Law and Sustainability: Tackling Global Environmental Challenges

Be a part of the University of Oxford’s mission to tackle global environmental challenges and use the law as a tool to catalyse the sustainability transition.

The law is both a driver of the contemporary environmental, natural resource, and sustainability challenges which humanity faces today, and a critical tool for addressing them. From climate change and biodiversity loss to water scarcity and energy efficiency, the law plays a critical role in society’s ability to mobilise an effective response. This course surveys the most pressing sustainability issues and the existing and emerging legal frameworks that may address them across a range of jurisdictions.

  • Type:
    Online short course
  • Length:
    Eight weeks (4-5 hours of study per week recommended)
  • Upcoming Intakes:
    August 2022, October 2022, February 2023, May 2023
  • Next start date:
    Friday 5 August 2022
  • 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.**

Certificate of Completion

Upon completion of the course, you will receive a certificate that will support your career in real terms.

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  • Module 0: Getting started
  • Module 1: Introduction to sustainability and the law
  • Module 2: Legal frameworks, regulatory guidance, and soft law
  • Module 3: Science and the law
  • Module 4: Systemic lawyering
  • Module 5: Sustainability challenges in corporate and securities law
  • Module 6: Sustainability challenges in health and food law
  • Module 7: Sustainability challenges in the global south
  • Module 8: Law and sustainability: The case of climate change


Dr Aisha Saad

Lead academic, Law and Sustainability

Learning support

In addition to learning from our expert world-leading academics, you will also benefit from a course Facilitator who will provide academic guidance throughout your learning journey – from beginning to end.

The Facilitator will:

  • comment on weekly discussions on specific topics;
  • provide feedback on all project tasks; and
  • give comments and feedback on all activities throughout.

Find out more

Calls may be recorded for quality and training purposes. 

About the course

The course will address sustainable development and the law; environmental protection and climate change; and opportunities for intervention within health and food law and corporate and securities law.

Participants will be introduced to a range of definitions, concepts, and themes which provide foundational knowledge in sustainability, with both theoretical and practical applications for how law can be used to mediate, prevent, and redress sustainability challenges. They will examine and develop an understanding of:

  • the key sustainability challenges domestically and globally;
  • legal principles and frameworks for environment and sustainability;
  • the key international treaties developed to address sustainability issues like climate change and the loss of biodiversity;
  • the relationships between science and the law;
  • systemic lawyering for sustainability;
  • the role of non-legal actors including NGOs, think tanks, and civil society;
  • how corporate and securities law can address sustainability challenges.

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

Participants should leave the course empowered with confidence in their understanding of sustainability and equipped with tools and perspectives to act both as individuals and within their professional roles.

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This course will allow you to effectively engage with or bring legal challenges in current and future environmental and sustainability disputes. Legal frameworks will cover regulation and governance outside of the courtroom. Each week your assessment tasks will vary but each module gives you the opportunity to test your knowledge with Knowledge Check questions, ensuring you’re on track with your learning targets. Join discussions specific to your interests with peers and the Facilitator. In your final assignment you will demonstrate your understanding of the various concepts that have been considered during this course and use them to develop a memorandum and video pitch to introduce sustainability challenges in relation to the law. 

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

  • Identify major sustainability challenges facing the world today;
  • illustrate what is unique about sustainability challenges and attempts to mediate them;
  • analyse the interactions between science, law, and public policy as they play out in key sustainability challenges.
  • Identify some of the key legal tools available to address sustainability challenges;
  • illustrate dynamics within and between jurisdictions;
  • critique key international treaties governing global sustainability.
  • Identify key scientific concepts pertinent to climate-related legal actions;
  • discuss leading climate change research, including attribution science, and sources of evidence;
  • analyse the way that science informs law and legal claims, including use of scientific evidence and expert witnesses in litigation.
  • Describe systems thinking and system dynamics;
  • illustrate systems thinking and the impact of legal intervention and implications for law and policy;
  • analyse the effects of direct and indirect agents in systemic lawyering applications.
  • Identify sustainability challenges for corporations and investors, including climate change and supply chain issues;
  • give examples of the key parties involved in corporate and securities law as it deals with sustainability – including corporate boards of directors, management, shareholders, regulators, proxy advisory services, and standards-setting agencies;
  • analyse different opportunities for legal involvement with corporate sustainability, including regulatory guidance, preventative steps like sustainability clauses in commercial contracts, environmental social and governance disclosures, and litigation in the form of shareholder derivatives suits and tort claims.
  • Recognise the relationship between sustainability, public health and human health;
  • illustrate the relationship between sustainability and food access and food security;
  • advocate legal strategies for sustainability in the context of health and food law, focussing on farming and agriculture.
  • Distinguish key challenges faced by jurisdictions in the global north versus the global south;
  • illustrate the priorities and perspectives of the global south;
  • analyse climate litigation in the global south.
  • Understand the relationships between climate change, corporate governance, and directors’ duties;
  • give examples of the aims of net zero and the tools available to achieve it;
  • assess the notion of climate risk governance in light of climate risk management.

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

Academic expertise

Dr Aisha Saad

Lead academic, Law and Sustainability

Aisha is a Fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance, and was previously the inaugural Bartlett Fellow at Yale Law School. Her current research focuses on ownership and its attendant rights and liabilities in the context of the modern corporation, and on the role of the corporation as a public actor. Aisha’s work has been published in the Berkeley Business Law Journal, the Boston College Law Review, the New England Law Review, and the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law.

She holds a JD from Yale Law School and a DPhil and MPhil from Oxford University where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Aisha’s doctoral dissertation focused on public challenges to the modern corporation and the development of contemporary corporate responsibility regimes. Aisha was an extern for Judge William Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Edward Chen on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. She is a member of the New York and California Bars.

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