirational objectives captured in the SDGs, in particular the ones focused on the environment, poverty, inclusion, equity, peace and dignity. The acronym “vuca” has gained traction in recent years because it captures the experience of many business leaders that the world in which they operate has become quite volatile and uncertain, that it is increasingly complex and that they have to make decisions under conditions of ambiguity, especially across cultures. Moreover, not only are businesses under more scrutiny than ever but stakeholders at home and abroad expect more: they want business to play an active role in addressing climate change; it is argued that business must do more to fight poverty and increasingly, we witness a call for businesses to accept their political responsibility as a company and contribute in conducive ways to peace, human dignity and above all, to the affirmation of human rights wherever a company or its subsidiaries operate. What this means in detail, and how companies should go about it, is of course contested territory and reflects the ambiguity of both, the shifting expectations of stakeholders and the changing nature of the role and purpose of the corporations in the 21st Century.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The challenges are perhaps the most common ones for an Australian university. Many international students are exposed to business, ethics, and sustainability for the first time. Our practical as well as reflective approach – in light of the grand challenges – helps them a lot. Like in most places our course could be better integrated with the rest of the traditional curriculum, especially finance, economics and other ‘hard’ topics.

The course is now in its second year and its success comes in form of excellent student feedback making it one of the most highly ranked courses. Student applaud the fact that it is current, tangible, practical and in some cases, revolutionary. “This course changed the way I think about business”; “I wish all courses were as relevant as this one”; “The course opened a new world to me (…) I will choose the organization I work for more carefully…”, are typical statements we receive. The PRME initiative is now overseen centrally which may open up opportunities to foster more SDG-focused projects across the curriculum.

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

Follow an approach that is relevant, entertaining, and speaks to the current generation of students. Don’t become a victim of other people’s thinking, develop a customized approach toward teaching ethics and sustainability.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

We developed short, customized video cases in collaboration with an award-winning film maker portraying local SDG champions such as Haigh’s chocolates and the cosmetics company Jurlique. These video cases will be available for faculty to be used in internal and external teaching as soon as the final edits are done. For example, the Haigh’s video captures the company’s history and values, its focus on environmental stewardship and the challenges and rewards of being true to one’s beliefs in steering a 100-year old icon into the future. It will be available on the Centre’s website from April 2018 for people to see.

We are also quite proud of the Responsible Leadership course developed by Professor Nicola Pless for the MBA program. The course integrates the latest knowledge and tools on how to become an effective responsible leader with customized 360-feedback and the introduction to, and practise of, mindfulness to strengthen self-leadership. In other words, it provides participants with the tools to become a resonant and responsible leader.

Developing a Sustainability Disposition – La Trobe Business School

In 2008, La Trobe Business School in Melbourne, Australia was one of the first schools to become a Signatory to PRME. The Business School, which also has campuses in Sydney, China, France and Vietnam, has been actively engaged in both embedding responsible management within its school as well as contributing to the PRME network. They are starting their second term as a PRME Champion, Ten years on, they were selected to be a PRME Champion along with 38 other business schools from across the world who are taking transformative action on integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into three key areas: curriculum, research and partnerships.

In 2015 the School put in place a second year subject focused on Sustainability which is mandatory for all students enrolled in any Business Degree. Because of its focus on developing a sustainability disposition in students rather than just educating them about the issues, the course has been very well received by students and continues to be an exemplar of cross-disciplinary subject content within the School. I spoke with Dr Swati Nagpal about this innovative course. 

What is La Trobe Business School’s approach to sustainability in the classroom?

LBS understands the obligation as an institution to advocate for responsible management education throughout the school; in its four departments and its research centres, and by advocating and supporting responsible management initiatives and operations across the university.

A patchwork of subjects addressing Sustainability Education in Business degree courses at La Trobe was replaced in 2015 by a core second year subject entitled ‘BUS2SUS – Sustainability’, for all students enrolled in any Business degree. More than 2,500 students are now enrolled in this compulsory subject every year. This includes students from a range of business majors, including management, human resource management, marketing, accounting, sport management, finance, event management, tourism and hospitality, economics, international business, and agribusiness.

