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.

 

Integrating Sustainability into Core Courses – University of Fraser Valley

University of the Fraser Valley’s Faculty Training Workshop on PRME

University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, recently submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress Report. As a new Signatory, the University of the Fraser Valley has spent the past few years exploring how to embed the Six Principles of PRME into their curriculum and activities. They have been conducting regular faculty workshops to discuss opportunities to integrate PRME into curricular and extra curricular activities.

A common way of integrating the Principles is by creating new courses on the topic but the School of Business at the University of the Fraser Valley took a different approach. Associate Professor David Dobson has been exploring these issues for several years now and has integrated sustainability topics into his existing course Business Research Methods which is mandatory for all students.

I spoke with Frank Ulbrich, the Director of the UFV School of Business, and Associate Professor David Dobson who leads the student research project about this initiative.

Introduce your student research projects and the place they hold in the curriculum.

Within our program we have a mandatory Business Research Methods class where students complete a major research project to learn the process, methodology, and applicability of various business research problems. This class is placed in the program to ensure that our students have the skills to conduct thorough and critically developed research in their upper level classes and future careers. It was felt that this would be the perfect platform to introduce various topics of social and corporate responsibility for the students to research. Depending on the professor, research topics vary widely from year to year, but the majority of instructors instigate the study of PRME related topics.

Why was the topic of ‘Fair Trade Coffee’ chosen as one of the topics?

I had heard a lot of people talk about Fairtrade and organic foods within the Fraser Valley. And I thought since Fairtrade was actually an organization it would be interesting to have the students find out more about them, their cause and how customers react to their label. Additionally, I was unaware of any systemic research done on this specific topic and since it wouldn’t be a very complicated research topic for undergraduates to deal with, it aligned perfectly with my course.

What were some of the questions that students explored?

Within this particular semester all the students had the same basic research question, which was to find out what customers’ willingness to pay for Fairtrade Coffee was. However, within the separate teams, the groups developed additional research questions around this topic. Some of the questions that came out were: What are the barriers to purchasing Fairtrade? What are the perceptions existing among society about Fairtrade? And how should the companies selling ‘Coffee’ market Fairtrade coffee? As an instructor I am always pleasantly surprised at the diverse angles and lenses different student groups tackle a similar project with. I am constantly learning from my own students, which I love.

How did the students react to this project? What were some of the lessons? Impact?

Most students were unacquainted with the Fairtrade movement and to be honest probably thought studying coffee for a semester wasn’t going to be very interesting. I usually find that the social and corporate responsibility topics I choose, are initially received with chagrin. But as the weeks progress, combined with the nature of the course it ends up creating a lot of awareness and interest among the students. I would say that the take away impact varies among the classes. At a minimum they are now aware of Fairtrade, some will now choose a product with a Fairtrade label over one without if they are similar in price point, and at the other end of the scale there are those students who really become impassioned for the topic.

What have been some of the challenges? 

The biggest challenge in choosing a social or corporate responsibility topic to ask students to research, is taking into account the limited time frame, and sample sizes and populations. You need to remember that they are undergraduates being exposed to the research process for the first time, and that the class is really in place for them to learn about how to conduct research and not necessarily what are the results of their research. So you need to be able to give them an interesting topic that can be studied in around three months or less and take into account that because of this time based restriction, their sample sizes and diversity might be low. Additionally, this is a huge learning curve for the students. Not only is the topic of study a foreign subject, but the research process itself is all new to them.

Successes? 

I think the success of combining these types of topics into a research class, is that you are not only teaching them skills, but creating positive awareness. If you pick the right kind of topics, ones that are interesting and prevalent, the combination usually creates a buzz. It’s something that the student can take away and remember not just how to conduct solid research, but how to be a better-rounded and informed citizen.

Are other sustainability related topics explored in student projects?

I usually choose new research topics every time I teach the class, which keeps the marking interesting for me. Over the years my classes have studied topics from researching companies marketing practices for various products, to plastic dumping in the sea, and willingness to pay for and perception of various products like Fairtrade coffee, or Organic foods.

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

Choosing research topics based on sustainability or social and corporate responsibility appears to be this big challenge for professors. But it is actually very easy to find interesting and contemporary topics that students can get on the bandwagon with. After you experience the first semester running a class with these topics, you will find that students are very receptive to do something different. Plus they will surprise you with the topics they come back with and trust me you will always be learning from them. I know that a lot of my colleagues are also including social and corporate responsibility into their classes, which is great as students are constantly engaging in positive material.

What’s next for the initiative?

Since this is an area of interest for me the foreseeable future is filled with my Business Research Methods classes being framed around these types of topics. I find it is easier for the students to relate to and conduct research that is somehow based on consumer behaviour and/or consumable goods. While I haven’t fully decided what my research questions will be for next year, I am leaning towards environmental framing for environmental products, or source credibility for these types of products.

