COURSE: Building Business Resilience

Summary Description

Business resilience is key for enterprises to survive & thrive. Businesses face a range of sustainability challenges, including increasing demand for finite natural resources, leading to resource scarcity, climate impacts with both abrupt (e.g. flooding) and long term changes, (e.g. temperature rise), commodity price volatility, energy security, increasing inequality and social unrest. Businesses thus face an array of complex risks of varying degrees of uncertainty. Sustainability is moving from being a peripheral, optional agenda item to becoming a core business requirement for market leaders. Many companies still understand sustainability as a narrow definition of environmental issues, or what a sustainability department is responsible for. However, when sustainability is understood as being fundamentally about the way a company does business – including how it develops new products and services, recruits and retains talent, increases security of the supply chain, increases customer satisfaction, good stakeholder relations and builds brand value – then it can be understood as a key asset to building business resilience. With sustainability comes long-term profitability. This module will provide key insights into how business resilience can be achieved through, exploring cases of success and failure. The module will provide both a practitioner and academic platform for understanding and practicing business resilience within an increasingly uncertain business environment.


Course Instructor

Does this course carry Credit Value



Credits Value (where applicable)

10 at Essex Business School, University of Essex


Duration (Number of Hours)



Course Format


Course Booking Options

Available for booking by academic institutions

Available for booking by employers

Available for booking by learner groups

Maximum Number of Students




as required



as required


Syllabus Plan – summary of the structure and academic content of the module

1. The sustainability challenges in the 21st Century: what this means for business.

a. Overview of planetary boundaries and the risks

b. Climate change

c. Resource constraints

d. Environmental degradation

e. Health, social unrest and other social crises

f. Financial constraints, etc


2. What is resilience?

a. Complexity and ecosystem theory foundations

b. The link between sustainability and resilience

c. Why can we apply resilience thinking to business?

d. Introduction to key resilience business thinkers


3. The economic and business cases for resilience

a. Introduction to the economic case for resilience

b. Introduction to the business case for resilience


4. Leadership

a. The importance of leadership from the top down and from the bottom up

b. Leadership processes for resilience and sustainability

c. Discussion of key cases of leadership for business resilience – M&S, Unilever, Patagonia, InterfaceFlor


5. Cooperation & collaboration for business resilience

a. Organisational processes of cooperation and collaboration and how they can foster (and hinder) business resilience

Intended Learning Outcomes – on completion of this module, students will be able to…

• obtain a critical understanding of the global pressures businesses are under and the risks they face

• acquire a critical appreciation of the business case for resilience

• develop critical insights into organisational processes of leadership, cooperation, planning and behaviour change that foster and enhance business resilience

• work in-depth with a a range of real-world and practical cases of how companies have successfully moved towards great business resilience

• obtain a thorough understanding of the regulatory framework and standards that impact business resilience

• learn how to build a business case for resilience in a concrete organisational environment


This course serves the following UN Sustainable Development Goals. For a fuller description of the SDGs please visit

SDG 1 – No Poverty

SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities

SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption & Production

SDG 13 – Climate Action

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

Teaching & Learning Methods




Guided Independent Study/Research

Industry/Field Visits

Assessment Methods

Individual Written Assignment

Group Written Assignment

Group Presentation

Feedback Methods

Written feedback to individual student

Written feedback to group of students

Key Learning Resources

Parkin, S. (2010). The positive deviant: Sustainability leadership in a perverse world. Earthscan.

Hargreaves, A., & Fink, D. (2012). Sustainable leadership (Vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons.

Blowfield, M. (2013). Business and sustainability. Oxford University Press.

Gulati, R. (2013). Reorganize for resilience: Putting customers at the center of your business. Harvard Business Press.

ed. Sally Jeanrenaud, Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, Jonathan Gosling (2017) Sustainable Business: A One Planet Approach, Wiley [Book]

Raworth, K (2017) Doughnut Economics: 7 ways to think like a 21st century economist, Random House Business Books [Book]5.

Randers R. (2012) 2052: a global forecast for the next forty years, Chelsea Green [Book]1.

Better Business, Better World, Business & Sustainable Development Commission, January 2017

A selection of up to 10 good practice case studies. (can be deleted according to country of delivery.)


For further details on this course please contact:

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