The subject is based on a blended learning design that allows for greater scalability across the entire portfolio of majors within Business and across all our campuses in Australia and abroad. With sustainability as the lens or context for change, students are introduced to systems thinking, tools for solving wicked problems, and the role of advocacy in managing change for sustainability.

How have you approached the design and delivery of this core course?

The process of embedding sustainability thinking into the core business curriculum presented a number of challenges, including distinguishing sustainability from related streams of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and non-financial measurement and reporting. The curriculum design was ultimately guided by the need for a future set of skills, rather than by identifying disciplinary content that business graduates might require. These skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, ethical awareness and teamwork. For example, by working in small groups in class, and engaging with ‘wicked’ global sustainability issues such as climate change, global poverty and renewable energy, students are required to apply a systems lens to examining the true nature of the issues and potential solutions.

There is also an emphasis on creating a ‘safe space’ in classes to tackle often controversial social and environmental issues such as indigenous disadvantage in Australia, the refugee crisis and the potential for a sugar tax. This has required class teachers to be briefed and trained in pedagogical techniques that require reflexive practice and approaches to manage conflict.

The course puts a focus on developing a sustainability disposition. Why do you think this is important?

Research on education for sustainability, student surveys and teaching feedback have taught us that developing graduate skills for sustainability is not enough to create the impetus required for students to be change agents for sustainability, there also needs to be an emphasis on creating a ‘mindset’ change. This is enabled in the subject through use of a range of pedagogical design elements to create a learning environment that seeks to bring about this change. For example, through the use of case studies, examples and problem-based scenarios that require students to reflect on their underlying values base and question the status quo in management thought.

As such, this subject places a focus on both generic graduate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while also creating the disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making.

How are the SDGs embedded into this course?

Using the SDGs as a guide, students are introduced to the interplay between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability, and the implications for ethically complex decision-making.

Ultimately, educating students new to the SDGs places us in a unique position as the entry point in their educational experience. We believe this is critical in developing their awareness of global issues and challenges so that they can enter the workplace fully equipped to advance and implement policies and practices that will contribute to sustainable business.

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

The question of whether business schools should approach embedding sustainability into core curriculum or as an elective has not been resolved to date. Our experience at LBS in taking the ‘core subject’ approach has been positive since we have the institutional support in terms of the University’s focus on sustainability and our historical emphasis and ethos of social justice. Therefore, gaining institutional support for furthering the sustainability agenda is key, along with the resources to make it happen.

The challenge in any modern business subject in sustainably is an emphasis on both the development of graduate skills and students’ disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making. This requires modern educators to span the boundary of the classroom and identify opportunities to engage with industry partners and other stakeholders to continuously produce innovative teaching materials and approaches that inspire and motivate students to pursue business ideas that align with the SDGs. 

What’s next for the class?

Next year, a major piece of assessment will focus on students (in groups) generating a business idea to be in contention for the Hult Prize. One of the challenges with a large enrolments in the subject are the limited options to create authentic assessments. An international student competition that requires students to develop an actionable and scalable business idea is both practical and allows for gamification/competitive elements to be built into the subject design.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area especially in relation to the SDGs.

In 2017, LBS embarked on a series of workshops that brought together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals.

This outreach project on the SDGs is an international effort by our CR3+ network which includes LBS and PRME Champions Audencia Nantes School of Management (Nantes, France), ISAE/FGV (Curitiba, Brazil) and Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland). All four business schools have committed to hosting similar workshops in their countries.

Two Australian workshops were held in Wollongong and Albury-Wodonga on 15/11/17 and 29/11/17 respectively. In addition to the original aims as set out in the project proposal, the choice to focus on regional areas was two-fold; firstly, to develop our regional campus’ capacity to build and sustain cross-sector engagement and partnerships on the theme of the SDGs, and secondly, to focus on areas where UN Global Compact Network Australia presence is limited.

This post is part of a special feature throughout the month of February focused on schools in Australia and New Zealand. 

