Business and the Environment (B&E)
Contemporary “business-as-usual” solutions are not sufficient for achieving meaningful change in a resource-constrained and inequitable world. Students taking the Business and the Environment Option (B&E) will develop an critical understanding of how businesses currently tackle the challenges of sustainability in the broadest of senses. They will use creative thinking to develop proactive businesses models that go beyond contemporary levels of sustainability performance.
The B&E Option provides students with an understanding of opportunities and risks that businesses face in the light of growing environmental constraints and social inequality and gives them the skills develop entrepreneurial solutions that maximise those opportunities. Students will be equipped with the knowledge to deal with the complex choices that business must face in order to function as responsible members of society.
The option benefits from the input of leading companies and strategists in the fields of environment, finance, retail and emerging markets, and students are exposed to a wide variety of industry and academic perspectives. Recent contributors have included speakers from Adnams, BG Group, Café Direct, Rio Tinto, InterfaceFlor, Unilever and John Lewis. There is a strong emphasis on learning-by-doing, going beyond the norm and developing solutions to difficult problems using systemic, disruptive innovative thinking coupled with sound business and organisational management strategies.
During the option term, teaching is supported with practical work that serves to both reinforce learning and to give students exposure to real-world problems. A group-based 'live' consultancy project is carried out in conjunction with leading UK-based companies, whilst a business planning exercise gives students the opportunity to develop their own ideas of what a responsible company should look like by planning a business that has positive environmental and social impacts.
Key elements of the Business and the Environment option
Learning from Sustainable Business
This module will allow you to learn how contemporary businesses think about and implement sustainability in their operations and supply chains. Through exposure to industry practitioners and analytical case studies you will gain a critical understanding of best practice in sustainable business and learn how to apply it through a group project. Seminars are normally delivered by professionals working in a range of sectors and include large multi-national companies, small start-ups, consultancies and think-tanks; this wide exposure to different types of organization allows you to develop your own interests that can then be followed up during the summer research term. A number of business case studies will allow you to develop an analytical understanding of business decision-making.
Sustainable Business in Practice
To give you some experience of working with companies on real-world problems you will work in small groups to provide business solutions to contemporary sustainability projects proposed and supported by industry. These term-long consultancy-style projects will allow you to learn how to address complex business-relevant problems in an analytical and strategic manner, to work effectively in teams to deadlines, and to develop written and oral presentation skills. You normally work closely with supporting companies to ensure that the work you do is relevant to addressing important and pressing problems. Previous group projects have been developed with companies such as BP, Diageo, Anglian Water, KKS Advisors and McDonalds.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability
Transformation needs to happen at all levels of society to ensure humanity can live in a "safe operating space". In contrast to the other modules, here we ask what business should be thinking about and doing if they are serious about meeting some of the ambitious global sustainability goals that have been set. For example, how do businesses meet the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure positive environmental, social and economic impacts? We will explore these questions widely, including asking whether businesses can be sustainable in a system that is inherently unsustainable, and asking what it takes to bring about radical systems change. Focusing on early stage ideation you will use a range of creativity tools, philosophical and argumentation techniques to develop robust business models that challenge the status quo and work towards creating better businesses.
Graduates from the B&E Option have gone on to work in a wide range of roles and sectors. A large number work in professional service firms, management and strategy consultancies such as PwC, EY, Deloitte, Accenture, Arup and DNV-GL, as well as specialist environmental consultancies, including Carnstone, ERM and Corporate Citizenship. Graduates also work in in-house CSR and sustainability roles, including John Lewis, Rio Tinto, BP, innocent; and responsible investment firms. A few graduates have started their own businesses, including Brite Green, GrowUp Urban Farms, Snact and SD3.