BASS Sociology and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Sustainability, Consumption & Global Responsibilities

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY20231
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Sustainability is one of the most challenging and important issues of our time. It relates to a number of concerns about climate change, the depletion of natural resources, economic growth, well-being, social justice, global inequalities and the very future of humankind. These concerns are currently being addressed in debates about the nature, necessity and possibility of sustainable consumption and so this course introduces students to the ways in which consumers, businesses and governments are responding to these challenges. A number of topics will be studied, including: consumer culture, fair trade, global commodity chains, political consumption and food systems. These issues will be explored using a mixture of research articles, case studies, web resources and real world initiatives. This course will appeal to students with an interest in consumption, businesses, environmental issues, ethics and global organisations.


' To provide students with a general introduction to the field of sustainable consumption
- To demonstrate the potential of the social sciences to engage with issues of global significance
- To explore the origins and consequences of the things that consumers do in their everyday lives
- To examine the role of businesses, governments and other organisations in moving towards a more sustainable future.

Learning outcomes

  • On completion of this unit students will:
  • Understand the relationships between consumption and global processes
  •  Understand the complexities and contradictions that are inherent in sustainability debates
  • Have an appreciation of the various actors and organisations that are responding to the challenges of sustainable consumption
  • Grasp key approaches to consumption and social change

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.

Assessment methods


Non-Assessed Coursework

Students are required to submit brief notes on course readings (no more than one page) for every tutorial (10).

Essay plan (no more than 250 words).

Assessed Coursework (50% of final mark)

2000 word essay – choose from 5 questions relating to topics 1 – 5.

Examination (50% of final mark)

Online ‘open book’ exam - two essays (1000 words each +/- 10%) from a selection of 5 questions (topics 6-10).

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

•         Cohen, M.J., Szejnwald Brown, H. and Vergragt, P. (Eds.) (2013) Innovations in Sustainable Consumption: New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

•         Middlemiss, L. (2018) Sustainable Consumption: Key Issues. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge

•         Reisch, L. and Thøgersen, J. (eds.) (2015) Handbook of Research on Sustainable Consumption. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing

•         Sassatelli, R. (2007) Consumer Culture: History, Theory and Politics, London: Sage

•         Miller, D. (2012) Consumption and its Consequences. Cambridge: Polity

•         Warde, A. (2017) Consumption: A Sociological Analysis. London: Palgrave MacMillan

•         Zaccaï, E. (ed.) (2007) Sustainable Consumption, Ecology and Fair Trade. London: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniel Welch Unit coordinator

Additional notes

2015/16 timetable

Tuesday 10:00 - 12:00, plus a separate one-hour tutorial (range of times available)

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