What else is happening in this space at University of the Fraser Valley?

April 4, 2017 marked the 5th Annual School of Business Student Research Day. Students present their research to a panel of judges and field questions on academic rigor and research design. Topics are usually sparked from subjects taught in various classes that feature sustainability and or corporate responsibility. Presentations this year included titles such as, “Effects of Valence Framing on Eco-Friendly Seafood Purchase Decisions.”; “Green Trends Among Fortune 500 Companies”; and “Gender at University: Analysis of Gender Equality in Public Universities Across Canada”. We are proud to provide platforms and opportunities for our students to pursue their research interests further in their undergraduate degree. It is extremely gratifying to observe our students taking interest in topics that are related to social and corporate responsibility.

We also have a number of faculty workshops organized by the School of Business to discuss opportunities to integrate the PRME Initiative. This is a new initiative for us. As committed participants of PRME we are continually looking for ways to improve the learning environment for our students. These faculty workshops are wonderful collaborative spaces where as a department we can learn about new initiatives, and also take the time to cross reference with one another about what we have been finding successful in our classrooms. Faculty learning is just as much of a necessity as student learning. When we have informed and passionate professors, we create that knowledge and awareness on PRME related topics, which results in sparking initiatives within our student body.

For more about the University of the Fraser Valley read their latest Sharing Information on Progress Report.

Students Exploring Solutions to Local SDG Challenges – Universidad EAFIT

 

Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals requires the support and involvement of all groups in exploring the challenges but also proposing innovative solutions. This is exactly what the students at Universidad EAFIT in Colombia are doing. Over the past year they have been developing a range of solutions to SDGs with a particular focus on the issues most relevant to their country and community. I spoke with Maria Alejandra Gonzalez Perez, Professor of Management at Universidad EAFIT, about their involvement in the global initiative Ideas for Action.

What is I4A and how did EAFIT become involved?

I4A (Ideas for Action) is a joint project between the World Bank Group and Wharton Business School to foster the engagement of young people in international development, and with a specific focus in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I4A wanted to increase the participation of Latin America in the initiative. We were personally invited by Prof. Djordjija Petkoski at the Wharton School to participate in the annual competition.

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

I4A annual competition aims to promote a generation of ideas for financing and implementing the SDGs. Winners are invited to present their projects at the IMF and World Bank annual meeting, and they receive support by a start-up accelerator in Wharton. In 2017, over 700 projects were submitted, and around 30 of them were by teams from EAFIT.

How were EAFIT students specifically involved?

As part of their CSR course, or as a voluntary project, students designed their projects, and submitted their projects to Ideas 4 action. Students were given academic recognition for the power of their ideas, the realistic possibilities of implementing the project, and their commitment. Click here for an overview presentation. 

What kinds of ideas were proposed/what was the impact on the students?

Most of the projects submitted by EAFIT addressed SDGs 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). The majority of the proposed initiatives were focused on post-conflict Colombia, and how to create economic and social inclusion for former guerrilla members. The ideas range from extreme wild tourism, community based micro-financing, reforestation, and organic agriculture.

Students expressed that this project gave them the opportunity of building ideas for a more inclusive and sustainable future for their country. It also gave them networking opportunities with other students from around the world, and interaction with senior members of the World Bank.

How did you incorporate this into the curriculum?

Nearly 80% of the submitted projects were from students that take the course “Ethics and Social Responsibility” in the Business Management undergraduate programme. They were assessed based on originality, power of the idea, realistic possibilities of implementation, and, background research (data mining) on the issues and opportunities.

The other 20% of the submissions were by members of the student research groups (Observatory on Trade Investment and Development). They participated because they wanted the opportunity to contribute and be heard.

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

It was our first time participating, and what we found most challenging was ensuring that students understood the importance of the SDGs. It was an excellent way to encourage them to bring together everything they had learned in the business curriculum and apply it to current environmental, social and economic challenges taking place in Colombia. After Brazil, Colombia was the country with most submissions in Latin America. This gave visibility to students, our School, and the country.

What other initiatives are you currently involved?

We are currently involved with WikiRate and have several research groups looking at corporate performance on SDGs 8 and 16. Another initiative on campus that we are proud of is our student research group, the Observatory on Trade Investment and Development. It is a space where students publish articles with short analysis and opinions about the topic of business, investment and development focused primarily on emergent markets and exploring sustainable development. The forum is inspired by the United Nations Conference on trade and Development (UNCTAD). EAFIT is also a member of the Global Compact.

 

12 Visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report (Part 2 of 2)

Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, beyond being a requirement for PRME signatories, are an opportunity to bring together the work a school is doing in the area of responsible management education, reflect on that work and explore future opportunities. SIPs can provide an important communication tool to raise awareness both internally and externally about your initiatives. Using visuals in your report is one way to bring the information contained within your report to life, to make it easier for your stakeholders to navigate, understand, engage in, and to take action on. To inspire your next SIP report, here are 6 more visuals taken from recent SIP reports (see Part 1 for the first 6 visuals). These examples are intended to be an exploration of the different approaches taken from different schools. For more examples you can browse through all of the SIP reports on the PRME website.

