Siirry sisältöön
Inspiring responsible tourism through sustainability storytelling
Published : 03.06.2024

The Sea Fortress of Suomenlinna is a well-loved Finnish UNESCO World Heritage Site that hosts some one million visitors annually. It is important that visitors, whilst enjoying their stay, act responsibly and are mindful of the needs of the island’s nature, residents, cultural and architectural heritage, and local businesses.

In May, Haaga-Helia Creative Agency Krea’s annual blended intensive programme Krea Spring School 2024 brought together more than 50 international students, teachers, and industry experts to discuss their sustainability values and goals. To inspire responsible tourism, eight multicultural and multidisciplinary student teams created sustainability storytelling videos for the Sea Fortress Island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki.

Purpose-driven industry-university collaboration

Sustainability challenges today have grown so severe that universities and industry organizations need to find new ways to experiment and co-innovate viable solutions with a shared purpose. Industry-University Collaborations (IUCs) have therefore received increased attention among both practitioners and researchers. It is important to explore ways to develop meaningful collaborations between different university disciplines and different types of companies and organizations (Rybnicek & Königsgruber 2019).

Industry players need to come up with purpose-driven solutions where the focus is shifting from short-term gains to strategic and long-term sustainability, leveraging the company’s resources to address broader societal and environmental challenges. In a similar vein, higher education institutions need to develop purpose-driven learning, teaching, and collaboration solutions that advocate for a holistic and transformational approach to responsibility, ethics, and sustainability. (Haski-Leventhal 2020 & 2022.)

Sustainability marketing videos with a purpose

Sustainability marketing through digital storytelling has proved to be an efficient pedagogical approach to engage higher education students in developing their values-thinking and reflective problem-solving competences (Vesala-Varttala, Pal & Koris 2024). When fostering students’ sustainability competences needed for future work and living, it is important to train them in systemic and anticipatory thinking, but equally also in strategic and practical implementation skills (Brundiers et al. 2021).

Collaborating with The Governing Body of Suomenlinna, K-Market Suomenlinna, Video Agency Ikimedia, and the Krea Spring School 2024 international teacher team, our students engaged in hands-on sustainability storytelling. As their end products, they co-created short video stories with the purpose of inspiring Suomenlinna visitors to enjoy the island’s local services and organise their summer picnics in line with the principles of responsible tourism.

Multicultural reflections on sustainability values and actions

During the blended intensive programme, students, teachers, and industry experts had many useful opportunities to exchange views and opinions about sustainability values, goals, and competences. In their learning journal reflections, our multicultural student teams discussed and assessed their sustainability competence developments from many angles. Students’ reflections ranged from their overall systemic understanding of sustainability to utilising participatory and creative methods to drive changes and to holistically developing one’s resilience skills in the face of sustainability challenges.

One student team summarised their learning outcomes as follows.

[For some] the project really made an impact in terms of gaining resources to inspire others in terms of making sustainable choices: getting a toolbox on how to send a sustainability message in an accessible way to a greater audience. Others thought that it is about your overall inner resourcefulness and readiness to implement sustainable practices in your life. And all of us are ready to make better decisions within our capabilities.

The Krea Spring School 2024 video stories were created using the pedagogical and educational materials produced in the Erasmus+ project LEARN&CHANGE – Collaborative Digital Storytelling for Sustainable Change (2021-2023).


Brundiers, K., Barth, M., Cebrián, G., Cohen, M., Diaz L., DoucetteRemington, S., Dripps, W., Habron, G., Harré, N., Jarchow, M., Losch, K., Michel, J., Mochizuki, Y., Rieckmann, M., Parnell, R., Walker, P., & Zint, M. 2021. Key competences in sustainability in higher education – toward an agreed-upon reference framework. Sustainability Science, 16, 13–29.

Haski-Leventhal, D. 2020. The purpose-driven university: Transforming lives and creating impact through higher education. Emerald.

Haski-Leventhal D. 2022. Strategic corporate social responsibility: A holistic approach to responsible & sustainable business. Sage.

Rybnicek, R. & Königsgruber, R. 2019. What makes industry–university collaboration succeed? A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Business Economics, 89, 221–250.

Vesala-Varttala, T., Pal, A., & Koris, R. 2024. Fostering sustainability competences through co-creation of digital storytelling: Effects of COVID-19 on higher education students’ reflective learning. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 21(3).

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