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Social & Economic Sustainability - ENV00095M

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sahar Zavareh Hofmann
  • Credit value: 5 ECTS
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module will explore the links between social and economic sustainability issues and business practice. A connection will be made to materiality and sustainability indicators in a business context. Crucially, the module will also feature the importance of systems thinking to address sustainability issues. A case study approach will allow students to explore in depth a specific key social and/or economic sustainability issue each week. Students will learn about the fundamental principles which underlie each sustainability issue. Students will undertake advanced research for problem-based learning sessions in which they will critically explore topics such as the business ethics, minimum wage, diversity/ inclusivity, gender equality, how business can be done in a way which benefits society and protects people, and how economic growth can be decoupled from environmental degradation. Through joint problem-based learning discussions with the cohort in the partner institution (York or Maastricht), students will gain an international perspective on social and economic sustainability issues, the role of business as their creator and source of solutions and rivers for change including policy, citizen action.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25 to Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to equip students with an appreciation of the fundamental principles which underlie key social and economic sustainability problems, and how changes to business practice and innovations can provide solutions.


  • Undertake advanced research on social and economic sustainability issues and their links to business practice to prepare for problem-based learning sessions and preparation of the essay assessment;

  • Analyse complex sustainability problems

  • Online, international collaboration

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will be able to:

  • Critically discuss and undertake advanced research to establish the fundamental principles which underlie key social and economic sustainability issues;

  • Evaluate and establish the drivers for change to business practice and innovation to solve social and economic sustainability issues;

  • Analyse complex social and economic sustainability issues and critically assess the role of business in creating and solving associated problems;

  • Discuss and debate social and economic sustainability issues in an international setting.

Module content

The module is taught over seven weeks. The timetable for the module will include a one hour weekly lecture, and a mix of face-to-face PBL sessions with the home cohort and online PBL sessions with students in the partner institution (York or Maastricht). All sessions within a given week will focus on exploring one key environmental sustainability issue.

  • Lectures: 8 hours

  • Seminars: 14 hours

  • Assessment: Essay (80%), participation and contribution (20%)

  • Private Study: 128 hours


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework - extensions not feasible/practicable
PBL Participation and contribution
N/A 20
Essay Social & economic Sustainability
N/A 80

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

Formative essay plan.

Summative assessment:

Essay (80%)

Participation and contribution (20%); based on seminar input. This includes evaluation of weekly team presentations summarising PBL research and findings and individual weekly reflective summaries of each PBL topic.



Module feedback

Formative verbal feedback on presentational style and content will be provided in weekly PBL seminars. Summative feedback will be provided on written feedback sheets.

Indicative reading

Caradonna, J. L. (ed.) 2017. Routledge Handbook of the History of Sustainability. London: Taylor and Francis.

D'heur, M. 2015. Sustainable Value Chain Management: Delivering Sustainability Through the Core Business. Springer International Publishing.

Ekins, P. 2002. Economic Growth and environmental sustainability: the prospects of green growth. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Porritt, J. 2005. Capitalism as if the World Matters. London: Taylor & Francis Group. Chapters 1 and 4.

Smith, J. 2016. Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. New York: Monthly Review Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.