INCAE in Costa Rica publishes a sustainability dashboard which tracks their consumption and sustainability initiatives on campus over the years, starting in 2010. This includes electricity, solid waste, water, purchasing and a number of other environmental actions on campus.

HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences in Finland have produced a one page report based on an infographic summary for their letter of commitment which very briefly outlines some statistics relating to their engagement in PRME as well as a few goals moving forward.

 

Hult International Business School provides a visual overview of the proportion of compulsory courses where learning objectives include explicit reference to ethics, responsibility and sustainability across all programmes offered by the school.

Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business in the Philippines provides an illustration of how the university intends to address the sustainability challenges of the 21st century through actions directed towards self, school and society, visually bringing to life the school’s strategy in this area.

The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town in South Africa has a range of special features on current and past students actively engaged in PRME related topics both within the university but in particular externally in the community, within government and companies.

The University of Western Australia conducted a sustainability audit in early 2015. This visual shows the key energy and waste management results of part of this audit as well as the financial and environmental benefits possible if each parameter is improved by 100%.

12 Visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report (Part 1 of 2)

Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, beyond being a requirement for PRME signatories, are an opportunity to bring together the work a school is doing in the area of responsible management education, reflect on that work and explore future opportunities. SIPs can provide an important communication tool to raise awareness both internally and externally about your initiatives. Using visuals in your report is one way to bring the information contained within your report to life, to make it easier for your stakeholders to navigate, understand, engage in, and to take action on. To inspire your next SIP report, here are 12 visuals (in two parts) taken from recent SIP reports. These examples are intended to be an exploration of the different approaches taken from different schools. For more examples you can browse through all of the SIP reports on the PRME website.

 

Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria in Canada has been working steadily to measure and reduce its carbon footprint. Over the past few years they have put in place new systems for data collection to ensure more accurate measurements for the various sources of emissions related to the school’s operations. They publish an annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Gustavson, prepared by Synergy Enterprises, one of many sustainability-oriented companies founded by former University of Victoria students.

Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa has a series of illustrations created to capture the school’s ongoing commitment to the principles of PRME. The first explores GIBS’s engagement through its people, the second its impact on its community and globally and the third innovation that it is fostering.

 

The MBA office at Reykjavik University Business School in Iceland interviewed all teachers in the MBA programme in order to map the extent to which a focus on ethics was built into each course. This showed that nine courses out of twelve have CSR or business ethics elements in them. Of the nine, three put a great deal of emphasis on the subject as can be seen in the syllabus mapping.

Copenhagen Business School in Denmark provides a snapshot of different sustainability related research projects. They also include a picture, the name and contact details for those responsible for each project, making it easy to find out where you can find out more information about their projects, whether you are a member of the community or not.

 

Material issues for KU Leuven Faculty of Economics and Business in Belgium are displayed in the materiality matrix. These issues are categorized based on their ascending relevance to stakeholders (based on engagement activities) and the organization (based on the school’s vision, mission, values, and strategy). The most material sustainability issues are education and research that address sustainability topics, as well as the promotion of diversity/non-discrimination with an emphasis on gender equality.

 


Hanken School of Economics
in Finland uses tables such as this one throughout their report to outline goals from previous reports, progress made on those goals and to lay out future goals. Here they also address any delays or challenges to reaching set goals.

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Sweden, India and Brazil

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 Sweden, India and Brazil

Elizabeth Mary Barratt, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Filippa K has developed a new business model based on sustainability which includes integrating circular economies in their value chain as well as their “Lease the Look” trial where they are testing the sharing economy trend by leasing out their clothes.

Max Hamburgers are nudging their customers with information to choose the most sustainable burger alternative, along with significantly expanding their vegetarian alternatives.

Axel Johnson AB has set a measurable target that their management will have at least 50% women in their companies, along with at least 20% with an international now-Swedish passport.

Dr Kasturi Das, Institute of Management Technology, India

Jayaashree Industries provides low cost sanitary napkins to rural women who cannot afford them because they are sold at a premium price as well as l sanitary napkins making machines which can produce the napkins at low cost to encourage the development of local entrepreneurs.

Goonj recycles discarded clothes and household goods into useful products for the poor. It collects and delivers 1,000 tons of materials a year through a network of hundreds of volunteers and partners. It also runs local development projects in villages and slum areas.

Julio Cesar Borges, FEA-RP/USP, Brazil

Votorantim Cimentos, a Brazilian cement company, is working with one of our alumnus on embedding sustainability into large projects taking place in an extremely poor region of the country.

CPFL, a Brazilian energy company, has been working with some of our professors to develop sustainable solutions for the energy sector. They outline their targets and progress of the targets on their website.

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