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Introduction to Sustainable Business - ENV00099M

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Matthew Archer
  • Credit value: 5 ECTS
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This course provides the groundwork for subsequent courses by looking at sustainability at the organisational level. The students of this course will already know about climate change and rising social inequalities, but probably not so much about what to do about those things. Most people coming to a business school have no idea that the economic system could be different than it is. The goal of this course is therefore to introduce the students not only to the concept of sustainable business, but to the variety and diversity of organisations beyond businesses that can provide solutions to the existential crisis we face. This will enable students to start their journeys toward future transformative occupations, whatever and wherever these might be.

We’ll address such questions at what does it mean for a business to be sustainable? What are the differences between a business and other types of organisations? Is there such a thing as sustainability performance? How it is measured and communicated? What are the roles of various stakeholders in this sustainability performance? Is sustainability actually achievable at the level of a single organisation?

This course is also a gateway for the two other “organisation-level courses”: innovation (block 2) and entrepreneurship (block 3). It is more focused on an analysis of recent history and of the current situation as well as observation; the other courses will be more focused on change and student involvement (in the SUBLIM Programme as well as in their future endeavours).

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Familiarise students with sustainability challenges at the organisational level, and with the responses formulated by businesses to these challenges, such as Corporate Social Responsibility, shared value and the circular economy.

  • Equip students with relevant knowledge of research on and governance for transitions toward sustainable and stable economies societies, and of associated (scholarly) debates around the unsustainability of business-as-usual and of models based on an economic growth imperative.


  • Critically reflect on academic literature in the fields of Business & Society and Organisation Studies

  • Effectively analyse and challenge the roles of businesses and organisations in sustainability transitions

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will be able to:

  1. Identify and discuss the scientific principles which underlie sustainability problems, and classify, compare and weigh their solutions in the context of organisations.

  2. Understand and evaluate the changes necessary in organisational functions for the transition to sustainability.

  3. Appraise and critique the role of business in the transition to sustainability in relation to other types of actors and organisations.

  4. Actively participate in discussions of organisational functions for sustainability based on scholarly literature.

Module content

Teaching will be a combination of weekly two-hour PBL sessions and one-hour lectures over seven weeks.

  • Lectures: 8 hours

  • PBL sessions: 14 hours

  • Assessment: EXAM (3hrs)

  • Private Study: 125 hours

This is a module taught by Maastricht University. Please visit Maastricht University webpage for further information by following this link


Task Length % of module mark
Examination and PBL Participation and Contribution - Introduction to Sustainable Business
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work: Participation in weekly PBL seminars.

Summative assessment: Exam (80%); PBL Participation and contribution (20%).

This is a module delivered by Maastricht University and will be subject to Maastricht Education and Examination Regulations.

The module will appear as Pass/Fail Module on your York transcript (and for award purposes), Maastricht will provide a transcript detailing your assessments for this module.


Task Length % of module mark
Examination and PBL Participation and Contribution - Introduction to Sustainable Business
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on participation and contribution will be provided in week 4 and may be requested by students at any time. Summative feedback will be provided based on participation in weekly PBL seminars and in the form of an exam answer key and inspection.

Indicative reading

Blühdorn, I., & Deflorian, M. (2019). The Collaborative Management of Sustained Unsustainability: On the Performance of Participatory Forms of Environmental Governance. Sustainability, 11.

Ghoshal, S. (2005). Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4.

Hankammer, S., Kleer, R., Mühl, L., & Euler, J. (2021). Principles for organizations striving for sustainable degrowth: Framework development and application to four B Corps. Journal of Cleaner Production, 300.

Kinderman, D. (2012). ‘Free us up so we can be responsible!’ The co-evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility and neo-liberalism in the UK, 1977–2010. Socio-Economic Review, 10.

Niessen, L., & Bocken, N. M. P. (2021). How can businesses drive sufficiency? The business for sufficiency framework. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 28.

Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. Chelsea Green Publishing.

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.