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Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business

PCSB in Detail

"The PCSB is an absolutely life changing experience in many ways - it is a wonderful opportunity to learn, network, share knowledge, but most of all, it is an avenue to discovering a great deal about yourself as individuals. Your career will no doubt benefit from it, but so will you, your family, friends, and community."
Madhu Hewakapuge, Sustainability Manager, Unilever Sri Lanka

Group at Madingley

PCSB involves:

• Attendance at three workshops: a two-day residential workshop at Clare College in central Cambridge, a three-day residential workshop also at Clare College, and a three-day workshop at Madingley Hall in Cambridge;
• Submission of two individual assignments and group research project, supported by a programme tutor (see details below);
• Willingness to cooperate with fellow participants, share ideas generously and contribute to the fullest extent.

It is estimated that, over the course of the certificate, participants will need to undertake at least 3-4 hours of work a week to complete the programme successfully, in addition to the residential workshops. This is an average across the whole programme for a typical student, and variations in individual approaches to scheduling and learning can result in weeks where the workload may be heavier or lighter.

Students are provided with all substantive tasks and deadlines at the start of the programme, so they can plan in advance in order to help spread the work evenly across the nine months.

Full participation at all three workshops is required, as well as regular access to email, the internet and telephone to enable group collaboration between workshops.


Participants complete three pieces of assessed work, which are designed to embed learning from attending the programme. Two are undertaken on an individual basis and the third in a small group of five to seven people. The individual and collaborative assignments will be undertaken using your professional setting as the main point of reference. The assignments relate directly to an organisation or sector's work and concentrate on how to respond to a sustainability challenge or opportunity. Tutors are allocated to support these assignments based on alignment of research interests. There are sessions at the workshops and at least three virtual tutor inputs to support the completion of these assignments.

The 3,000-word individual assignments are an Analysis Paper and a Strategic Action Plan. The Analysis Paper takes the form of a detailed, critical analysis of a sustainability challenge or opportunity for a chosen organisation, culminating in a clear strategic aim and recommendations for what needs to be done to bring about positive change for sustainability. The Strategic Action Plan builds on the Analysis Paper and asks participants to develop a plan and set of practical recommendations for their organisation/sector on how to address the particular sustainability challenge or opportunity.

In parallel with the individual assignments, participants work in a group to scope and then address a sustainability challenge or opportunity of relevance to a sector or function. With the help of an expert tutor, the group chooses the focus of the project so that it is of interest and relevance to the group members, ensuring that each participant can make a full contribution. The project group meets a number of times during Workshop One, after which the group continues to develop the project. Feedback is provided on progress at Workshop Two alongside several opportunities to further develop the work, and Workshop Three provides the opportunity to refine the project before submission, through regular group time with the tutor. Groups work on their projects between workshops, and an online platform is provided to aid collaboration.

"The first workshop focused on the problems we face and the second focused on the solutions and the processes/tactics businesses can use to resolve these issues."
Donna Galt, Assessment & Deployment Manager, Birmingham City Council
"The workshops really gave me new skills in thinking about challenges. I was pushed out of my comfort zone on a few aspects, which was good."
Business Development Manager, Vigeo

Each of the three residential workshops provides a mixture of expert input and commentary, intensive group discussion, facilitated project planning and review, opportunities for peer support, and informal networking between participants.

Workshop 1

System pressures and trends. This topic introduces the broad debate around sustainability, looking at global sustainability challenges and developing a system-wide understanding that recognises the interdependency of natural, social, political, cultural, economic and technological dimensions. The purpose and objectives of business in addressing these challenges is considered, exploring possible leadership aims and responses.

Sustainability concepts. This topic explores some of the seminal concepts and frameworks for sustainability and sustainable development, and examines their relative merits and strengths. A systems approach is emphasised, which explores the complexity and interconnectivity inherent within dynamic adaptive systems, and the importance of taking a holistic and integrated approach.