The SDGs at the University of Wollongong

Students at the University of Wollongong

In a past post I had the chance to speak with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, about the Chapters transition from an Emerging to an Established Chapter as well as the specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are most pertinent to that region. I also had the chance to speak to Belinda about her other role, that of  coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about what her University has planned around the SDGs.

How is the University of Wollongong approaching responsible management education?

While I am the AUSNZ PRME Chapter Coordinator, I also coordinate the responsible management education practices within the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong (UOW) where I am a senior lecturer for the Sydney Business School. A PRME signatory since 2009, the UOW Faculty of Business executive have always demonstrated significant support for responsible and sustainable education in curriculum and research. More recently we have modified our vision to directly focus on being a ‘ global leader in promoting the theory and practice of responsible business principles’. Backed by our mission ‘…….to promote responsible leadership and sustainable business practice, and contribute to a stronger economy and a more just society’. This change ensures that the key areas of responsible management are at the forefront of all decisions, actions and discussions.

How is the University integrating the SDGs?

While we have interdisciplinary subjects that are built upon the theoretical foundation of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and map PRME and SDG education research across disciplines, some of the smaller initiatives at Wollongong are having a large-scale difference. Examples of these include; a PRME representative seat on the Faculty Education Committee to ensure responsible management is in all curriculum and assessment changes; PRME representation in all course reviews with the latest course reviews in 2016 ensuring responsible management in undergraduate and postgraduate course learning outcomes and assurance of learning practices; academic and professional staff hiring job descriptions now have responsible leadership and sustainable business practices in position descriptions alongside grant funding applications must show how they contribute and provide impact to the mission and particular SDGs.

What are some of your challenges moving forward?

The challenge moving forward is to instil the SDGs into the fabric of the University and not just the Business Faculty. More recently UOW signed as a member of the UNGC. This institution membership provides a path for SDG discussions beyond the Faculty of Business. Evidence of this occurred in November 2017 when UOW collaborated with Healthy Cities Illawarra and PRME Champion School LaTrobe Business School to bring together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals. A workshop was held as a breakfast event, with an impressive turnout of 120 attendees.

It is also important that we extend our collaborations across institutions internationally. Throughout 2016, Wollongong took part in the global WikiRate Student Engagement Trial. This trial enabled us to discuss processes and outcomes with a number of international PRME signatories and we volunteered to conduct an external review and research piece on the perspectives of different participants involved in the project. This research has generated insights that are feeding into the next phase of the project, and that help to ensure students, professors and their institutions are getting the best experience and learning.

Any tips for other schools looking to engage in the SDGs?

Senior leadership support and a culture whereby creativity and the ability to experiment is essential to deliver the change in higher education that is required to realise the SDGs.


Learn more about Wollongong engagement in PRME…

In their 2017 Sharing Information on Progress Report, UOW provides a chart that represents the Faculty of Business’ research grouped by Sustainable Development Goal. This was featured in a past PRiMEtime post on Reporting on the SDGs- A Visual Tour of Different Approaches. In 2016 UOW’s involvement in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience was also featured. AIME is an Australia wide educational programme that supports indigenous students through high school and into University by pairing these students with mentor students form the Business School. Back in 2015 we spoke to Belinda about their experiences merging two approaches to responsible management education when the University of Wollongong merged with another Business School in 2013. 

A Focus on Australia/New Zealand

This past December the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, officially transitioned from an Emerging to an Established Chapter, cementing their commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. Although they only just became an Established Chapter, the region has always had a very active PRME Signatory base, a group of schools that are not only active within the PRME network, but also actively engaged in pushing the agenda forward with a range of innovative approaches. Because of this, schools from this region are regularly featured on PRiMEtime.

The month of February will be focused on sharing examples of good practices around embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education from schools across Australia and New Zealand. To kick things off, I spoke with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Chapter as well as the coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about both the challenges and opportunities for the region as a whole.

Tell us a bit more about the Australia/New Zealand Chapter.

