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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 Postgraduate - Unit

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedNot offered in 2011
Coordinator(s)Professor Gordon Clark


Managing the environment has traditionally been seen as the responsibility of the state, controlling the activities of individuals and organisations through legal frameworks and the action of regulatory bodies. Simply put, business was in the business of making money; government existed to ensure that business didn't unreasonably damage the environment in the process.

This approach is outmoded and unworkable in today's global economy. Corporations act across many legal jurisdictions, and the largest of them have the economic and political weight of whole nations. In 2008 only 30 of the world's 231 countries had a GDP that exceeded Wal-Mart's global sales; of the 100 largest economies, 52 were firms and 48 were countries. Furthermore, some firms see managing the environment as a potential source of profit if focused upon the reduction of costs, innovation, and the management of risk. In this unit students will look at the role of the corporation in managing the environment and the costs and benefits of environmental management.

Students begin the unit by understanding the firm, presenting issues of ownership and agency by describing the stakeholders of the firm, their powers, and the problems of coordination. The influence of the stock market and the impact of environmental liabilities on share market prices are discussed. Having established a model of the firm we then consider the impact of national legal frameworks, particularly those that attribute a value to environmental liabilities and to future environmental risk. By looking at how legal liability has developed in Europe and the USA we consider the impact of changing expectations of liability for the future of companies' environmental strategies. The responsibility of corporate officers and shareholders for the actions of the firm is considered in a discussion of corporate governance.

The unit also looks at the interlocking management systems within the firm that impact environmental strategies and performance: performance management, risk management, and integrated processes of technological innovation. It looks at the role of audit in ensuring compliance with internal policies and external legal standards as well as the difficulties of creating real change in any large organisation.

The intention is that the unit informs students wishing to act as internal or external agents of change for improved corporate environmental performance, as well as those wishing to understand the nature of the modern corporation for research purposes. The unit is supported by a selection of practical and academic readings and by class discussion of relevant case studies used to illustrate the points of each lecture


  1. To provide postgraduate students a theoretically-informed understanding of the dilemmas and problems posed by corporate environmental management.
  2. Based on leading case studies drawn from litigation and business school papers, provide an introduction to management and law across a number of jurisdictions.
  3. Demonstrating the tension between the mitigation of environmental harms and the need to invest in long-term environmental standards.
  4. Challenging students to better understand the role of individual responsibility in the context of corporate management systems.


Research assignment (3,750 words): 40%
Take-home examination (3,750 words): 40%
Group presentation in class: 20%

Chief examiner(s)

Professor Gordon Clark

Contact hours

24 contact hours per teaching period (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)