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University of Exeter Business School

Environment, Society and Business

Module titleEnvironment, Society and Business
Module codeBEP1150
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Laura Colombo (Convenor)

Dr Ruth Cherrington (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

We are the first generation to know that business-as-usual is threatening the stability of the ecosystems that support our lives. We are exceeding planetary boundaries: most of the land surface and the ocean are impacted by human activities, forests continue to be cut down to make space for agriculture and animal husbandry, the poles are losing their ice, the depletion of natural resources such as drinking water is affecting local communities worldwide, overfishing and loss of biodiversity are increasing at a dramatic rate. Addressing challenges of this scale require an interdisciplinary response. It requires cooperation, long-sightedness and critical, creative and system thinking. This module brings different disciplines together to draw attention to the role our economy plays in exacerbating the ecological crisis, and what a sustainable economy might look like. The module offers an introductory insight into ecology, environmental science and different traditions of economic thought linking the economy and the environment. In so doing, it provides the theoretical basis for understanding, designing and implementing new purpose-driven business models, enabling business to make a positive contribution to the environment and society. No prior knowledge skills or experience is needed in order to able to take this module. This module is recommended for interdisciplinary pathways. It cannot be taken by BEP1010 Business and Society students.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to help you develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between the economy, business and society. Throughout the module, you will engage with some of the global challenges the environment, business and society are facing, and appreciate how business can make a positive contribution in tackling those challenges through purpose-driven business models that are distributive and regenerative by design. In seminars, structured around continuous reflexive practice, you will engage in critical inquiry, using questions as a tool to explore the concepts and issues that emerge from within the module. As a result, you will acquire and be able to evidence critical thinking and analysis skills while bringing your own experiences as a citizen into discussion and inquiry.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Articulate the complexity of the interdependent relationship between the environment, society and business
  • 2. Expose the grand environmental challenges that business and society face (such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, etc.)
  • 3. Compare, contrast and apply a range of theories on environment and economy (such as neoclassical economics, environmental economics and ecological economics)
  • 4. Assess the role of purpose-driven business models in enabling business to make a positive contribution to the environment and society

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Engage with pluralist economic thinking
  • 6. Appreciate the interdependence of business, ecology and environmental science
  • 7. Evaluate purpose-driven business models and their ability to contribute towards more equitable and sustainable societies

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Communicate evidence-based ideas and present compelling arguments
  • 9. Reflect on the challenges of working collaboratively, and inclusively, encountering different perspectives to achieve shared goals
  • 10. Evidence critical analytical thinking when working with others

Syllabus plan

Topics discussed on the module include (not exclusively):

  • An economy within the environment: the interaction between economic activity and the environment
  • The ecological ceiling of business: the nature of resources and the resources of nature
  • From an empty world to a full world: abiotic and biotic resourcesPlanetary boundaries: the climate crisis
  • The social foundations of business: corporate social responsibility
  • Economic schools and the environment: environmental economics
  • Economic schools and the environment: ecological economics
  • Economic schools and the environment: doughnut economics
  • Change the goal: purpose-driven business models
  • Design to distribute: opportunities and limitations of corporate social responsibility
  • Create to regenerate: opportunities and limitations of the circular economy
  • Cooperation, collaboration and partnership
  • Stories from the field: purposeful entrepreneurship in Cornwall

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 activity20Lectures (20 x 1 hour)
Scheduled learning and teaching activity20Seminars (20 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study260Reading, research, reflective writing and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective learning log15 hours1-10Verbal
Business pitch 15 hours4,7,9Verbal

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
Critical reviews301000 words1,2,6,8,10Written, individual
Group report301000 words1-10Written
Essay402500 words1-10Written, individual

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Critical reviewsCritical reviews (30%) (1000 words)1,2,6,8,10August re-assessment period
Group report Individual assignment (40%) (1000 words)1-8August re-assessment period
EssayEssay (40%) (2500 words)1-8August re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

The following books are a key resource for this course:

  • Cato, M. S. (2020). Environment and Economy (2nd Edition). Routledge.
  • Gibson-Graham, J. K., & Dombroski, K. (Eds.). (2020). The Handbook of Diverse Economies. Edward Elgar.
  • Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut Economics. Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. Chelsea Green Publishing.
  • Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., ... & Sörlin, S. (2015). Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223).

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Blowfield, M. (2013). Business and Sustainability. Oxford University Press.
  • Carroll, A.. B.  & A. K. Buchholtz, (2015). Business & Society. Ethics, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Management (9th Edition). Cengage.
  • Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018). Collaborating for our future: Multistakeholder partnerships for solving complex problems. Oxford University Press.
  • Mazzucato, M. (2021). Mission economy: A moonshot guide to changing capitalism. Penguin.
  • Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V., & Land, C. (2013). The Routledge companion to alternative organization. Routledge.

Key words search

Business and Environment, Ecological Economics, Diverse Enterprise, Sustainability, Planetary boundaries.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

Cannot be taken with BEP1010

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date