Courses and Timeline

Program Structure

The program requires that 4 courses be taken, each taking 2 weeks of study time. The program will take about 60 hours to complete.

The program is offered in 2 sessions each year, one in the Fall (October – December) and one in the Winter/Spring (February/April). Students may register and complete all courses in one session or spread out the courses (in order of prerequisite requirements) over a 2-year time frame.

Each course in this program will require approximately 15 hours of learner’s time. The program has 4 mandatory courses:

  • Sustainability Goal Setting
    • October 14 – 25, 2024
  • Partnership for Sustainability
    • October 28 – November 8, 2024
  • Strategies for Sustainability
    • November 18 – 29, 2024
  • Communicating Sustainability
    • December 2 – 13, 2024

Each course focuses on learning practical tools and strategies for sustainability management. The use of existing case studies are key elements in each course.

Courses must be taken in sequential order, as they build on one another, but may be taken individually, in different sessions within a two-year time frame, to receive the micro-certificate.

Course Descriptions

Course 1: Sustainability Goal Setting

In order to determine an effective sustainability strategy, one first requires a working knowledge of sustainability’s components, why they matter and how to set appropriate and relevant sustainability goals. This course begins by exploring global progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals and making a ‘business case’ for sustainability that can be used to convince senior managers or organizational stakeholders. It then gives students the tools to identify their sustainability priorities based on their organization’s existing strengths, mission and interests. Students will learn how to conduct a materiality analysis and apply a creating shared value approach. The course concludes with an applied lesson on setting specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) sustainability goals.

Course 2: Partnership for Sustainability

Building on the materials in Course 1, this course teaches students how to co-develop their sustainability strategies in partnership with stakeholders. Students will learn how to map their stakeholders and evaluate their various levels of relevance and influence. They will also survey the different options for how to solicit input from stakeholder groups with a particular focus on approaches that maximize diversity and avoid privileging some groups over others. Towards the middle of the course, students will explore the options for engaging in civil society partnerships and examine the ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’ of partnership agreements. The course concludes with a lesson on how to select relevant third-party sustainability certifications to enhance the effectiveness and legitimacy of their sustainability strategies.

Course 3: Strategies for Sustainability

In this course, students learn how to build and evaluate a theory of change for a defined sustainability objective. Theories of change have proliferated in recent years as both planning and evaluative tools across the public, private and non-profit sectors. Students will survey the diverse approaches for creating a theory of change, learn the specific terminology and concepts embedded within them and practice inserting assumptions into theories of change as a means of identifying barriers to success and developing strategies to overcome them. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to construct their own theories of change relevant to their sustainability priorities.

Course 4: Communicating Sustainability

This course familiarizes students with the most widely-used platforms for sustainability reporting, including the Global Reporting Initiative, Carbon Disclosure Project, Race to Zero and others. In the second module, students will learn how to make credible sustainability claims and avoid ‘greenwash’ or other misleading claims. The third and fourth modules focus on how to use social media proactively to communicate sustainability and respond to criticisms or controversies that arise on social media.