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How to Bring Games and Simulations into Sustainability Curriculum


Experiential learning can be both engaging and eye-opening. Test out key learning tools from the Financial Times and MIT.

This session was part of the NBS Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) Workshop 2021. The SCC connects business school sustainability centres worldwide.  

Jason Jay (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Tracy Triggs-Matthews (University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School) led a group in exploring and experimenting with ways to add digital experiential learning into the sustainability curriculum.

Watch the Session Video

Session participants tried out two different games.

‘Profit and Purpose: The Trade Off Game’

The Financial Times ‘Profit and Purpose: The Trade Off Game’ has participants looking at the cost/benefit decisions executives make and  the necessary trade-offs. The game is inspired by researchers Olga Hawn, Rodolphe Durand, and Ioannis Ioannou’s paper, which outlines a general model of how organizations respond to social pressures.

The game is available free as part of the Financial Times Company of the Future series.

Group takeaways from ‘Profit and Purpose’

  • The game is an engaging way to spark conversations around ethics, resource allocation, short-term/long-term investing, managing shareholder vs. stakeholder expectations, and more.

  • The game is limited as it is static, thus negotiation and pursuit of a true triple bottom line result is not possible within the game. This certainly comes out in discussion though.

Attached is a lesson plan by Garima Sharma, professor at Georgia State University, that she uses when utilizing the ‘Profit and Purpose’ game in her teaching.

EnRoads Climate Simulator

The Climate Interactive’s EnRoads simulator allows participants to play out various scenarios based on policy decisions to discover how changes impact the projected temperature increase for the world. Climate Interactive is a non-profit think tank that grew out of work at MIT Sloan.

Group takeaways from EnRoads

  • The simulator is a dynamic and comprehensive way to understand the complexities and breadth of the challenge to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

  • Putting students into teams of stakeholders to negotiate policy changes is an excellent way for them to engage with the simulator.

  • Training materials for faculty and other En-ROADS “Ambassadors” are available at https://learn.climateinteractive.org/.

About the SCC Workshop 2021

Every two years, the NBS Sustainability Centres Community Workshop connects leaders of business school sustainability centres for learning and action. This session was a part of the most recent Workshop in July 2021: “Designing the Business School Sustainability Centre of the Future.” See the main Workshop page for an overview and to access additional sessions.

The 2021 Workshop was hosted by the Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR) at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainable Strategy (IBES) at the FH Wien University of Applied Sciences for Management & Communication.

See the Sustainability Centres Community homepage for additional information and to join the group.

Banner photo is taken by Marius Brand of WU Vienna, who gave us a great sense of what our conference would have felt like in Vienna, had it not been virtual.

About the Session Leaders

Tracy Triggs-Matthews, University of North Carolina

Tracy Triggs-Matthews is the Associate Director of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise where she manages the Center as a resource hub for faculty, students, staff and businesses interested in sustainability as a personal, business or academic pursuit. She has Co-created and implemented action-based, experiential leadership courses for Undergraduate and MBA students and advises UNC students on personal, academic, and sustainability career interests. Tracy currently serves as a faculty member of the UNC Food for All Steering Committee, Committee Chair for the Social Impact Summer Grant program for full-time MBA students, and as Faculty Adviser for the MBA Net Impact Club and Undergraduate Carolina Sustainable Business Club. She is also a member of the leadership team of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business Cares Committee and serves on the Kenan Institutes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working committee. Tracy is proud to serve as the Faculty Advisor for both UNC Ultimate Club Teams, Darkside (Men’s) and Pleiades (Women’s).

Jason Jay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jason Jay is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. He teaches executive and masters-level courses on strategy, innovation, and leadership for sustainable business. Dr. Jay’s publications have appeared in in the Academy of Management Journal and California Management Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Greenbiz. With Gabriel Grant, he is the author of the international bestseller Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World. Dr. Jay also works as a facilitator for companies, organizations, and business families, supporting high quality conversation and shared commitment to ambitious sustainability goals. His clients have included Novartis, Bose, Environmental Defense Fund, BP and the World Bank.

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  • Jason Jay
    Senior Lecturer and Director
    Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan School of Management
    PhD in Organizational Studies, MIT Sloan School of Managementt

    View all posts
  • Tracy Triggs-Matthews
    Associate Director
    Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability
    BA in Environmental Studies, University of California Santa Barbara

    View all posts
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