Demystifying Sustainability: The design and development of a toolkit to generate sustainable business narratives

Emmellee Rose
31 March 2015

Rose, E. (2015). Demystifying Sustainability: The design and development of a toolkit to generate sustainable business narratives. (A project report submitted to meet the requirements of MDE501 Design-Led Enterprise Project and in partial fulfilment of the Master of Design Enterprise at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand) [PDF 14MB]


This project sets out to address the lack of awareness about issues of sustainability, with specific reference to small and medium sized business (SMEs) in New Zealand. Perceptions of sustainability are often distorted, largely through incomplete comprehension of the issues. The aim of this project is to improve people’s understanding of sustainability through structured communication designed to effect positive behavioural change.

Background: Sustainability was chosen as a specific topic of focus because from research it became clear that consumers are choosing companies that exhibit sustainable practices. In general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. Sustainability is a buzzword, frequently used to describe activity but is a concept not well understood by many people. Market Research Company Colmar Brunton conducted a poll in 2014 in New Zealand: ‘Better Business, Better Future’. This poll demonstrates the importance of sustainability to a sample of 1000 people across society. Eighty two percent of the 1000 people polled, are concerned for the future (Colmar Brunton, 2014). 

General approach to address the issue: The research began by exploring concepts in, and perceptions of, sustainability in SMEs. It became apparent through this research that these responses and stories from people involved in company activities became powerful vehicles for  understanding. It was also seen as a means to generate consensus within overall business strategies. Storytelling has been developed as part of the overall enterprise creation process as an effective way for a business to communicate their brand message. Storytelling here is defined as a type of narrative that involves compelling emotions and interests to excite the imagination of the listener, reader, and/or viewer (Langellier & Peterson, 2011).

The overall intent of the project then became the design and development of a socially sustainable service enterprise based on creative story telling. The ultimate innovative outcomes included a design driven process template together with a sustainability toolkit which prompted and aligned storytelling of participants with business visions.

Emmellee Rose's primary supervisor was Nick Laird.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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