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University of Exeter Business School

Sustainability, CSR and Business Ethics

Module titleSustainability, CSR and Business Ethics
Module codeBEMM391
Academic year2023/4
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

One of the key questions facing society, the environment and the global economy is how can we continue to survive in an ethical and sustainable way?


The challenge for students of management is how can this be achieved? The answer, many argue, is via the concept of sustainability and it’s practical implementation through the adoption of Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Sustainable and ethical approaches to development and business management have been growing in popularity over the past two decades. Initially, starting out as a perceived niche response to the negative impacts of unplanned, unmanaged mass production, sustainability is now (some would argue) on it’s way to becoming a fully integrated management approach, adopted by many mainstream businesses in their everyday business practice and as the central value proposition  to many new business models. But why? What is a sustainable management approach and how is it achieved? Employers are increasingly looking for people who have an understanding of sustainability, business ethics and CSR, which is why you need to study this topic.


This module will enable you to develop the knowledge and skills to understand, articulate, critique and apply the theory behind sustainable and ethical approaches to business management. We will explore a variety of companies’ attempts to integrate sustainable approaches into their everyday business practices. By exploring the theory and examining the practice from a range of sectors we will investigate how and why people have chosen to adopt sustainable approaches to the way in which they do business. To be written to the student describing the distinctive features of the Module and any unique activities or opportunities. Why a student should take this module

Module aims - intentions of the module

Studying Sustainability, Business Ethics and CSR will equip you with the knowledge and skills to be able to apply these concepts to everyday business management practice. By examining case studies from a range of sectors we will explore how and why businesses have chosen to adopt sustainable approaches. We will enable you to critique and understand phrases such as : ‘cradle to cradle’, ‘CSR’, ‘Ethical Consumers’, ‘Ethical Business’, ‘Slow Business Movements’, ‘One for One’ business Models, ‘act local think global’ as well as many others.


By the end of this module you will have the confidence and skills to engage with industry professionals, policy makers and fellow academics in an informed manner, secure in the knowledge that you understand some of the challenges facing society, the environment and the global economy from a sustainable management perspective. You never know it might lead to a valuable specialism for you in your future career, or the knowledge gained through this module might just give you the edge in a crucial interview. An understanding of Sustainability, Business Ethics and CSR is increasingly being asked for as a desirable requirement by graduate employers.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Critically consider the origins of the terms, definitions and underlying theories related to sustainability, business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • 2. Explain how businesses have attempted to adopt sustainable development approaches to their everyday management practices
  • 3. Develop academic arguments around key issues in the global sustainable development and sustainable business debate
  • 4. Assess the role of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the design of sustainable management solutions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Investigate some of the ethical dimensions of international; management, governance, and responsibility
  • 6. Demonstrate an understanding of the interrelationships between Business, Society and the Environment and think holistically about implementing transformative change
  • 7. Analyse the links between international policy and local action by commercial enterprises in their attempts to implement sustainable development principles
  • 8. Critique the need and causes for change, assess the role of push and pull factors at play in building sustainable approaches to business

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Demonstrate high levels of critical thinking and research skills while drawing upon a range of data sources from both academic and applied contexts
  • 10. Draft and present reports which would be acceptable in a commercial context
  • 11. Utilise skills in rigorous academic, research, analysis, argument development, design and presentation
  • 12. Share ideas and experiences from different disciplines/places/cultures/generations without prejudice and preconception
  • 13. Think creatively about managing information in a digital world, to tight deadlines with competing pressures and demands

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction to sustainable business? – the theory of sustainable development
  • Why do we need a sustainable management approach?
  • Contemporary debates around sustainable development, climate change, notions of consumption, equity, business ethics and CSR?
  • Governance and finance for sustainable business
  • Strategy and Execution - How does change occur? Innovation, Perceptions, Behaviour Change and Demand
  • Leadership and Entrepreneurship for sustainable business
  • Collaboration, co-operation and partnership - stakeholders
  • Sustainable consumption and production
  • Designing monitoring mechanisms and indicators of sustainability,
  • Review, assignment preparation and jobs in sustainability

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 and teaching activity22Lectures: 11 x 2 hour lectures led by Module Lead
Scheduled learning and teaching activity5Seminars: 5 x 1 hour seminars. Collaborative class participation led by Module lead with guest speakers on occasions
Guided independent study123Research, reading, analysis and writing of assignments. Approx. 2 hours per lecture and one hour per seminar to pre-read lecture/seminar slides and follow through on reading links embedded in the lecture slides as directed by the module lead. On occasion the module lead will direct reading to a specific article which needs reading ahead of a seminar session. Students should have read through the lecture slides ahead of the class in order to be prepared for in class discussions. All slides are available on ELE ahead of class for this purpose

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay outline for business report style assignment1 page plan bullet points approx 500 words1-13Verbal and/or written
Participation in group discussions and presentations in seminars and lecturesVarying1-13Verbal

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
Business report style assignment1003,5001-13Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Business report style assignment (100%)3,000 words (100%) (3,000)1-13July

Re-assessment notes

Students will be reassessed in the original form of assessment that they failed. They must choose one of the other optional questions, they are not allowed to answer the same question option again.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Blowfield, M. ( 2013) Business and Sustainability, Oxford, Oxford University Press


Kopnina, H. & Bliwett J (2018) Sustainable Business, Issues, London, Routledge


The remainder are useful texts but not essential

Belz, F-M. & Peattie, K. Sustainable Marketing, Chichester Uk, John Wiley

Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2015) Business Ethics 4th Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Nemetz, P. N. (2013) Business and the sustainability challenge – an integrated perspective, London, Routledge

Johnson, T. Howard M. & Miemcyzk, J. (2014) Purchasing and supply chain management a sustainability perspective, Abingdon, Uk Routledge

Hutchins, G.  (2012) The Nature of Business Redesigning for Resilience, Dartington UK, Green Books

Rasche, A. & Kell, G. (ed.) (2010) The United Nations Global Compact, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press

Waddock, S. & McIntosh, M. (2011) SEE Change: Making the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise Economy, Sheffield UK, Green Leaf Publishing

Visser, W. (2012) The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business, Chichester UK, John Wiley and Sons

Recommended Journals:

Free online journals

Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development 

Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology and Sustainable Development (JABSD) 

Journal of Sustainable Development (JSD) 

Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa 

Yale Wheel: Undergraduate Sustainable Development Journal

Journal of Cleaner Production

The following journals are commercially published but provide free access to abstracts. Catalogue links are provided where Exeter has access.

Agronomy for Sustainable Development (free access to articles up to 2010; title now published by Springer)

Environment, Development and Sustainability; catalogue link

Energy for Sustainable Development; catalogue link

International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development  (IJESD) 

International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning 

International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 

International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development (IJUSD)

Journal of Education for Sustainable Development

Journal of Business Ethics

Natural Resources Forum: A United Nations Sustainable Development Journal;

Sustainable Development;

Sustainable Development Law and Policy

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

UN Environment Programme

UN Development Goals

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) One Planet Future

The Long Run Foundation Marks and Spencer Plan A TOMs One for One – shoes

The Prince of Wales’ accounting for sustainability project Business in the Community

Key words search

Sustainability, CSR, Business Ethics.

Credit value15
Module pre-requisites

None – note this is for Management MSc students only

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date