The world’s leaders will be gathering in the UK in November 2021 to reassert their commitment to tackling climate change at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Cranfield, as a global university with sustainability engrained in its educational and research offerings, is playing its part in helping the global economy transition to a sustainable future.

The University is to feature in the ‘Green Zone’ activities, which are accessible to the public, taking place at COP26 in Glasgow. They were selected to present their Exploring Sustainable Futures game, which looks at imagining and delivering a world that is more sustainable by 2050.

The Exploring Sustainable Futures game is a role-playing, learning experience - played with students and executives - to explore concepts, skills and knowledge that are relevant to the sustainable business modules taught by the University’s Sustainability group. It was recognised by the Financial Times as being an example of best practice in teaching about sustainability.  

Dr Rosina Watson, Cranfield’s Senior Lecturer in Sustainability, said: “Playing this game has helped Cranfield students explore the radical changes that will have to happen in business, and in society, to achieve a Net Zero and sustainable world, using four possible scenarios of a sustainable future. Players experience how the interrelated actions of businesses, government and citizens will shape that future for good or ill, and come away understanding how all sectors of society will have to play a part.”

The game aligns with COP26's themes, actively engaging, demonstrating and promoting systems thinking and broadening perspectives on how we look at the world and the interconnected actions of societal actors to change and shape the world into the next three decades.

Sue Garrard, Sustainability Strategy Advisor, former EVP Sustainable Business Development and Communications, Unilever said: “Achieving Net Zero demands rethinking how we live, work, and do business, and understanding the steps people and organisations can take to drive these changes. This involves having a vision of what a just and sustainable future could look like, seeing business as part of an interconnected system, taking bold decisions and being able to take people with us in those decisions, and collaborating with others. These are all skills this game teaches.”

The game is set in one of four alternative possible future scenarios that can be related to diverse economies across the globe, allowing players to envisage alternatives to a western-centric classical economic system focus on the ‘bottom line,’ and enable more inclusive ways of thinking about sustainability in different cultural contexts.

The game features five players, with a player representing an established business interacting with others representing entrepreneurs, policy makers and civil society organisations. They all react to changes in economy, technology, and society along alternative pathways towards a more sustainable future by 2050. The ‘winners’ are judged not only by the number of resources they have accumulated, but also by whether they have achieved their purpose. 

At the COP26 workshop, some members of the audience will help the players decide which actions to take as the future unfolds, while others will represent the voice of the public and show their support for – or opposition to – the players’ chosen course of action. Together, they will reflect on the world that results.

The event is taking place on Monday 1 November at 5pm, you can register here for tickets or view live-streaming.

Notes for editors

The game was developed in collaboration with Forum for the Future and the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) as part of the EU-Innovate project and builds on a concept originally devised by the EU-Commission’s Joint Research Council (JCR).

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.