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Unit information: Sustainability, Technology and Business in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Sustainability, Technology and Business
Unit code COMSM0006
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Chris Preist
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Computer Science
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


Unit Aims: To provide students with: (i)A conceptual understanding of sustainability and the role of technology in it. (ii) Quantitative assessment techniques currently used in technology R&D and product development. (iii) A critical awareness of problems and insights at the forefront of academic research in the area of sustainability assessment and analysis.

Unit Description: This unit will explore, from both a conceptual and technical perspective, the relationship between technology, business and the sustainability agenda. It will make particular reference to the design and development of technology products and services in the electronics and IT industries, such as tablet computers, music streaming and flat-screen TVs. It will consider different perspectives on the concept of sustainability and the attitudes to technology associated with them. It will present and critically evaluate a number of tools used during technology product R&D, design and manufacture for assessing the sustainability of products. These will include ecological footprinting, lifecycle assessment, social supply chain audit and eco-labelling. It will explore academic perspectives on these, and key research issues facing the field currently. It will also consider the strategic impact of sustainability factors on industry, and the longer-term implications of this on both the public and private sector.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, it is expected that you will be able to;

  • explain and critique different perspectives on environmental and social sustainability, and the role of technology within these.
  • Apply several different methods for assessing the environmental impact of different technical products and solutions, appreciate the uncertainty and ambiguity associated with them, and critically evaluate environmental claims made using such approaches.
  • Understand the state of the art in academic research on sustainability assessment, and apply insights from it critically to industrial approaches.
  • imaginatively integrate sustainability factors into strategy planning, research and development both in a public and private sector context, with both short- and long- term perspectives.

Teaching details


Assessment Details

3 hour written exam (100%)

Reading and References

Hitch Hikers Guide to Life Cycle Analysis – Baumann and Tillman

Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability – Dunphy