Poetry for Sustainability in Business amid the Covid-19 Crisis

A recent 2020 university study conducted in Belgium aimed to prove that poetry can enhance student learning in undergraduate business studies. Students from three different courses at KU Leuven University, Faculty of Economics and Business, Campus Brussels, Belgium, participated. This study was conducted in 2019–2020, 2020–2021, and September 2020, and was incorporated into elective courses titled ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and ‘Service Learning and Social Entrepreneurship.’

The students were asked to do four arts-based tasks involving poetry and were assessed through written reflections. Written reflections make students responsible for their own learning and stimulate independent thinking, a vital component of deep learning.

The first task involved analysing two poems: “I Am Like A Leaf” by Yone Noguchi and “Water” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. To introduce criteria for evaluating the topic, the students needed to incorporate theory from a previous lecture (Schwartz’s (1992) Theory of Basic Human Values and Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations from the perspective of sustainability).

In the second task, the students researched and presented to the class a poem related to the sustainability challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Thirdly, students were asked to continue analysing these sustainability issues by writing an original poem. Finally, students took part in reflecting on the role of poetry with respect to societal challenges. Key questions were posed to the students: (1) How do you think poetry can help people to reflect upon societal challenges?; (2) In which ways can poetry make people think differently about economy?; (3) What kind of positive aspects of the current COVID-19 crisis in terms of evolution of sustainability mindsets can you think about?; (4) How could poetry be used in triggering a transition toward a sustainability mindset?

By the end of each course, students had a firm understanding of the power of poetry to promote deeper understanding and feelings of connection with the economic issues because of the artistic language and imagery. The students believed poetry could lead to reflection, which could aid action and change.

The researchers felt they were able to confirm their theory that poetry in business studies teaches students how to reflect, and encourages emotional intelligence and creativity, which are important components for sustainability in business.


Molderez Ingrid, Baraniuk Diana, and Lambrechts Wim. “The Role of Poetry in Promoting a Sustainability Mindset: Walter Benjamin as a Guide Toward a Slow Journey.” Frontiers in Sustainability Vol. 2 (2021). https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frsus.2021.694317