BUU33580 International Governance and Sustainable Business

(5 ECTS)

Lecturer: David Horan

Email: horand3@tcd.ie

Office Hours: Online/by appointment

Module Description: 

The International Governance and Sustainable Business module investigates the role of business in the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This agreement, signed by all 193 UN members states in 2015, constitutes a paradigm shift in the global governance of sustainable development challenges and novel approach to addressing grand challenges in an increasingly crisis prone world, with a strong emphasis on mobilizing all societal actors as partners in sustainable development, including business.
The module will examine key challenges to making corporate strategies more effective for the SDGs. It seeks to develop a holistic vision of the way companies can effectively contribute to complex societal problems through SDG-based corporate strategies, business model innovations and cross sector partnerships (i.e., partnerships that bring together public, private and non-profit entities). The module will give significant attention to three main levels of analysis: the macro level – where complex problems are defined; the meso level; where partners can be mobilized and greater impact achieved; and the micro level – where business strategies are formulated and new business models designed and implemented. To build a holistic understanding of the main issues at each level, the module will take an interdisciplinary approach drawing on insights from business, international relations, public policy and economics. The module should thus be of interest to aspiring company executives, business leaders and change makers, policymakers, and sustainable development professionals alike.

Learning and Teaching Approach:

The approach in this module is primarily face-to-face. It is expected that students should complete the relevant pre-reading and engage actively in class discussions and group activities. Group activities will take place at scheduled times in the module.

Module-Level Learning Outcomes:

Having completed this module, you should:
1. Know what the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are, why they are important and how business can act as a change maker for a sustainable future;
2. Develop a critical, positive and courageous attitude towards the SDGs and business actions for sustainable development;
3. Identify and assess interconnections between the SDGs, and challenges and opportunities involved in their implementation;
4. Recognise and evaluate the role and contribution of business in the transition to sustainable development and its impacts on society.
5. Recognize and evaluate business cases for sustainability, sustainable business models and cross-sector partnerships for the SDGs.

Relation to the Degree:

This module forms part of a suite of modules in the business and society and international business streams of Trinity Business School across the four years of our business-related degree programmes. This suite is focused on a range of philosophical, ethical and societal issues that constitute the broader environment of business and affect the relationship between business, society and the environment. The aim is to enable the development of technically capable and conceptually proficient graduates who can thrive in a dynamic and fast-changing environment. The module will serve to develop students’ understanding and skills in relation to the exploration and assessment of sustainable business strategies and business models in general as well as provide valuable context for all other modules.

Required Reading:

Required core course textbook:
van Tulder, Rob and Eveline van Mil (2023). Principles of Sustainable Business: Frameworks for Corporate Action on the SDGs. Routledge, New York.
To purchase, follow this link: Principles of Sustainable Business: Frameworks for Corporate Action on (routledge.com) or order from Amazon

Student preparation for the module:

Lecture slides will be provided on each topic ahead of class and should be read in conjunction with the relevant sections of each chapter of the core text. For further details on this, please see the module schedule (below).

General Supplemental Readings:

United Nations, “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” A.69/L.85 (New York: United Nations 2015).
Sachs, Jeffrey D., The Age of Sustainable Development (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).
The World in 2050 Report, “Transformations to achieve Sustainable Development” (IIASA, SDSN and Stockholm Resilience Centre, 2018).
Kamau, Macharia, Chasek, Pamela and David O’Connor, Transforming Multilateral Diplomacy: The Inside Story of the Sustainable Development Goals (New York: Routledge, 2018).
Kanie, Norichika and Frank Biermann, Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2017).
Van Tulder, Rob, Tilburg, Rob, Mara Francken, Mara and Andrea Rosa, Managing the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise: Lessons from Frontrunner Companies (New York: Routledge, 2014) Link.

Course Communication:

Please note that all course related email communication must be sent from your official TCD email address. Emails sent from other addresses will not be attended to.
Students are responsible for checking Blackboard and their College email regularly to ensure they are informed of any administrative information changes and any other matters relating to the Module.


Addressing complex societal challenges such as SDGs depends importantly on the extent to which individuals, organizations and different sectors of society can work together for positive change and collaborative solutions.
For this reason, assessment in this module will be based on two group assignments:

(1) Group assignment 1, due in week six of Semester 1 [40%].
(2) Group assignment 2, due in week eleven of Semester 1 [60%].

For each assignment, you will be expected to work in groups of 3-5 over a period of one week. Instructions on how to form groups will be given at the beginning of Semester 1.

Group assignment 1 (40% of final grade)

SDG Poster and Presentation (due in Week 6 of Semester 1)

Details about the poster and presentation requirements as well as the exact deadline date/time and instructions on how to submit Assignment 1 will be given at the beginning of the lecture in Week 3 (Thursday 28th of September 2023) and an instruction document will be made available thereafter on Blackboard.

Group assignment 2 (60% of final grade)

SDG Strategy Poster and Presentation (due in week 11 of Semester 1)
Details about the poster and presentation requirements as well as the exact deadline date/time and instructions on how to submit Assignment 2 will be given at the beginning of the lecture in Week 8 (Thursday 2nd of November 2023) and an instruction document will be made available thereafter on Blackboard.

Note on assessment of students allowed to sit a supplemental exam

Students who have failed the module and are allowed to sit a supplemental exam will be examined by a written exam only. (Previous continuous assessment will not be taken into account in such an examination).