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Environment & Development


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None required, but recommended are:

  • Extended Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment

  • Environmental Governance

  • Quantitative Research Methods


This course explores the tensions that arise between socioeconomic development and the natural environment. Students are guided towards a practical and solution-oriented perspective in which they first describe social, economic, and environmental protection objectives in a more tractable way. Environmental and socioeconomic systems are represented as interconnected cause-effect chains that span different scales and domains. Performance criteria and indicators are used to assess the benefits and tradeoffs of productive economic activities within these scales and domains.

During the course, key frameworks that are currently used to assess and manage the social and environmental impacts and risks of products, investment projects and corporations are broadly presented and discussed. These include ISO Management System Standards and guidance (ISO14001; ISO26000), IFC Performance Standards, the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, and Environmental and Social LCA. Protocols to investigate and manage significant environmental accidents resulting from economic activities will also be presented and applied by students in a practical workshop.

Despite the existence of these mature and robust frameworks, environmental degradation continues to happen as an undesired consequence of economic growth and development. The course has a strong focus on real-life case studies, which will give students the opportunity to critically assess the strengths and limitations of the different frameworks. By the end of the course, students will be better equipped to understand and discuss issues within these frameworks, criticize and propose solutions coming from different roles/perspectives, and inform policymaking with a more realistic understanding of the challenges and limitations faced by the relevant actors.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


  • Identify, characterize, and discuss conflicts between socioeconomic development and environmental protection objectives

  • Understand the basic principles underpinning social and environmental risk assessment and management frameworks for economic activities

  • Evaluate the adequacy of systemic solutions that have been proposed and their limitations in realistic situations.


  • Represent relationships between economic activities and the environment using different paradigms

  • Understand and work with quantitative indicators of social and environmental performance of economic activities

  • Adopt a broad, science based and stakeholder-oriented approach to reducing conflict between economic activities and social/environmental protection objectives


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive classes twice a week. Classes consist of a combination of lectures and facilitated group discussions.

Students will work directly with the foundational documents underpinning each of the frameworks discussed in class (see Reading List). These will be supplemented by guidance documents and videos which will be provided ahead of each lecture. Explanations of the concepts and case studies will be presented by the lecturer and guest speakers.

Students are expected to actively participate as individuals and as members of groups. Prescribed reading and viewing of supporting media must be done prior to each class.

Assessment Method

  • Three short briefings (500 words), individual (15% each)

  • One group in-class workshop (10%)

  • One group project delivered in two parts (proposal 10%, final report 20%)

  • In class participation (15%)

Reading list

  • IFC Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability (

  • EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability,of%20the%20European%20Green%20Deal.

  • Sala S., Beylot A., Corrado S., Crenna E., Sanyé-Mengual E, Secchi M. (2019) Indicators and Assessment of the environmental impact of EU consumption. Consumption and Consumer Footprint for assessing and monitoring EU policies with Life Cycle Assessment, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, ISBN 978-92-79-99672-6,, JRC114814.

  • Ferrón Vílchez, V. (2017) The dark side of ISO 14001: The symbolic environmental behavior, European Research on Management and Business Economics, 23, 1.

  • Latapí Agudelo, M.A., Jóhannsdóttir, L. & Davídsdóttir, B (2019) A literature review of the history and evolution of corporate social responsibility. Int J Corporate Soc Responsibility 4, 1.

  • Hugo Slim (1995) What is development?, Development in Practice, 5:2, 143-148,


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


David Zetland, University Lecturer in Political Economy (course convener)
Carlos Felipe Blanco, Assistant Professor in Industrial Ecology (course instructor)