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Creating a successful and sustainable business

If we are to enable more desirable futures, we need to tackle grand challenges and prioritise delivering sustainable business impact. Improved forms of sustainable business design and innovation are key drivers to positive change in the world around us. This course will give you the knowledge, latest thinking, optimised tools, methodologies and mindset to be a positive changemaker in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, thinking of starting a new business venture or simply interested in this area from a personal point of view, this course will give you the skills to create and implement business for sustainable outcomes.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

The course is comprised of eight units:

Unit 1
You'll begin by exploring what sustainable business is, how it functions and why it is vital to help enable desirable futures. You will examine why sustainable business is an effective way to contribute towards addressing our collective grand challenges and wicked problems. Finally, you will see how sustainable business can drive impact at the overall ecosystem level to help leave the world a better place than we found it.

Unit 2
In this unit, you'll identify how sustainable business opportunities drive positive changes and how to engage different stakeholders along a common sustainable vision and mission. You'll learn how to implement sustainable business in practice with inspirational cases and practical guidance on engaging divergent stakeholders while understanding the key needs and problems across stakeholder ecosystems to frame business opportunity spaces.

Unit 3
You'll address complex challenges and issues within multi-stakeholder settings with often divergent perspectives. You'll examine how to get started and what steps you should take to frame a specific challenge and solve it. You will learn how to create, map and analyse problems across stakeholders using systems thinking, to understand complex dynamics and their interrelatedness across your chosen challenge space.

Unit 4
This unit picks up threads from the three preceding units and moves on to building a systems map related to your challenge space. You'll decide what to include and exclude from your map given the underlying complexities of your stakeholder ecosystem and decide where you might need to intervene within your system.

Unit 5
You'll dive into the process of creative thinking to solve systemic challenges. You'll also learn how to generate a range of ideas to address your defined sustainability issues. 

Unit 6
In the previous units you will have considered a wide range of creative ideation techniques to address your sustainability challenge space. You'll now use converging thinking to make decisions about which ideas to take forward and which to leave behind.

Unit 7
You'll discover how to articulate and prototype the underlying value you intend to generate across your ecosystem stakeholders. More specifically, you will understand how your intended business concept delivers value to solve the needs, problems and issues you identified early within your systems map.

Unit 8
In this final unit, it’s time to draw together the threads of your learning and focus on how you will use that learning to select the most important and critical elements to test using quick validation cycles with your key ecosystem stakeholders. You'll also learn how to put together an effective pitch to potential seed or angel investors.

Please note: some course materials are used in 'Sustainability for Business Success’, a course developed by The Open University and available on the Coursera platform. Consequently, we advise against enrolling on both.

You will learn

By the end of this course, you’ll learn how to:

  • understand underlying mega-trends and drivers influencing the general shift and change in consumer preference and business landscapes towards sustainable impact outcomes
  • frame and scope new business challenges, strategically grounded in contributing to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)
  • go beyond the limitations of existing methodologies and business design approaches like Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Business Model Innovation to serve complex ecosystem needs and problems.
  • design and implement new sustainable business concepts and business models grounded in People, Planet, Profit and Progress centric thinking and doing
  • identify and articulate value types across the sustainable business design and innovation processes
  • take a critical, self-reflective perspective whilst implementing new sustainable business with industry leading tools and methodologies
  • synthesize divergent needs and conflicting interests across multi-stakeholder ecosystems and value chains as you validate your new business ideas through go-to-market testing cycles
  • design experiments to validate sustainable business concepts and supporting business models across a vast array of ecosystem stakeholders to ensure delivery of reciprocating value.

Learner support

Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser, who will respond to you directly. Other support is available via the course forum, dedicated website and computing helpdesk.

Practice-based assignment

There is a practice-based assignment (PBA) which you complete at the end of the course to demonstrate how you have applied, or are intending to apply, the theories and models you have learnt. Once completed and successfully passed you will receive a digital badge and a course completion certificate which you can download as a record of your learning.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic requirements.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

The course will require around 20 hours to complete.

You can begin at any time during the life of the course and study at your own pace.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £250.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of not more than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials, exercises, study support and practice-based assignment are delivered entirely online. 

Computing requirements

You'll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS Ventura or higher.

Functionality may be limited on mobile devices. For example, voice recorder activities, which are common in language short courses, may not work on iOS/Apple devices.

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying BGXC012 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.