An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management is kicking off a new project to advance environmental sustainability education in hospitality and retail management degree programs. The project is in collaboration with researchers from Kansas State University and has received a $300,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
From restaurants and grocery stores to home goods and apparel, hospitality and retail play a significant role in the agricultural supply chain. These billion-dollar consumer industries also have a significant impact on the environment due to high volumes of energy and water use and waste production.
Sustainable business practices aren’t just good for the earth. They are good for businesses’ bottom lines. In addition to saving money by maximizing efficiency, studies have found that many consumers prefer and are willing to spend more with companies that are environmentally conscious. In line with these business trends, there is a growing demand for sustainability curriculum in hospitality and retail management programs, and the research team hopes to support that need with their collaborative efforts.
The grant-funded project is being led by Junehee Kwon, professor of hospitality management at Kansas State. Project co-directors include Robin DiPietro, director of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management; Jeffrey Campbell, chair of South Carolina’s Department of Retailing, and Melody LeHew, a professor of fashion studies at Kansas State.
Students pursuing hospitality and retail careers need a strong understanding of sustainability issues and solutions if they want to be prepared to succeed in these fields. Expanding knowledge at the intersection of agriculture, food, environmental sustainability and consumer demand can lead to innovation in our industries as the next generation takes on tomorrow’s business challenges.
— Robin DiPietro, director, School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Managent at UofSC
The team will develop teaching modules and supporting tools to help faculty incorporate environmental sustainability lessons into their curriculum. The modules will include technology-enhanced teaching techniques including 360 virtual reality videos and interactive choice-based simulation activities to help students understand the tradeoffs of different business decisions.
“With a focus on energy, water, and waste, we believe the project will have lasting impacts to educators and students all around the country,” Campbell says.
The results of the three-year project will be made available online to hospitality and retail management educators.