Introduction to the foundations of sustainable development, with a focus on the link between global environmental issues such as global climate change and the contribution of business to enhancement of sustainable development, through corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investment
Introduction to the fundamentals of the challenges of sustainable development, showing the link between planetary issues concerning the environment, in particular climate change, and the contribution of businesses, through corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investment.
Sustainable development refers to a mode of development which strives to combine economic, social and environmental dimensions so as to ensure the long-term sustainability of the whole. Laid down in 1980 by IUCN, the concept of sustainable development is now usually defined as having to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland Report, 1987). An economic translation would be the requirement of non-contraction of the total capital (technical, human and natural) per inhabitant over time, if we see capital as being what a human society can mobilise to satisfy its needs and carry out its projects.
This objective makes it necessary to insert development choices in a larger frame of reference than what has been done until now: this means looking at the long-term implications of short-term decisions; the significance of local decisions on broader territorial scales, all the way up to the global scale for issues such as climate change, biodiversity or epidemics; the social implications of economic decisions (taking account of the objectives, social costs and a demand for fairness).
As the building blocks of economic development, companies are directly concerned by the challenges of sustainable development. This raises two main questions: how are their organisation and their reference points modified in this context? How far do their new responsibilities go?
The challenges of sustainable development are collective challenges, the most important of which – such as climate change and perils for biodiversity – have a global reach. Sustainable development is thus also a matter for governments and citizens, in particular those who join forces within associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
While sustainable development must spread from local to global, it is not fractal. Thought processes and contents must be reviewed on each scale and for each entity (company, local government). At each level, the particular entity's viability must be considered as well as its contribution to sustainable development on broader scales. It is not sufficient for a company to see to its own sustainability, notably through its financial performance or judicious management of its skills, in order to make a positive contribution to the sustainability of the region or country in which it operates. This can only stem from coordination to be found between ascending and descending procedures.
By turning the inter-generational long term into a pertinent aspect of the decisions placed under the responsibility of the current generations, sustainable development is obliging the latter to explicitly face the scientific, technological, economic and social uncertainties looming over that horizon. This is why sustainable development includes, at least in part, the topic of risks and contributes to the development of the principle of precaution. This principle requires the early but commensurate appraisal of potential risks, whose existence and nature are uncertain, but which could have serious consequences.
As the new goal targeted by contemporary societies, sustainable development is under threat of an incantatory deviation. It needs to be materialised in mechanisms combining the formulation of objectives to be reached and indicators that will enable entities to keep track of their trajectory in relation to those objectives. This poses the question of the creation of appropriate indicators for sustainable development.
Session 1- Introduction: sustainable development, its history, the emergence of the concept, basic principles and main concepts
No oral presentation
Session 2- Where do environmental problems come from?
Oral presentation 1: Does economic growth harm the environment?
Oral presentation 2: Technology: problem or solution?
Session 3- Measuring sustainable development
Oral presentation 3: Should economic indicators be modified?
Oral presentation 4: How does France rate in relation to other OECD countries in the various sustainable development indicators (HDI, EPI, ESI, etc.) and what are those ratings based on?
Session 4- Economic assessment of the environment
Oral presentation 5: Advantages and drawbacks of the various methods of monetary assessment of the environment
Oral presentation 6: Can we and should we evaluate biodiversity?
Session 5- Environmental externalities
Oral presentation 7: Environmental externalities due to transport: evaluation and possible modes of internalisation
Oral presentation 8: Is taxation an efficient tool in the field of sustainable development?
Session 6- Sustainable development between sectorisation and integration
Oral presentation 9: Do the 2008 recovery plans of the various countries take sustainable development into account?
Oral presentation 10: Is France well positioned in the cleantech industry?
Session 7- A planetary problem: the greenhouse effect
Oral presentation 11: Is the Kyoto protocol a good treaty?
Oral presentation 12: Should Europe set up a carbon offset mechanism at its borders?
Session 8- The territorial dimensions of sustainable development (city, micro-region, region, local Agenda 21 programmes)
Oral presentation 13: How can we qualify sustainable urban development?
Oral presentation 14: Can Greater Paris be a sustainable metropolis?
Session 9- Enterprises and sustainable development: a new corporate social responsibility?
Oral presentation 15: Is corporate social responsibility compatible with profit seeking?
Oral presentation 16: Is the quality of French companies' sustainable development reports satisfactory?
Session 10- Interaction with other stakeholders: pressure groups, NGOs, employees, trade unions and central government
Oral presentation 17: Shareholder activism and socially responsible shareholders
Oral presentation 18: Does sustainable development still need ecology movements or green parties?
Socially responsible investment: historical and international overview
Oral presentation 19: Financial markets and sustainable development
Oral presentation 20: Socially responsible investment: objectives and performance of indices
Conclusions, miscellaneous questions, and review of certain points
Essay. No oral presentation.
Mode of assessment
The knowledge assessment comprises two aspects:
A. A one-hour written exam, of the essay type, during session 12 (40% of the mark) on 12 December 2007
B. An oral presentation during the seminar (60% of the mark). The oral presentation will be backed by a written text of at least 12,000 signs.
Evaluation mechanism : The final test of levels of knowledge comprehends two components:
A. A dissertation-type written test in classroom, of one hour, at the latest session (n° 12) on December 12, 2007 (40% of final evaluation)
B. Delivering a presentation during the seminar (60% of evaluation). Beyond the oral presentation, a written document of at least 12000 signs is expected.
Last Modification : Thursday 3 September 2009