The Future of Sustainable Business: Enterprise and the Environment

This course will help you to address the world’s greatest challenges in reaching net zero and meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will introduce you to the expectations and opportunities for sustainable business management, helping you explore the emerging tools to facilitate leadership in the creation of a positive future.

  • Type:
    Online short course
  • Length:
    Eight weeks (4-5 hours of study per week recommended)
  • Upcoming Intakes:
    February 2023, May 2023, July 2023, October 2023
  • Next start date:
    3 February 2023 (deadline: 2 February)
  • Fees:
    £1,500 (including VAT)*
  • Award:
    Certificate of completion

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*Discounts available to alumni and those working in the public sector. Evidence required.

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*Students in your region are eligible for financial support. At check out, please use the code SSFEESUPPORT to receive around 33% off and pay £990.**

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes for the course are as follows: 

  • Understand the nature, trajectories and basic scientific principles of the net zero and sustainable development challenge (NZSD); 
  • identify the broad range of socio-technical drivers that can accelerate progress to NZSD; 
  • examine the role of enterprise and its relationship to environmental and development challenges across a range of risks, technological innovations, investment opportunities and policy responses; 
  • learn about the expectations for sustainable businesses of the future and understand the enablers of these changes; 
  • develop confidence in your ability to communicate about net zero and the business and sustainable development goals; and 
  • explore the opportunities and skills necessary to develop sustainability leadership for yourself and/or your organisation. 

Upon completion of this sustainable business course, you will receive a certificate that will help to showcase your sustainability leadership credentials and open up career opportunities.

certificate image

Modules

Each week your assessment tasks will vary but each module gives you the opportunity to test your sustainable business management knowledge with knowledge check questions, ensuring you’re on track with your learning targets. You will also be able to join discussions specific to your interests with peers and a course Facilitator. 

In your final assignment, you will demonstrate your understanding of the various business sustainability concepts that have been considered during this course and use them to develop a pitch about how you would like to lead strategic change. You are encouraged to choose how you present your pitch by either submitting it as a written document or recording yourself presenting in an audio or video format.

  • Module 0: Getting started
  • Module 1: Net zero, the SDGs, the world and you: Introductions
  • Module 2: The environment and enterprise journey
  • Module 3: Low carbon transition
  • Module 4: Resource management
  • Module 5: Sustainable finance
  • Module 6: Business transformation
  • Module 7: Technology, policy, and law
  • Module 8: Leadership for the future

Teaching team

Dr Caitlin McElroy Lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Caitlin McElroy

Lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Laurence Wainwright Co-lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Laurence Wainwright

Co-lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Learning experience

This course, including all activities and assessments, will be delivered flexibly and entirely online without any need to come to our campus. 

In addition to learning from our expert, world-leading academics, you will also benefit from a Facilitator who will provide academic guidance throughout your learning journey – from beginning to end. The Facilitator will comment on weekly discussions relating to business sustainability and provide feedback on all activities throughout the course.

We would recommend on average 4-5 hours of study per week. This may vary by individual and topic. 

Fees and funding

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The total cost of this short course is £1,500 (inclusive of VAT), with discounts available to Oxford University alumni and those working in a public sector role (evidence is required).

It is possible to pay your fees in two instalments, laying down a deposit (and reserving a space) before settling the final balance and securing your place on the course ahead of its start.

For more information about our deposit scheme or discounts you may be entitled to, please feel free to email us or book a time for our team to give you a call.

REGIONAL TEXT – This admin note won’t be visible on preview or live – Do not remove this text, instead update the below text block instead:

The total fees are £1,500 (inclusive of VAT). However, students in your region can currently benefit from a discount of around 33% – simply use the code SSFEESUPPORT at checkout and pay just £990 for the course.

It is also possible to pay your fees in two instalments, laying down a deposit (and reserving a space) before settling the final balance and securing your place on the course ahead of its start.

For more information about our deposit scheme or discounts you may be entitled to, please feel free to email us or book a time for our team to give you a call.

Find out more







Calls may be recorded for quality and training purposes. 






About the course

Throughout this future of sustainable business course, you will build your understanding of the scale and potential severity of the challenges we face, but also be empowered to adopt a mindset of seeing these as opportunities for change and a renewed focus on sustainability leadership. 

  • You will see the diversity of impacts from climate change and unsustainable development framed from different organisations and global perspectives. 
  • You will be introduced to the latest thinking about economic systems, technologies, finance, and policies to accelerate a sustainable transition. 
  • You will gain insights into navigating the multiple often conflicting objectives sustainable business strategy demands. 
  • The course prepares you to understand, participate in, and create a future in which the businesses that contribute to sustainability thrive. 

Five themes underpin our approach to this course: 

  1. Intellectual curiosity: keeping an open mind, appreciating diverse worldviews, perspectives and possible solutions to the net-zero and sustainable development (NZSD) challenge. 
  2. Application in practice: being able to understand business sustainability concepts and apply them practically, with confidence. 
  3. Integration and application of interdisciplinary knowledge: understanding and accounting for the way in which the NZSD challenge – and possible solutions – intersect across multiple disciplines. 
  4. Personal connection and purpose: finding your unique connection to NZSDG – both personally as well as within your domain of professional practice. 
  5. Leadership for complex challenges and impactful solutions: leading impactful change within enterprise – and beyond – to tame wicked problems relating to business sustainability. 

Modules

Introduce yourself to your fellow cohort and meet your Facilitator, who will be providing support to you throughout the duration of this Future of Sustainable Business course. Learn more about what the course offers and how to navigate through it. Tell us more about yourself by answering questions and posting to the discussion board.

