The Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme (CS) provides students with the skills and knowledge to promote sustainable development through business. The linkages between business and sustainability are highly important in contemporary organizations, whether one wishes to be a sustainability specialist in business or a management professional operating in some other field.

Programme description

Complex sustainability challenges, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, or poverty and inequality, call for new mindsets and skills. These mindsets should incorporate a systems-based view of the world and the ability to work with professionals from different fields and cultures. Sustainability challenges require multi-level solutions that involve a wide range of stakeholders with often competing interests. The CS programme prepares students to respond to these challenges through its international and multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of business, design, architecture, and built environment.

The CS programme brings together students who are devoted to developing systemic solutions, working in multidisciplinary teams and challenging themselves with practical learning tasks. The studies include state-of-the-art knowledge about the interlinked environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of sustainability coupled with learning in practical projects conducted together with business enterprises and other partner organizations. These projects often involve field project opportunities e.g. in Africa and Asia for students interested in sustainability solutions in developing countries. The CS studies cover sustainability issues in large organizations as well as small, local initiatives and innovative start-ups.

The CS programme is organized jointly by the School of Business, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and the School of Engineering. CS students who enter the programme via the School of Business graduate with a degree of Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration. The CS programme has been awarded the EIT Climate-KIC programme label and those students who want to specialize in issues relating to climate innovation and receive an additional certificate of this can apply for Climate-KIC studies once accepted in the CS programme.

The two-year CS programme comprises a total of 120 ECTS credits, divided between compulsory joint Creative Sustainability studies, compulsory Management studies, elective studies which include a freely chosen minor subject, and a Master’s thesis. Students can also include in their degree studies conducted elsewhere at Aalto University or at other universities in Finland or abroad. More information about the course offerings is available on the programme website.

Learning outcomes

Upon graduation from the CS programme students have a unique and competitive professional profile which combines focused knowledge on sustainability with widely applicable general skills in management, design, and communications.

To achieve this learning outcome, the pedagogical approach in the CS programme emphasizes challenge-based learning, the integration of teaching and research, and a strong connection to practical outcomes. Teaching methods range from interactive classroom lessons to group assignments and practical projects carried out for partner organizations that can be e.g. business enterprises, NGOs or other associations, or public organizations.

In particular, the CS programme develops the following competences as applied to sustainability: 

  • Multidisciplinarity: Students learn to adapt knowledge, skills and new approaches to reach collaborative solutions based on ecological, economic and socio-cultural sustainability. 
  • Systems thinking: Students learn to use systemic thinking to problem-solve and create new holistic understandings of complex situations and the critical infrastructures of society. The emphasis is on global awareness within the context of local communities and having a combined influence on different aspects of sustainability simultaneously. 
  • Design thinking: Students learn to apply creative problem-solving tools and methods to facilitate dialogue, define problems, generate ideas and attain solutions. 
  • Sustainability management: Students learn to develop, support and manage sustainability initiatives for society at large, for business purposes and the needs of other organisations. Students also gain an understanding of the way different organisational forms and work practices can support the pursuit of sustainability. 
  • Project management: Students learn to manage multidisciplinary teamwork, and to promote sustainability in culturally diverse organisational environments. 
  • Business management: Students learn to create sustainable business models and to work proactively in organizations to develop responsible business practices.

Graduating students can leverage these competences to effectively address global and local sustainability challenges as they relate to business.

Career prospects

Sustainability considerations arise in every organization and thus there are several possible career options for someone with expertise on sustainability in business. Sustainability specialists can work in multinational companies and other large organizations, as consultants, in start-ups and as entrepreneurs, or they may deal with sustainability issues in business from positions in NGOs or the public sector. Figure 1 illustrates the range of possible professional identities of CS students together with corresponding potential employment types.

Figure 1. Possible professional identities and corresponding potential employment types of CS students

Programme directors

Professor Mikko Jalas, Director of the Creative Sustainability Programme (ARTS)

Senior University Lecturer Leena Lankoski, Creative Sustainability Programme Director at the School of Business

Programme coordinator

Berit Söderholm,

Additional information

Creative Sustainability programme website