skip to content

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership


In the first year, participants are required to complete three pieces of assessed work. Two are undertaken on an individual basis and the third in a small group of five to eight people. Tutors are allocated to support these assignments, with tutorials at each workshop and at least three virtual tutor inputs to support their completion.

In the second year, the main assessed work is a 15,000-word dissertation and accompanying oral presentation on the emerging findings, supported by an academic supervisor.

Analysis Paper (3,000 words)

The Analysis Paper takes the form of a detailed, critical analysis of a sustainability challenge or opportunity, culminating in clear strategic recommendations for a specific organisation on what needs to be addressed.  

The sustainability challenge or opportunity should be relevant and material (important) for both the organisation and for key external stakeholders ie it should aim to contribute to positive change for sustainability beyond the organisation. There should be a ‘business case’ for responding which could include direct benefit for the organisation (eg increased resilience of market access), as long as it is also expected to result in wider social and/or environmental benefits.  

The analysis makes use of relevant conceptual frameworks and theories, supported by current thinking in the field, benchmarking and practical examples. It culminates in clear strategic recommendations for a specific organisation on what needs to be addressed. 


Strategic Action Plan (3,000 words)

The Strategic Action Plan is about developing a practical plan for your organisation about how to implement action in response to your particular sustainability challenge/opportunity. It starts with selecting one or more of the recommendations from the Analysis Paper and identifying a key strategic aim(s).

The plan may apply to the entire organisation or a component of the organisation (eg a business unit) and includes a level of supporting detail, including identification of key risks and mitigating factors. It is supported by a sound written rationale based on understanding the organisational and wider context, and existing literature and cases. 


Group Project (7,000 words)

In parallel with the individual assignments, participants work in small groups of 5 to 8 to develop an original piece of research that draws upon the group’s collective experience on a sustainability topic of mutual interest. It can take the form of a research paper, or a proposed model/tool with recommendations for its use.

Whichever form the final report takes, the project must be based upon primary/original research. This means that the project work should involve collecting and/or analysing quantitative or qualitative data, and not just reviewing existing knowledge and literature. With the help of an expert Tutor, each group decides how to approach the project and then develops the ideas and content. Participants must be willing to work collaboratively, share ideas generously and contribute to the fullest extent.

Alumni of the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business are not required to complete the first year assignments (Analysis Paper, Strategic Action Plan and Group Project).


Dissertation (15,000 words)

Research towards a dissertation is undertaken with support and guidance from an academic supervisor. The research must follow a recognised qualitative and/or quantitative methodology, but can also take the form of applied research (eg action research). The research can address a topic of relevance to a specific organisation, or focus more generally on a sector, challenge or location. Participants are encouraged to choose research topics that are practically focused and of relevance in addressing pressing key sustainability challenges. The dissertations are expected to be at the same level as would be required on a full-time Master's programme.


Further information

Read about students who have published or presented on their dissertation research.

Access further recent dissertation topics and their supervisors.

CISL is monitoring the Covid-19 situation and responding accordingly to UK Government and University advice. At present, we expect to deliver our Graduate programmes starting in 2022 as advertised. We are well equipped to deliver dynamic and engaging workshops remotely, should the situation demand. Find out moreFind out more.

Blog: First-class postgraduate education in a Covid-19 world


Programme overview


Meet the Directors

Join a webinar session hosted by the Directors of our part-time postgraduate courses as they give you an overview of our programmes and admissions process for 2022 applications and can answer your questions.


Quick links



Theo Hacking