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MSc Sustainable Business, Environment and Society

Prepare to lead business in tackling current and future sustainability challenges and help create a sustainable and just future.

Year of entry: 2024 (September)


1 year full-time

Start date

September 2024

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The planet is currently facing unprecedented social, economic, and environmental challenges. Business is an important agent for change towards sustainability. It can be the start of innovation and lead to solutions for pressing problems of our time.

While studying, you'll learn to lead sustainability initiatives in a business setting. You'll develop the skills to work with local communities and the government to achieve positive societal and environmental outcomes.

Through our teaching, you'll gain expertise in independent and critical thinking. You'll have opportunities to work with external organisations, allowing you to apply your skills to real-world problems.

With dedicated placement support you'll be able to make the most of the opportunities open to you. Our careers and employability support extends after graduation, helping you to shape your career.

On graduation, you'll be well-placed for roles in internationally oriented companies, public institutions and organisations that strive for sustainability.

This course is taught in English at our campus in York.

If you would like to study a similar high quality programme spanning two institutions (University of York and University of Maastricht) and leading to a Dual Degree in one year, we encourage you to apply for our Sustainable Business, Environment and Society (dual degree) (MSc).

The Environment Building with living wall on Campus West, University of York

Problem-based learning

Modern, dynamic learning that ensures you experience and understand concepts in practical, social and theoretical contexts.

International outlook and social responsibility

We believe that universities should have a positive impact at a local, national and global level.

Research Excellence

We've improved our ranking to become a top 15 research department, and our research is ranked joint second in the UK for impact, according to the Times Higher Education's ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

Course content

The course structure will equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to undertake an independent academic or applied sustainable business project. You'll gain multidisciplinary knowledge, including business functions and theories of organisational, sustainability (environmental, social and economic) and justice (social, environmental).

You'll develop skills in project design and implementation. You'll learn how to design and implement effective change management strategies including how to assess, improve and monitor the sustainability of an organisation. Through the group project you'll gain the experience of collaboration with an external organisation committed to sustainable business.

The programme has four streams or specialist pathways which allow you to tailor your degree to your personal or employment interests. Students have the choice of following one of these streams by undertaking the corresponding optional modules or conversely selecting modules from different streams if they so wish. The four streams are:

  • Environmental Management; for students seeking a specialisation in sustainable environmental management. Corresponding modules: Environmental Management in Practice (Semester 1); Climate Science and Policy (Semester 2).
  • Sustainable innovator; for students seeking a specialisation in innovative sustainable business practices. Corresponding modules: Sustainable Business Innovation (Semester 1); Alternative Economies and Sustainable Business (Semester 2).
  • Sustainability Strategist; for students seeking a specialisation in sustainability policy practices. Corresponding modules: Sustainable Business in a Global Context (Semester 1); Finance and Environmental Sustainability (Semester 2).
  • Sustainability leadership; for students seeking a specialisation in sustainability thought leadership Corresponding modules: Sustainable and Just Futures (Semester 1); Sustainability II: Understanding Sustainability as Change through Time (Semester 2).


Core modules:

  • Introduction to Sustainable Business
    Study foundational topics and concepts related to sustainable business research and practice, providing the framework and groundwork for subsequent modules and projects.
  • Change Management for Sustainability
    Gain a critical understanding of the frameworks, principles, concepts and theories of change management, while simultaneously designing and undertaking a change project.
  • Group Sustainability Business Project
    Explore the relationship between environmental sustainability issues and business practice, including sustainability indicators, materiality and approaches to managing environmental impact in a business context.
  • Research Skills and Methods
    Develop a successful research career including applying for jobs, ethical considerations and research project design and writing, and designing, executing and analysing environmental and social surveys.

Optional modules:

  • Environmental Management in Practice

  • Sustainable Business Innovation
    Learn to innovate for sustainability in every aspect of an organisation, from marketing to finance.
  • Sustainable Business in a Global Context
    Focus on the relationships between local sites of production, exchange, consumption, and governance that constitute “the global.”
  • Sustainable and Just Futures
    Explore concepts of sustainability and justice (environmental, climate and social), unpacking their history, meaning, interactions and real world application. 
  • Climate Science and Policy
    Understand the physical principles behind climate change and its impacts. You'll explore this from the perspectives of different stakeholders and geographical scales (from local to global).
  • Finance and Environmental Sustainability
    Is “sustainable finance” an oxymoron? Evaluate the troubled relationship between finance and the environment, and explore innovative solutions to re-imagine the relationship between nature, society, and capital.
  • Alternative Economies for Sustainable Business
    ‘System change not climate change!’ is a common refrain in climate justice and activist movements. In this module we explore some of the alternative systems that have been proposed, focusing on their economic principles and what these mean for business, society, and the environment.
  • Sustainability II: Understanding Sustainability as Change Through Time
    Explore sustainability and resilience as a question of change and continuity through time. Explore how we can use an understanding of the recent and distant past to assess the sustainability of a system.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff, and in line with Department/School academic planning.