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Define key terms and concepts related to net-zero and the sustainable development goals (NZSDG); 
  • engage with these concepts and confidently apply them in practice; 
  • appreciate and account for conflicting objectives and tensions between interests, actors, and geographies in relation to NZSDGs; and 
  • situate and reflect on your own motivations and objectives related to NZSDGs.

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Understand how current conceptualisations of enterprise and the environment are the product of historical events – including key “tipping points”; 
  • evaluate previous corporate responses to social and environmental issues and analyse why these responses are failing to meet our current challenges; 
  • account for the significance of social and environmental irresponsibility to business; and
  • assess how robust different approaches are for achieving business sustainability. 

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Define net zero, understand its scientific underpinnings, and account for the interdependence between ecological, social, and economic systems; 
  • understand the changes to our energy systems as part of a low-carbon transition; 
  • understand the essential ideas of systems theory and thinking in systems; and 
  • identify possible solutions for transitions to net zero, appreciating the interplay of policy, markets, behaviour and technology to enact them. 

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Define the concept of Planetary Boundaries and outline its key features; 
  • understand interconnections between the SDGs, net-zero and enterprise; and 
  • identify the SDGs important to your business or contexts of importance for you and understand possible strategies for addressing them.

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Understand the role of financial markets as both a cause of – and solution to – unsustainable development and greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • identify the key instruments currently in use to leverage and align financial systems and corporate finance to sustainability; and 
  • consider how to translate knowledge of net zero and the SDGs into financial strategies for a sustainable future.

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Define the principles of regenerative and circular economy and conceptualise them as solutions to the linear economy; 
  • evaluate the challenges and opportunities of business transformations inclusive of factors such as the changing nature of work, emerging technologies, and managing innovation; and 
  • explore different approaches to facilitate and manage innovation and transformation in business.

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • Understand how socio-technical interventions can accelerate the transition to NZSDGs; 
  • learn strategic questions to use in your evaluation of new technologies emerging to address sustainability and transform business; 
  • situate the relationship between business and different scales of policy and global governance for sustainability, considering how they present opportunities and risks; and 
  • understand the role of the law for supporting NZSDG, particularly in relation to businesses.

As part of this final module, you will submit your final summative assignment. This will involve developing a pitch on how you would like to lead strategic change in your organisation. It will be an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the various concepts that have been considered during this course, as well as: 

  • Identify the styles of sustainable business management and leadership best suited to you and your enterprise; 
  • evaluate how you plan to change your personal leadership style to ensure your business is sustainable; and 
  • learn about stakeholders of different organisations, understand their intentions and formulate a strategy for engagement. 

Watch our one-minute video for an overview of the course

Academic expertise

Dr Caitlin McElroy Lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Caitlin McElroy

Lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Caitlin McElroy is a Departmental Research lecturer in Enterprise and the Environment at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) and the School of Geography and the Environment. Her research addresses improving the sustainability and development of resource driven economies, advancing the circular economy of mineral resources, and the complicated relationships between finance, equality, and environmental services (cooling and water) in developed and developing economies. Caitlin is an economic geographer and her research has engaged with institutional theory, financial geography, science and technology studies, and environmental justice. Current research includes leading on Circular Resourcing, a related circular economy focused workstream as part of the Future of Cooling programme, and ongoing research on Sharing Resource Prosperity. She is also involved in partnerships to create tools to assist corporations, governments, and investors in the management of their environmental and social risks and opportunities such as with DAMSAT, a satellite-based dam monitoring project funded by the UK Space Agency. Support for her research has also come from the Oxford Martin School, The John Fell Fund, and as part of UpGro (NERC/ESRC/DFID).

Caitlin holds a BA (with Honours) from the University of Pennsylvania in History and Environmental Studies, an MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy (with Distinction) and a DPhil in economic geography (Clarendon Scholar), both from the University of Oxford.

Dr Laurence Wainwright Co-lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Laurence Wainwright

Co-lead academic, The Future of Sustainable Business

Dr Laurence Wainwright is Course Director of the MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment and a Departmental Lecturer. A teaching and learning oriented academic, Laurence has a decade of experience in lecturing, facilitation and supervision across universities in Australia, Sweden and the United States and United Kingdom. Laurence is passionate about the holistic development of the students who he teaches and helping them to develop into well-rounded individuals with a mindset of intellectual curiosity and courage, continuous self-improvement, and service to a mission beyond themselves. He has received several prizes and citations for his teaching, as well as appearing on lists recognising high scores in student feedback surveys.

Laurence completed his doctoral studies in Business Administration at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Laurence’s PhD thesis used the contextual domain of the Swedish fishing industry in order to consider how contests to organizational legitimacy manifest around sustainability debates. Eighteen months of this programme was spent at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, and an additional six months across multiple universities in China, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands.

Laurence also holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Development from Uppsala University, a Master of Education from the Queensland University of Technology, and a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Bachelor of Accounting and Bachelor of Business (Honours) from the University of Technology Sydney.

Frequently asked questions

This course is for you are looking for sustainability training and new tools and insights to help you perform better in your role, to encourage best practice in your organisation and/or to simply gain a better understanding of these pressing issues in a business context. This course would suit solutions-led professionals working in business, including:  

  • those at entry-level who want to build their sustainability knowledge; 
  • middle managers who need to encourage sustainable practices in their team; and 
  • senior leaders who are fluent in many different industry issues but need to refine their expertise in this area to help drive the transition towards a cleaner, fairer and more prosperous future.

The course takes eight weeks to complete, with 4-5 hours of study required per week.

There are no specific entry requirements for this course. However, a certain level of commitment is expected – we recommend dedicating 4-5 hours a week to your studies. All activities and tasks will take place online, so you will need a stable internet connection and suitable equipment to participate.

**Applies to countries in Africa, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar