Making environmental decisions

Many decisions and actions, both individual and collective, affect our environment; yet economic and political considerations often dominate. Defining environment to include biophysical, social, political, economic and other factors, this online module uses a systems framework to integrate environment with other elements when making environmental decisions in complex situations. You will explore a contemporary case of environmental decision making concerning fracking, as well as further examples from different parts of the world around water, energy, agriculture, forestry and climate change. You will also be able to consider an environmental decision-making situation of your own choosing, through the development of a project.

Vocational relevance

Environmental decision making as an activity is key to underpinning the concepts and responsibilities in the processes of environmental management. This module is distinctive in its explicit use of systems theories in its conceptual framework and in its focus on decision making. This systemic approach recognises and makes sense of the highly interconnected and complex challenges that many environmental managers face in the decisions they take. These challenges include working with multiple and often conflicting perspectives of stakeholders and issues of sustainability, biodiversity and quality of life. Systems theories are well recognised as useful in many management traditions, particularly where the issues of management are as much about people as they are about their environment. The systems skills you can expect to develop in this module also have wider vocational relevance beyond environmental management.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This online module is organised into four blocks, presented online through text, audio and video material. The main blocks are supported by a Techniques guide which is provided as a printed book.

Block 1 - Introducing environmental decision making
You will start by considering different meanings of decision making and, in particular, environmental decision making, together with various approaches to the decision-making process and the factors that influence that process. You will be expected to draw on your own experience as well as the module material and will work online with other students to review some of your own examples. The core case study on fracking will then be introduced and you will engage with the module framework, which provides a way of approaching environmental decision making from a systems viewpoint, as well as a structure for the module.

Block 2 - Exploring with systems
The first stages of the framework and this block are concerned with developing your systemic awareness and exploring situations, initially using systems diagrams and drawing on the case study, other real-life examples and your own experience. You will learn how to engage in environmental decision making by:

  • using systems thinking supported by various tools
  • appreciating multiple perspectives on situations
  • formulating systems of interest in environmental decision-making situations.

You will review the ways that environmental legislation and schemes contribute to environmental decision making, using examples. At this stage of the module, you will also begin to monitor and evaluate your own learning.

Block 3 - Identifying change
You will next focus on the middle stages of the framework considering the purpose and transformation of systems of interest and what changes are both feasible and desirable. This block takes a critical look at economic and ecological rationalities and other issues and activities associated with rational choice and decision support, such as modelling. You will learn how to use models to make sense of complex situations and how to take factors such as risks and uncertainties into account. You will then move on to use practical tools to see how to address issues of participation and negotiation in environmental decision-making processes.

Block 4 - Taking action
The final block focuses on taking action and you will step back to consider the framework as a whole. It includes both systemic and systematic techniques and iteration because the framework is not intended to encourage a linear process. This block is concerned with the contexts, agency and tools for environmental action. It should help you to develop understanding and practice for environmental decision making and will explore how such understanding and practice are combined in the notion of ‘praxis’. This block provides you with both a conceptual overview and some practical techniques, backed up with real-life examples and drawing on your own experience, and some key readings. You will engage in critical evaluation as an integral part of taking action and learn how to build evaluation into environmental decision making.

Your final use of the framework will be in the end-of-module assessment (EMA) for which the module prepares you gradually as you study. You will be able to choose an environmental decision-making situation of interest to you as a basis for this EMA.

This module will be of interest to you if you are or intend to become:

  • a professional in an organisation, private or public, tasked with reducing the environmental impacts of projects and plans. You may be working in local and central government or in the business sector and be responsible for reviewing a range of environmental agendas and topics, charged with implementing environmental management schemes, improving environmental performance, or contracting and supplying consultancy services.
  • a professional in international and local companies (e.g. dealing with goods and services) that are expanding and/or changing their market and examining the impact from all perspectives including environmental performance and risks to business
  • someone who wants to develop your professional and/or personal competence relating to work, community or home by increasing your awareness and understanding of environmental change and governance responses
  • someone who wants to enhance your conceptual and professional skills by developing an environmental perspective on management.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Making environmental decisions (T891) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2023.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2025.


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

This module can be taken on its own or as part of a postgraduate qualification. You must have adequate preparation for study at this level, usually demonstrated by a bachelors degree (or the equivalent).

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
01 Nov 2023 Apr 2024 £1665.00

Registration closes 05/10/23 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2025.

Future availability

Making environmental decisions (T891) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2023.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2025.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online discussion forum.
  • online tutorial access.

You’ll also be provided with a Techniques guide as a printed book.

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 (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

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 study materials for this module are provided as a series of web pages via the module website and should be accessible using a screen reader (although some mathematical or scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Figure descriptions of any diagrams will be provided and the study materials are available in alternative formats, including written transcripts of any audio components.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.

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