Organisations, environmental management and innovation
Organisations, environmental management and innovation

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Organisations, environmental management and innovation


This free course focuses on organisations, the innovations organisations are developing or using to manage contemporary environmental issues and some innovations in thinking about environmental management in organisations.

There are three main reasons for this focus:

  1. There are many millions of organisations that have significant impacts on the environments in which we live, from local to global scales.
  2. Organisations influence the diverse ways in which human–environment relationships are managed, from strategic and international policy to everyday choices.
  3. Organisations are advancing innovation as a way of improving human–environment relationships.

There is also an added advantage to learning about organisations in that you will also have direct experience of some kind of organisation in relation to environmental management. However, you don’t need to be a member, such as an employee, of a formal organisation, such as business, to engage with the ideas and techniques in this course.

In this course, you will be exploring the connections (sometimes obvious, sometimes not; sometimes positive, sometimes negative) between innovation and environmental management by organisations in order to gain some critical insight into the experiences and practices of innovators in real-world situations. You will explore examples of how organisations have, variously, tried to develop, adopt, adapt to or even ignore innovations in relation to environmental management.

As noted above, there are many millions of organisations in existence. Many are themselves highly innovative, and many adopt successful innovations developed from others but are themselves perhaps not innovative. It is also true that many organisations engaged in innovation have no direct interest in environmental management.

In this course we will focus our attention on those organisations that are aware of and focused (at least in part) on their environmental connections and responsibilities at some level. This could include organisations that directly engage in environmental management as part of their organisational remit, organisations that are already engaging in innovation to improve environmental management performance, or organisations that are aiming to understand and possibly improve their environmental management performance through innovation.

This course assumes some familiarity with ideas about organisations and environment and so does not rehearse the historical ‘development’ of environmental management in relation to organisations.

Some of the key questions in this course include:

  • How do we understand innovation in relation to environmental management?
  • What kinds of innovations are organisations using in relation to environmental management?
  • What are the external and internal drivers for innovative environmental management in organisations (e.g. legislation, costs, leadership, learning, public pressure)?
  • What practices does an innovative organisation engage in with respect to environmental management?

Systems ideas are used to explore and develop critical perspectives on innovation in relation to environmental management by organisations. A systems approach raises the question of perspective: who decides what is innovation, what boundary judgements are made, who decides assessment criteria and expected outcomes? These kinds of questions should help you develop a critical perspective of claims for innovations in environmental management.

Systems ideas and concepts are not directly taught in this course so if you want to know more about them then you should either study the specific courses on Systems thinking and practice [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and Systems diagramming or, if you want to learn them in an environmental context, the courses on Understanding the environment: a systems approach and Understanding the environment: problems with the way we think.

This course is an adapted extract from the Open University course T319 Environmental management 2.

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