Playing the Long Game: How I Spent My Summer Reviewing World Rugby’s Sustainability Strategy

Ben Fulton

There are certain times of the year at INSEAD when one particular type of conversation dominates any other.

As the end of the first period approached, everyone wanted to know whether you were going on exchange, with questions distilled down to “Fonty or Singy P5?”

When course bidding opens, the cafeteria is filled with students debating the merits of Blue Ocean Strategy versus Corporate Restructuring. And for several weeks in the leadup to the summer break, that elusive two months off that the December-graduating class receives, the buzz is around how we each plan to spend the summer.

A friend of mine wanted to cycle the circumference of Iceland. Another planned to volunteer his time in Kenya. I decided I wanted to work, but with some flexibility to travel and spend some of my time pursuing other hobbies.

And so, one day, I wrote an email to the COO of World Rugby.

I explained I was a New Zealander, with a passion for rugby since a young age, who wanted to use his time over the summer doing something constructive for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Paris at the start of September.

The COO referred me on to World Rugby’s Head of Communications who, after a few calls during which he most definitely thought to himself “So what exactly are you going to do?”, agreed to a project together.

I was to review Rugby World Cup 2023’s sustainability strategy, benchmark it against similar strategies produced for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games and Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and provide recommendations for future World Cups.

While I have three years of experience in management consulting under my belt, I still found it daunting to be carrying out a project like this on my own.

But once I had determined a structure for the report, a research plan, and a framework to evaluate the sustainability strategy against, the remainder of the work came more easily.

World Rugby
Meeting room at World Rugby’s headquarters

Even though the World Rugby team were incredibly busy organising arguably the world’s biggest sports event in 2023, it was fantastic to see how the organisation worked.

The Head of Communications kindly took me out to lunch, and gave me a real appreciation for the unique nature of working at a sports governing body. We had a great discussion about how to reduce travel emissions without excluding high-paying fans from distant countries, and the merits of reforestation versus mangrove plantation in the context of nature-based solutions.  

If I had to summarise the three greatest lessons from my internship, they would be:

1. Working independently can be challenging but try to organise your summer at work as you would a multi-team project. Build in buffer time, use your calendar to hold yourself to account, and regularly reflect on what you could do differently.

2. Think outside the box when considering where to intern. View it as a unique opportunity to do something different. Consider how much flexibility you need, and whether or not you might be willing and able to do something ‘pro bono’.

3. Have fun. It’s not every year you get so much “time off” during the summer and you get to choose how you spend it.

If you are yet to start at INSEAD, I hope you are able to find as fulfilling and engaging an internship as I was fortunate enough to. 

This internship experience was supported by the INSEAD Hoffmann Institute Impact Internship Stipend and gifts from alumni.