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University of Exeter Business School

Environmental Economics and Sustainability

Module titleEnvironmental Economics and Sustainability
Module codeBEEM162
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Ethan Addicott (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This is a module about the economics of sustainability and the links between the environment and the economy. We will apply economic principles to answer questions about 1) how to allocate scarce resources across individuals and through time, 2) what sustainability means, and 3) how to assess our progress toward sustainable development. Exposure to economics or public policy will allow us to focus on tackling environmental and resource management problems in the real world.


Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to equip you with the economic skillset to assess policies through the lens of sustainability. By the end of the module, you should be able to differentiate between normative and positive criteria, apply the fundamentals of welfare and growth economics (including the notion of inclusive wealth) to the theory of sustainable development, understand what macroeconomic indicators like GDP do and do not capture, and interrogate the use of the term “sustainable” in business and policy contexts. Finally, you will engage with primary data to assess the sustainability of a region and be able to make policy recommendations based on their assessment.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Interrogate whether headline economic indicators comport with notions of sustainability and propose solutions from the forefront of scholarship to fill gaps
  • 2. Analyse economic growth through a detailed understanding of current scholarship in inclusive/comprehensive wealth theory
  • 3. Apply economic principles to identify resource allocation problems and critically evaluate potential solutions for efficiency and equity.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Apply normative and positive analysis to contemporary global issues.
  • 5. Discuss intertemporal and interpersonal comparisons implicit in the full range of decision-making contexts
  • 6. Draw on the primary literature to relate the fundamentals of economic growth and welfare in detail to the challenges of sustainability

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Marshal appropriate data across disciplinary boundaries to make evidence-based recommendations to tackle sustainability goals.
  • 8. Critically evaluate and challenge economic arguments related to resource allocation and sustainability

Syllabus plan

  • Normative and positive analysis
  • Welfare economics (Welfare theorems, Coase Theorem)
  • Defining sustainability (Weak vs Strong)
  • Comprehensive and Inclusive wealth; the productive asset base
  • National accounts, Sustainability in Practice, Informing Action

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities22Lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities11Seminars focused on problem solving and discussion
Guided independent study37Weekly reading and preparation for seminar
Guided independent study20Web-based activities on ELE
Guided independent study60Research and prepare final project

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly Reading-based AssignmentsShort answers (<500 words total) 1-6,8Oral
Final Project Draft and Presentation2 _ Slides, 1-page outline, short presentation1,2,5-8Written and Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written exam4090 minutes2-6Written
Final Project 60Quantitative sustainability dashboard (incl. 1000 word summary) 1,2,4-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
90-minute exam (40%)90-minute exam2-6Next reassessment period
Final Project (60%)Quantitative sustainability dashboard (incl. 1000 word summary)1,2,4-8Next reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Matson, P., Clark, W. C., & Andersson, K. (2016). Pursuing Sustainability. Princeton University Press.
  • Coyle, D. (2015). GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. Princeton University Press.
  • Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., Fitoussi, J., (2010). Mis-measuring our lives: Why GDP doesn’t add up. The New Press.

Selected readings from the primary literature

  • Banzhaf, S., Ma, L., Timmins, C. (2019). “Environmental justice: The economics of race, place, and pollution”. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 33, 185-208
  • Coase, R. (1960) “The Problem of Social Cost.” The Journal of Law and Economics.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources
OECD Better Life Index

Key words search

Sustainability, environment, economics, resource management

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date