Schools in this region have been active in PRME since 2008. Currently 53% of universities in Australia and 75% in NZ are PRME signatories with a growth rate of approximately 2-3 signatories per year. Amidst vast land distances between signatories (there is a five hour time difference between our Schools), PRME members communicate on bi-monthly conference calls, virtual state based gatherings and via more formal annual forums and regular emails.

The work and in particular the courses that schools in this region offer have an important impact both here and abroad because education is Australia’s largest service export and New Zealand’s second largest. Recent statistics reveal that of all Australian higher education courses completed in 2016, the field of management and commerce accounts for 19% for domestic students and 55% for our international students. New Zealand has similar high statistics with 27% of students studying management and commerce courses. Of that 1 in 5 are international students. These large numbers and percentage of diverse cultures offers us rich exploration for teaching and learning but also numerous challenges in the way to tackle all 17 SDGs in the curriculum, research and partnerships.

You officially became an Established Chapter at your most recent Regional Meeting. Tell us a bit about it.

The 5th PRME Chapter Australia & New Zealand Forum took place at Deakin University, a PRME Champion School, in Melbourne early in December 2017. The theme of the meeting was ‘Inspire, Motivate, Engage, Act’ in regards to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the day we went through the different elements of the theme. We started by celebrating and sharing the growth we have had as a region over the past 10 years, congratulating Latrobe Business School and Griffith Business School in Australia and University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand who were among the first to sign as PRME Signatories.  We also signed the MOU with the PRME Secretariat, officially becoming an Established Chapter. Each school had a chance to present their achievements from 2017 and hopes for 2018 and to share key resources and opportunities. We also had a number individuals join us for parts of the day including Alice Cope, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Australia, Anne Swear who is the Head of Corporate Sustainability at ANZ, Sue Noble the CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Giselle Weybrecht who is a Special Advisor to the PRME Secretariat, Sarah Goulding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Soyuma Gupta, a current student at Deakin. The discussions were focused on how Australia is moving forward with the SDGs and how the schools that form the chapter can be part of those discussions and actions moving forward. For a full summary of the meeting click here.

What are some of the challenges that schools in this part of the world are facing and some issues that are particularly relevant in relation to the SDG?

While our research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to economic, social and demographic challenges facing our nations we need to work closer with industry and government to support SDGs realisation. Our textbook and classroom cases can be routine in using global examples, which are informative, but the challenge is to bring an understanding of the SDGs back to illustrations from our countries, enabling our students and academics to understand just how global these goals are.

An example of this in particular pertains to human rights. In the latest Amnesty International 2016-2017 report, Australia’s commitment to human rights fails when it comes to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children abuse and deaths in custody (SDG 10.2, 16.2). Asylum seeking processes and procedures (SDG 1.4, 10.7), disability rights (SDG 1.2, 10.2) and counter-terror measures (SDG 10.3), all of which put us on the Human Rights Watch List for the third successive year in 2016. New Zealand has similar Indigenous Maori challenges along with high rates of violence against women and girls (SDG 5.1, 5.2) and children poverty rates (SDG 1.2). Ensuring these issues are communicated and mapped across all disciplines in the management and commerce field requires raising awareness, conducting audit type processes alongside developing a mechanism for resource sharing.

What’s planned for the chapter moving forward?

The SDGs provide us with a framework for industry, civil society and government collaboration. In Australia, the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress is underway with the report due mid-2018. It is essential that the higher education sector and in particular PRME AUSNZ contribute to this report and continue to build relationships for future research.

As an Established Chapter, we are forming a steering committee that will focus on the priority areas of student engagement activities and embedding SDGs in the curriculum, building communities of practices within Faculty and across university/universities, mapping SDGs across curriculum and research and research and cross sector collaboration.

Tackling the Grand Challenge of Inequality – UNSW

UNSW Sydney in Australia aims to lead the debate and shape the public discourse on some of the most important issues facing humanity. The Grand Challenges Programme was established in order to facilitate these critical discussions, and in the process raise awareness of the ground-breaking research and excellent initiatives undertaken by UNSW academics, staff and students. Current Grand Challenge topics include Climate change, refugees and migrants and inequality. As part of our month featuring examples relating to inequality, in particular linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, I spoke with Prof Rosalind Dixon and Prof Richard Holden, the academic co-leads of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality, to learn more about this platform.