The business case for responding. In the face of global challenges and opportunities, this topic unpacks the rationale for business taking a pro-active role in responding to a rapidly changing external context. The evolving relationship between business and sustainability over the last few decades is explored, culminating in what it looks like to take a strategic leadership position in relation to sustainability.

Workshop 2

This second workshop explores the role of business as a catalyst for change in the wider system.

Business and the economy. The workshop starts with an exploration of the current economic paradigm and some of the key levers for change in shifting to an economy which ‘works’ – supporting universal human development and flourishing within environmental limits. This includes sub-topics around:

• Finance and investment
• Government policy and regulation
• Design and technology
• Industrial systems

Business and society. This topic unpacks the role of business in wider society, from issues around business and human rights, to the governance of global value chains, to the relationship between business and (international) development. This includes sub-topics around:

• Business, human rights and international governance
• Drivers and levers for change across global value chains
• Enterprise solutions to social challenges
• Collaborations and partnerships for change

Responding strategically. This topic explores how business can respond strategically to pressures and opportunities in the wider system, looking at:

• organisational and system theories of change
• embedding sustainability into core business strategy
• industry case studies of strategic leadership.

Workshop 3

This final workshop looks at what it means to be an effective agent for change within an organisational context, in seeking to embed sustainability in all parts of the business.

Communication and influence. With insights drawn from a range of disciplines from behavioural economics to psychology, this topic looks at what it means to effectively engage and influence a range of actors, from getting the attention of the Board, to effective engagement with external stakeholders, to motivating employees, to changing customer behaviour.

Transformational change. This topic continues the theme of change, looking at how to drive organisational transformation – from the importance of culture and values, to incentivising middle management, to the way the physical work environment is structured, to encouraging corporate innovation.

Leadership for sustainability. This topic completes the final workshop with a look at personal leadership and change agency, examining the role of values and ethics, how to be an effective change agent, and how to remain motivated and ambitious in the quest for sustainable business.

Sample Workshop Content

 Workshop themes

Participants have the opportunity to undertake research into a thematic area of personal and professional relevance to them. 

Group Project titles 2011–2014 (pdf)

Themes Explored in 2014

The role of business in shaping a sustainable economy. What role can business play in shaping a more sustainable economy? The last thirty years have shown us that our current economic paradigm is not working as well as it could. Even though we have succeeded in lifting many people out of poverty and have seen technological progress unimaginable to previous generations, we are also facing an environmental, social and economic crisis of significant proportions. Since the Second World War, the objective of any society has been to further economic growth, but this has come at the expense of people, the planet and even economic stability. There is a growing consensus within government, business and civil society that a new approach is needed, but still uncertainty as to what that new approach should be. The group will explore the failures of the current economic paradigm, explore the potential of a new, more sustainable paradigm and define how business can thrive by enabling the transition between the two.
The role of business in society. Is the business of business, business, as Milton Freedman wrote? Or should and can business have a higher calling and contribute to society in more ways than simply commercial ones? Can a business be ethical? Can a business be motivated beyond commercial concerns? What is the role of an oil or coal company in dealing with climate change? What is the role of a pharmaceutical company in fighting malaria in poor countries? Can a water company help bring clean water to a developing country? How does a publicly owned company take its shareholders with it if it wants to contribute more to society, or does our model of company structure and shareholder value mean business is pushed to unsustainable actions? The group can explore any aspects of the role of business in society, researching cases and models.
How can we build business strategies that result in sustainable development? How can we build business strategies that result in sustainable development? Short-term priorities, the drive for profit and share price growth can result in companies paying lip service to calls for more environmentally and socially responsible business practices. And yet, there are an increasing number of businesses that have embraced these challenges and have implemented strategies that are creating shared value – the elusive triple bottom line – including innovative partnerships with social entrepreneurs. What sets them apart? Why aren’t all businesses seizing the opportunity? Is there a flaw in the business case, lack of visionary leadership, or are there other issues in play?
What does a truly sustainable business look like? "If the required direction of travel is northwards, then heading south, more slowly than the pack, is still heading south": CISL Nedbank Sustainability Outlook 2013. This quote illustrates that 'continuous improvement' on business as usual is not an option. We need to see transformational change if we are to move towards a world where nine billion people live well on a single planet. In this group, we will explore what kind of shifts we need to see in business, in different sectors and in individual companies, in order to 'turn north'. What does a truly sustainable business look like? Does it deliver services only, as opposed to products? Is it a fully 'circular, zero waste company? What are investment decisions based on? How is success measured? What does the vision look like? Our aim is to understand what it means in practice when companies are building a business model that turns solving the world's challenges into profitable business opportunities.
Are multi-stakeholder partnerships helping business to become more sustainability minded or letting them off the hook? Are multi-stakeholder partnerships blurring the lines of responsibility for the corporate sector? Are evolving roles and relationships with the public and civil society sectors making companies more accountable for their actions, allowing them to abdicate responsibility for their impact, or drawing them in to policy and other areas in which there is a clear conflict of interest? This group shall focus more on the changing environments in which companies are operating and the shifting expectations of them vis-a-vis their 'partners' and stakeholders.
Corporate venturing and open innovation – sourcing and commercialising innovations for sustainability. Innovation isn’t just about generating ideas, it is a distinctive term used for ideas which are commercially applicable. The bulk of innovations tend to be incremental and are carried out by incumbent and corporate firms, but these same firms often find the pursuit of more disruptive innovations challenging. Corporate venturing and open innovation offer opportunities for firms to engage innovative outsiders in the innovation process. This project offers the group various research options to explore corporate venturing and open innovation in more detail and from numerous perspectives. The priority will be on looking at innovation management in terms of its contribution to sustainability and how this can be achieved considering the current business context.

