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HomeCourseFinance and Sustainability Elective in MSc courses

Finance and Sustainability Elective in MSc courses


University of Oxford

Course overview

Finance impacts the natural environment directly and indirectly. The environment also directly and indirectly impacts finance and the performance of investments. There is significant and growing interest from policymakers and practitioners in the relationship between the environment, sustainability, and finance.

This module will provide a foundational knowledge in the emerging theories and practice of sustainable finance and investment. It will arm students with sufficient understanding to navigate and critically analyse the key aspects and developments in sustainable finance and investment, as well as how to engage with financial sector stakeholders for collaboration.

Course structure and content

Students will engage critically with systems and theories in sustainable finance and investment such as: active ownership, carbon bubble, climate finance, conservation finance, disclosure, divestment, engagement, ESG, green banks, green bonds, green indices, impact investing, public private partnerships, reporting, responsible investment, stranded assets, and sustainability-linked loans. The module will also provide an opportunity for students to consider how to translate knowledge into strategies for effective engagement with the financial sector.

Topics and questions addressed during the course include:

  • the origins, development, and purpose of finance and investment and how finance shapes the real economy and vice versa.
  • the investment needs, the role of finance in delivering the transition to global environmental sustainability, and the growth of sustainable finance.
  • how stranded assets-related arguments can motivate investor decision-making, how and why stranded assets developed as an issue after 2011, where it might go next, and what lessons this might yield.
  • different types of impact investing, what kind of impact is likely or possible, and the challenges and opportunities associated with impact investing.
  • how and why environmental change merits responses from financial supervisors and central banks what the latest theory and practice is in this area.
  • how civil society actors are  using  sustainable  finance  to  achieve  environmental   In particular we will examine arguments for divestment vs engagement.

Teaching and assessment

This elective is led by Dr Ben Caldecott, Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme (OxSFP) and Dr Elizabeth Harnett, Lead of Future of Engagement Theme in OxSFP. The elective will consist of six sessions of 80 mins each. An 800-1,000 word essay on a specific case study of sustainable finance or investment in practice will be the formative assessment for this course. The course is assessed by a 4,000 word essay subject to approval by the course instructors.

Each class will begin with a presentation of key theory and debates by the tutor. This will be followed by a student-led presentation of a case study assigned before class. This will be followed by discussion and debate. For one or two sessions an external guest speaker may be invited to contribute to the class.

An 800-1,000 word essay on a specific case study of sustainable finance or investment in practice will be the formative assessment for this course.

Electives are  assessed on  the  basis  of  a  final  essay  of  up  to  4,000  words  (exclusive  of  references  and  appendices), plus a 150-word abstract. The topic for the essay must be approved by the elective leader before the  end  of  the  term  and  essays  are  due  at  the  beginning  of  the  next  term.  Students  are  required  to  work  independently on their assignments.

Entry requirements, fees and application

This elective can be taken as part of the MSc and MPhil courses in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Electives provide a small-group forum for learning within the MSc/MPhil programme. MSc students select one assessed elective in Michaelmas Term and one in Hilary Term, and MPhil students select an additional elective in their second year. Electives are led by tutors and provide 8 hours of teaching spread over 4-6 weeks. In most cases, the maximum number of students per elective is ten. We reserve the right not to run an elective if it is under-subscribed.

Career opportunities

Many graduates of the MSc and MPhil courses are commanding influential positions in multinational corporations, in national, state and international government, in non-governmental organisations, and by continuing with further research.


For elective related inquiries please contact the MSc/MPhil Course Coordinator:


Course Features:

Full time
Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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