Introduce the Grand Challenges Initiative and how it came about?

The UNSW Grand Challenges program was introduced under the leadership of the current President and Vice-Chancellor, Ian Jacobs. It aims to lead the debate and shape public discourse on the greatest issues facing humanity. Thought leaders from around the world come together with UNSW academics, staff and students to share their views and develop ideas on each declared challenge through public forums, speaking events, panel discussions, conferences and policy development workshops. UNSW will build on this platform for discussion and the development of ideas, with a view to fostering innovation and action on these pressing issues.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

Income inequality has grown dramatically in both developed and developing economies – especially over the last three decades. This has been seen as a challenge to established political and economic structures, and a potential cause of rising political polarization. It is also a major contributor to increased poverty and economic deprivation. The UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality seeks to better understand the intersection between income inequality and other sources of social and political inequality, including gender, race, ethnicity, age and disability, as well as the complex ways in which it impacts on access to basic human rights – including housing, education and health-care. As part of this the Grand Challenge program will seek to address the issue of income-inequality from a number of different angles – including economic causes, government solutions, government mitigation devices, globalized solutions, and private/corporate responsibilities.

What kind of research are UNSW faculty and students currently engaged in around the topic of inequality?

The overarching objective of each Grand Challenge is to complement and enhance existing work in the university around inequality by; making connections between researchers and different faculties, schools and centres; increasing publicity and awareness surrounding existing research; and spark and incubate and ideas on the part of staff and students, particularly policy-relevant ideas.

Prof Rosalind Dixon has been doing research on how Presidents tweak the rules to avoid leaving office and delivered a TedX style talk about the topic at one of the events. The Social Policy Research Centre does quite a bit of work on the disadvantage aspects of inequality. One of our events focused on Cities and Inequality involves the Cities Future Research Centre and their research on the topic. Professor Richard Holden is also doing significant research in this area including exploring “Network Capital” and inequality and also delivered a short presentation during the Grand Challenge about how to redistribute capital, mitigating inequality without killing productivity. This is only a snapshot but the list of events that are part of the Grand Challenge shows the range of research we are doing around this topic.

What kinds of events have been organised around the topic of inequality so far?

Launched in 2017, the Grand Challenge on Inequality has already hosted a number of engagement opportunities for UNSW staff, students and community. During semester one O-Week activities, the Grand Challenges team encouraged UNSW students to exploit their creativity and develop a web-based tool that directly challenges inequality as part of a 12hr hackathon. Students developed a range of novel ideas designed to address inequality, including a meet-up app designed to help match refugees with community volunteers, and system of electronic self-notification for indigenous people taken into custody.

That same week we hosted a giant book club, exploring Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century in conversation with Peter van Onselen (Sky News) and Andrew Leigh MP. During the book club, and the following public forum, staff, students and partner organisations came together to share their thoughts on what the Grand Challenge on Inequality might address. Attendees were keen to see robust discussion on topics including Indigenous and gender inequality, housing affordability, education and superannuation reforms. These ideas have been taken into account in the planning for the future events of the Grand Challenge of Inequality.

International Women’s Day on March 8 was celebrated in partnership with Workplace Diversity at UNSW, where the Grand Challenges team hosted a breakfast with the theme #BeBoldForChange. The breakfast was attended by staff and students and highlighting the ground-breaking research and initiatives led by UNSW staff and students driving changes for women in our community. Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Federal Opposition Spokesperson for Women, Tanya Plibersek, spoke in celebration of the achievements of women but implored the audience to keep fighting for gender equality in Australia. A range of other important speakers also shared their thoughts.

The Grand Challenge on Inequality has developed a suite of activities and events to support the concept. These activities will be added to as new opportunities and partnerships arise.

What have been some of the challenges?

Inequality is a very broad concept that touches on many aspects of people’s lives. Keeping the focus broad, but driving toward policy-relevant outcomes is one of the key challenges.