Clare College, Cambridge

Clare College; Photo credit: Freya Walkely

Clare College; Photo credit: Freya Walkely

Accommodation and Facilities

The second oldest College in Cambridge, Clare boasts 17th century architecture, stunning gardens and a convenient venue location in central Cambridge, either side of the River Cam. The college has also demonstrated its commitment to environmental management, topping the Cambridge University Environmental Consulting Society (CUECS) Management League Table for the second year running.

Bedrooms are modern and comfortable, with en suite bathrooms and internet access. All rooms are provided with tea/coffee making facilities, towels and toiletries. A clean towel will be supplied every day. Beds are made and serviced every day apart from Sundays.

Most of the day activities are hosted at the Gillespie Centre on site, a new conference centre with wireless connectivity and modern audio visual facilities. The Gillespie Centre uses solar thermal panels and a ground source heat pump for efficient heating and cooling. Energy consumption is kept to a minimum with extensive insulation and large, solar coated, south facing windows which limit heat gain in the summer.  

Directions to Clare College

Travelling by Road 

Cambridge is linked to London and the M25 by the M11 motorway. For Clare College, exit at junction 12 for Barton Road or junction 13 for Madingley Road.

Access from the Midlands and North is via the A14 and A1. From whichever direction you approach you should make for the A14 to the north of Cambridge. Merge with the M11 and leave at junction 12.

If you are using a satellite navigation system, our postcode (CB3 9AJ) takes you to the rear of the College. Once you arrive on Queens Road, please continue along until you see large black gates and a yellow and black sign saying Clare College, Memorial Court.

If you are arriving by bicycle we have bike sheds at the front entrance of Memorial Court, which are covered by CCTV. All delegates are advised to use a secure lock. 


Car parking for up to 100 cars is available at a nearby sports ground car park with prior notice. Public car parks are available at Park Street and the Grand Arcade both 300 meters from the College in central Cambridge.

Travelling by Rail

Cambridge is less than an hour away from London by train with frequent departures from King's Cross and Liverpool Street stations. Some direct services operate from Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. Cambridge Station is about a 25-minute walk from Clare, but buses run every 8 minutes into the centre of Cambridge and taxis are available for hire at Cambridge Station.

