Executive MPA   Executive training  


25 - 27 April 2024 | Executive seminar

With the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations in 2015, Sustainability has taken centre stage in public policy debates at global, national and local levels. This class introduces and explores the concept of sustainability and its social, economic and environmental dimensions. Climate change will serve as the core case study linking all three elements. We consider normative foundations, indicators, tools for analysing synergies and tradeoffs among different goals and public policies and governance options for achieving sustainability. A particular focus is on the political economy of interactions between the state, business and NGOs in devising public policy for sustainability. The tools taught in this course are rooted mainly in economics and political science, but their application will be nonformal throughout. Note that this is not a class in development economics or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Main topics and learning objectives

  • Introduction to core concepts in contemporary sustainability governance
  • Overview of key sustainability challenges, in particular climate change
  • Conceptualisation of sustainability as a public policy challenge in the context of polycentric global governance.

Teaching methods

Lectures introduce concepts building on the readings and complementing them while providing space for students’ questions and structured debate on readings and real-world policy developments. Guest speakers present and discuss their areas of expertise and experiences in various policy arenas. Several sessions draw on applied economic concepts, but treatment remains non-formal (no calculus). The final assignment is designed to support students’ skills in grasping key sustainability concepts, critically reflect and apply them. It also offers an opportunity to investigate a topic of personal interest to students, and a personal meeting with the instructor provides students support in structuring their work and identifying useful resources.

Target group

Students with a substantive interest in sustainability policy and related concepts. While basic knowledge about climate change as a key environmental sustainability topic is useful, you need not have taken a prior class on it.


This seminar is offered in the open enrolment programme and as part of the Executive MPA programme.