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Enhancing Course Content: Guide to Sustainability & Circular Economy for Instructors

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Climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation are becoming increasingly relevant and complex. Every week we see natural disasters on the news, and those are just the ones being reported. As these global issues heat up, sustainability and circular economy principles become more poignant reference points for how we can tackle what is going on. The challenge, of course, is incorporating these principles into business education and professional development, in order to help prepare the next generation of leaders to address these challenges and create a more sustainable future.

In this guide, we will provide 8 ways for instructors to incorporate sustainability and circular economy principles into their courses, focusing on using business simulations like Circular Markstrat as a tool for teaching. By implementing these strategies, instructors can help students and professionals understand the importance of sustainability and circular economy principles and gain practical skills to apply them in their work.

Let’s get underway.

Develop Sustainability & Circular Economy Case Studies

Instructors can, and probably should, develop case studies that focus on the real sustainability and circular economy challenges faced by real businesses, industries, or organisations. These case studies can then be used to work with your students, regardless of age and level, to analyse how sustainability and circular economy principles can be applied in different contexts. You can ask your students to identify and come up with the best practices and potential solutions to problems such as water scarcity, soil erosion or resource depletion. 


Utilise Real-World Examples

Everything you need to know is just a quick Google search away. Companies that are doing great things for sustainability and the circular economy typically want to boast about it (it is good for marketing, after all). Instructors can comb the internet for epic real-world examples of initiatives and businesses that are lighting up the world of sustainability and competently sharing information about it. What a great way to inspire students. Here are a few examples of companies embracing the circular economy to inspire you. 

Bonus tip: Find a local business that has received recognition for their progress work and organise a student trip to see things firsthand. Students will love it.


Invite Guest Speakers to Contribute

The funny thing about inspirational people is that they actually want to inspire others! Finding guest speakers to come and inspire your students shouldn’t actually be that hard, because those who are doing impressive things often want to share how they did it and pass on the flame to others. You can even turn a guest lecture into a seminar or workshop and drive the opportunity even further. 

This visual and engaging learning approach is very memorable for students.


Use a Business Simulation like Circular Markstrat

We know from our own experience, and from the thousands of reviews we have from clients and partners, how drastically business simulations can improve the learning process. So, when it comes to driving the importance of sustainability and circular economy principles in academic and professional courses, getting to roll up your sleeves and take part in a simulated activity can be highly rewarding. 

Here are just 9 ways we see business simulations playing a key role for instructors building sustainability into their lessons.

  1. Use the simulation as a case study to illustrate how sustainability and circular economy principles can be applied to business operations

  2. Ask students to prepare a sustainability report based on the simulation's business operations

  3. Ask students to analyse the supply chain in the simulation and identify ways to make it more sustainable

  4. The simulation can be used to teach students about circular design principles, such as designing products with recyclability in mind

  5. Instructors can ask students to design a new product in the simulation that incorporates circular design principles

  6. Instructors can use the simulation to teach students about product life cycle analysis

  7. Instructors can ask students to prepare a sustainable marketing plan for the simulation's business, focusing on promoting the business's sustainability practices to customers

  8. The simulation can be used to teach students about waste reduction strategies, such as reducing packaging waste or using recycled materials

  9. Instructors can ask students to participate in a circular innovation challenge using the simulation. Students can then come up with new product ideas that incorporate circular economy principles.


5. Assign Sustainability and Circular Economy Projects

Most students are quite happy to be assigned individual work and to go away and write an essay. This is boring, and most students can do it on autopilot. What instructors need to conceive are ways for students, whether individually or in groups, to embark on ambitious and interesting projects that genuinely pique their curiosity and help them build genuine interest in sustainable principles and practices. 

Consider giving students case studies to build, business plans to compose, or research papers to dissect and present. If there’s a problem and solution model applied to any work given out, this can act as a useful framework for students. 

6. Integrate Sustainability and Circular Economy Frameworks

Instructors might want to start by teaching the basics of sustainability before attempting more ambitious tasks. To start with, they should research into the following theories:

  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy Framework

  • Cradle to Cradle

Depending on what course or subject the instructor is teaching, each of these can provide useful language and concepts for looking at the bigger picture of sustainability and the circular economy. There’s hardly a single activity, topic, or person who is not touched by these frameworks in some way. On top of that, there’s a tonne of great information online that instructors can disseminate for additional reading. 


7. Encourage Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving


Sustainability and circular economy challenges are complex and require critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Instructors can seek to design course activities and assessments that require students and professionals to analyse, evaluate, and propose solutions to sustainability and circular economy challenges. This will require some creativity on the side of the lecturer, but if done well and the results can be quite spectacular.

The 17 SDGs are a great place to start creative and critical debate among students, asking them things like:

  • Can billionaires solve poverty?

  • How do we fix the food supply to avoid starvation?

  • How do we make access to education 100% globally?

  • Which renewable energy sources are worth pursuing?

  • Will AI take our jobs and how do we ensure enough work for all?

You get the picture, so get creative! You could even ask the students to assess the SDGs and prepare their own debates to suggest among the group. 


8. Provide Opportunities for Experiential Learning

Sustainability and circular economy principles are best learned through hands-on experience, so instructors can provide opportunities for students and professionals to participate in sustainability and circular economy initiatives. Quite often, universities, colleges, and other educational facilities have built long-term partnerships with local causes to do exactly that.

Some examples could include community sustainability projects or sustainable business competitions, which help students to gain practical experience and develop skills in both sustainability and circular economy principles. A local beach cleanup, volunteering for a wildlife charity, starting a recycling project, attending a peaceful protest - these are all easy ways to learn and support. 


Concluding Thoughts

By adopting some of the 8 strategies outlined in this article, instructors can help students and professionals understand the challenges and opportunities related to sustainability and circular economy, whilst at the same time developing the skills needed to address them in practice. 

Whether through case studies, guest speakers, or experiential learning opportunities such as Circular Markstrat, instructors can help build a new generation of leaders who are equipped to create value in a way that is socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. That’s what most of us want, at the end of the day; a better world to live in.