Travelling by Coach 

There are frequent services between London's Victoria Coach Station and Drummer Street Bus Station in Cambridge. Most services will terminate from Cambridge Bus Station, from here it is only a 5-minute walk to Clare Old Court.

Travelling by Air

London Stansted Airport is located just 30 miles south of Cambridge, is 35 minutes away via the M11 motorway and is the most convenient international airport but there are also regular flights from most European destinations. Heathrow and Gatwick are both approximately 2 hours away by road or rail, and there are frequent coach connections to Cambridge (Drummer Street Bus Station) from all three airports. NB: If taking a taxi be sure to ask to be dropped off at Clare College, Memorial Court in Queen's Road.


Link to maps and contact information for Clare College.

Madingley Hall

Madingley Hall

Accommodation and Facilities

The 16th Century Madingley Hall was rented by Queen Victoria in the 1860s as a residence for the then Prince of Wales when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. Madingley Hall is set in landscaped grounds of over seven acres.

All bedrooms have en suite facilities and are equipped with telephones and internet connections but there are no alarm clocks or hairdryers so you may wish to bring your own. Please note that Madingley Hall does not accept payment by AMEX or Diners Card.

Meals will be served in the historic dining room, and the main sessions will be held in the Saloon. There is a common room, where newspapers are provided, and a bar-lounge. Office facilities are available, including a fax and message service.

Directions to Madingley

Travelling by Rail

Frequent, fast trains run to Cambridge from London's King's Cross and Liverpool Street and there are good cross-country links from many other parts of the UK. Cambridge Station is 20 minutes from Madingley Hall by taxi.

Travelling by Coach

National Express run regular coach services from London Victoria and other destinations to the Cambridge Bus Station on Drummer Street. There are also regular coach services to London airports. Cambridge Bus Station is 20 minutes from Madingley Hall by taxi.

Travelling by Car

Madingley Hall is situated 3 miles west of Cambridge, and is easily accessible from the M11, the A14 and the A1. By car, central London is about 90 minutes away.

From the North (via A1): leave the A14 for Dry Drayton, just after Bar Hill. In Dry Drayton, turn left just before the church. At the T-junction in Madingley turn right. After 100 yards, the Hall is on the left.

From Newmarket and the East (via A14): leave the Cambridge northern by-pass on the slip-road leading to the M11/A1307/A14 –signed Huntingdon A14. Immediately after re-joining the A14 fork left for Madingley village. Pass the Three Horseshoes public house on the left. After 100 yards find the Hall gates on the right, opposite a left turn to Cambridge.

From the South (via M11): leave M11 at junction 13 signed Bedford & Cambridge (A428/A1303). Turn left towards Bedford (A428). 250 yards on, turn right into Madingley. In just over a mile come to a T-junction with the Hall gates in front.

From the West (via A428): after the Dry Drayton-Hardwick roundabout, the single carriageway becomes a dual carriageway. Half a mile on, take the slip road on the left signed Cambridge and Madingley. At the roundabout turn left for Madingley. The Hall gates are on the left, opposite the road signposted for Cambridge.


There is ample car-parking space at the Hall. Cars may be left in front of the main Hall during registration, but should then be taken to the car park.

Travelling by Air

The nearest airport is London Stansted, 30 minutes from Cambridge by car, with many services to many UK and European destinations. It is connected to Cambridge by a good rail link.. Regular bus services operate between Cambridge and Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton airports. Cambridge is 20 minutes from Madingley Hall by taxi.


Download maps to Madingley Hall.

Further Information and Contact Details

Madingley Hall
CB23 8AQ

Tel: +44 (0)1954 280280 (Main Switchboard)
Fax: +44 (0)1954 280290 (Main Switchboard)

Further information can be found on the Madingley Hall website.

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Key dates

COHORT 18 2015

Workshop 1: 16–18 Mar 2015
Workshop 2: 27–29 Jul 2015
Workshop 3: 28–30 Oct 2015

Contact Us

Bethany Knights–Prince
Project Co-ordinator

T: +44 (0)1223 768818