As part of your core modules, you will need to complete either a Dissertation or Dissertation with Placement.



The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Discuss the scientific principles which underlie sustainability problems, and critically assess and debate their solutions in the context of business
  • Analyse complex sustainability problems using theories, concepts, models and methods from a range of disciplines
  • Conduct advanced research to inform change management planning and the development of sustainable solutions in the private and public sector
  • Identify areas of focus and priorities for change towards sustainability which take into consideration the context in which they are working (organisational, regional, national and international)
  • Design and implement effective change management and innovation strategies to assess, improve and monitor the sustainability of an organisation
  • Collaborate effectively and professionally within and across organisations and develop partnerships using face-to-face and online approaches
  • Design innovative and resilient solutions to sustainability problems linked to business which consider the linkages between environment, society and economy, risk and uncertainty
  • Communicate effectively and professionally across disciplines for specialist and non-specialist audiences using written, oral and digital media

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2024/25

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £10,590£23,900

Students on a Student Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2024/25 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

Other cost considerations

If you are interested in the exchange option, you should consider the implications for:

  • University accommodation – we will aim to be flexible on contract length; please indicate early that this might be an option
  • Shorter private accommodation – contracts that enable release at six months
  • Visa requirements

Travel and accommodation for the conference will be covered.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching format

Throughout the course, there is a strong focus on project work and developing your change management skills.

The two semesters are taken up by taught modules. Programme teaching comprises a mix of lectures, seminars and workshops taught face to face as well as independent group work and private study.

At the start of the group project, you'll select a broad project idea from a list compiled in collaboration with business partners.

To support project development and implementation, you'll have two-hour workshops in the first two weeks of the module and 2-hr group meetings with staff alongside separate 1-hour weekly meetings with business partners.

For your independent project, you'll have regular one-hour meetings with the academic supervisor and business partner (if undertaken as placement).


Our state-of-the-art building contains purpose-built labs, lecture theatre and seminar rooms.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Environment and Geography on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

All the modules you take will be assessed, and we employ a variety of forms of assessment, including:

  • Change management plan
  • Reflective writing
  • Poster presentation
  • Policy, analysis and case study reports
  • Teamworking
  • Participation and contribution
  • Essays
  • Articles for a professional but non specialist audience

Your individual project will be assessed on a dissertation based on an assessed Dissertation Proposal completed in Semester 2.

Students listening during Environment Lecture

Careers and skills

On graduation, you'll be well-placed for roles in internationally oriented companies, public institutions or (non-governmental) organisations that are committed to international agreements and strive for sustainability.

Career opportunities

  • Sustainability manager
  • Environmental consultant
  • Supply chain analyst or manager
  • Policy officer
  • Civil Service fast streamer
  • Think tank researcher
  • Sustainability related positions linked to marketing, product-design or outreach

Transferable skills

  • Time management and people skills
  • Critical thinking and evaluation
  • Analytical and technical research skills
  • Comparison and correlation of disparate data
  • Theoretically/methodologically informed decision making
  • Communication to multiple and distinct audiences
  • Teamwork

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:2 or equivalent in any discipline or with relevant professional experience.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 7.0, with a minimum of 7.0 in Writing and no less than 6.5 in all other components
Cambridge CEFR C1 Advanced: 185, with a minimum of 185 in Writing and no less than 176 in all other components
Oxford ELLT 8, minimum of 8 in writing and no less than 7 in all other components
Duolingo 130, minimum 130 in Production and 120 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT C1: 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic 75 with a minimum of 75 in Writing and no less than 70 in all other components
KITE 495-526, with 495-526 in writing and 459-494 in all other components
Skills for English C1: Pass overall, with Pass in each component
PTE Academic 67, with a minimum of 67 in Writing and no less than 61 in all other components
TOEFL 96 with a minimum of 24 in Writing and no less than 23 in all other components
Trinity ISE III Level 3 with Distinction in all components

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you haven't met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation online. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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