Launched in July 2016, the Grand Challenges program has hosted a significant number of high-profile public events, conferences, seminars and workshops, where attendees share ideas and discuss the complexities of each of the Grand Challenge themes. The flagship event for the Grand Challenge Program, UNSOMNIA, was held on 1 December 2016. UNSOMNIA presented 13 UNSW thought leaders riffing on the theme “What keeps you up at night?” The TEDX style event attracted over 700 guests from UNSW and the broader community.

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

We thought it important to engage a wide group of people, bring leading figures onto campus, make events easily accessible (in terms of location but also combining with other popular and centrally located events – see Sydney Writers Festival below) and have a policy focus.

What’s next for the initiative?

We have a number of events coming up and are adding more. At the upcoming Sydney Writers’ Festival we will have a panel on globalisation and inequality in the age of Trump. See here for a full list of events planned so far through 2017 into 2018. You can also listen to many of the talks and presentations from our events here.


For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Take One Step – Engaging with the SDGs at Monash Business School

The call is out for universities to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals in multiple ways; through research, through curriculum and partnerships. But equally important is to raise awareness and engage individual students on a day-to-day basis. At Monash Business School, an online platform that challenges participants to make an SDG-inspired change in their life and document their progress was launched in 2016. I spoke with Professor Michaela Rankin from the School about this successful initiative.

Introduce Take One Step and how it came about

Take One Step is an online platform developed by Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), Monash University, which aims to engage and educate students about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through social interaction, light learning content and quizzes. The interactive platform plays on student’s competitive instincts and incorporates the use of achievement badges to encourage action. As part of the challenge, students are asked to commit to an action, allocate an SDG that aligns most closely with the action, post updates, take quizzes and read learning content. It also inspires social interactivity through the ability to share, like and follow other people’s challenges.

The platform also provides an enhanced education experience to our students in order to support the School’s commitment to PRME and implementation of the SDGs.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The platform offers practical tools akin to an online social network. Take One Step sets out a challenge for users to commit to an action or ‘step’ in their own lives that would contribute to a more sustainable future. As part of the six-week pilot, participants who signed up were asked to:

  • Sign up to the platform and outline one (or more) sustainability action they planned to take
  • Share their progress on this step to track its completion (through photos, explanations, comments etc.)
  • Earn five achievement ‘badges’ through milestones on the platform including social media sharing, liking other participant’s steps, reading articles and completing quizzes

Those who completed these ‘badges’ would become eligible to attend a celebration event hosted by the School.

What have been some of the challenges and successes? 

In 2016, Take One Step was delivered as a tailored pilot to students in Monash Business School. A total of 239 students took part, 87 actions were committed to and 60 students registered for an end-of-challenge event featuring the Managing Director of L’Oréal, Australia New Zealand who, as an organisation have taken great strides in implementing the SDGs in their day to day operations. An evaluation of the pilot found that 65% of students improved their understanding of the SDGs, while 80% reported a greater awareness of why sustainability is relevant to business.

As a pilot we were overall very pleased with the results and have identified technical areas to enhance its simplicity. One option for consideration is to develop a mobile app to support user engagement and to provide simple ways to share activities and milestones.

Our pilot audience identified strongly with the issues of sustainability, and we received a wide range of recorded ‘steps’ on the site, with a diverse range of SDGs represented in the actions recorded.

We have also received enquiries and positive feedback from constituents interested in engaging with the platform. The importance of mobilising student groups and staff members to champion the project was critical to the success, as well as gamification elements of the platform. While the project experienced some initial engagement issues, particularly with students who had little or no interest in sustainability, it proved valuable to focus on networking opportunities and linking sustainability to future job roles.

What’s next for the initiative?

Following a detailed evaluation phase, a number of recommendations have been identified and we are looking at ways we can scale up the platform to enable it to be shared more widely. There is significant potential for other institutions to engage with Take One Step providing them with a practical tools to enhance sustainability education in both the education sector and corporates.

In the long run, it is envisioned Take One Step will enable students from different countries to interact, share ideas and work on challenges together. MSDI is looking to create a dedicated platform for the site that can be customised with educational video content and collaboration tools.

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.

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.


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