Investigating the contribution of role-plays for social sustainability: Designing a role-play game for CSR Communication


  • Ray Ting-Chun Wang Mahidol University


With the growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR), scholarship has recognized that CSR communication is vital, but also very challenging. CSR communication has been called a double-edged sword, meaning that although it is important, communicating CSR too overtly can be “counterproductive.” Another issue is that there has been a dearth of research on how to teach CSR communication. While research has emphasized the importance of teaching CSR and business ethics, it is not clear yet what kind of learning activities are most appropriate for teaching the subject. To address this question, an original role-play game was created for teaching CSR communication. The role-play game is focused on a labor scandal at a fictitious multinational sporting goods company, modeled after true information from the Nike Labor Scandal of the 1990s-2000s. The students are divided into different stakeholder roles (e.g. supplier employees, executives, investors, labor activists), and then role-play these stakeholders in a community meeting to understand the different priorities for each stakeholder before discussing the key problems. Afterward, students of mixed roles form stakeholder teams to discuss their viewpoints and create a communication plan to address the CSR communication crisis. The teams then present these CSR plans to work professionals experienced in CSR and public relations, who would role-play as the CEO and Board of Directors at the company. This instructional design takes elements of role-play and combines them with service learning through the inclusion of experienced work professionals as part of the role-play team. It provides an active learning experience for teaching sustainability, while enhancing the understanding of how role-play contributes to CSR communication. This paper describes the rationale behind the design of this role-play-based teaching approach, as well as how it may be further investigated and enhanced in the future.