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Business Sustainability: A cleaner production approach to small business management

Student Manual

Environment Australia
October 2000
ISBN 0642547149

Business Sustainability: Session 1 - Course Introduction and Description

Objective of this session

To provide an outline of:

  • the course objectives;
  • the requirement and time frames of the student project; and
  • the student assessment criteria
The following topics will be covered in this session
Course Outline
Course Schedule
Course Plan
Assessment of Students

Course Outline


Business sustainability is about businesses surviving and prospering in the long-term. To achieve this in a world of steadily increasing competition, businesses have to become more and more efficient and so steadily reduce their cost of production.

For many businesses, this automatically translates to reducing employee numbers or increasing production with excisting employee numbers. However, there is another way!

All businesses waste a proportion of their raw materials, energy and other inputs, and they produce waste products that usually cost money to dispose of. This wastage accounts for a surprisingly large proportion of the total costs of nearly all business.

If wastage can be reduced, the business will become more efficient and will improve its long-term sustainability.

Overview of the Course

This course will teach students a systematic method of identifying wastage in a business, finding opportunities for reducing wastage, and developing a business improvement plan. The method is called a cleaner production assessment.

The focus of the course is a project in which students (in groups of three) will conduct an actual cleaner production assessment of a small business of their choice. To complete the project, each student team will "recruit" a small business and carry out the assessment. While the facilitator is unlikely to have direct contact with the business, he/she will be able to help each team with their project in tutorial sessions.

Cleaner Production Method

It is important for students to realise that this cleaner production assessment is only the first stage of the full cleaner production method. The assessment involves collecting and interpreting data and information, identifying opportunities and options for improvement, and drafting a business improvement plan. This is as far as the project goes. It will be up to the business manager to carry out the second part of a full cleaner production project. The second part includes implementation of the improvement plan, measurement to assess improvement, and management review.

Origin of Course

This course was developed by Environment Australia to promote the principles of ecologically sustainable development through encouraging the uptake of cleaner production in the small business sector.

Course Objectives

The objectives of the course are to teach students:

The cleaner production assessment training includes:

The other skills training includes:

Course Schedule


The course includes 36 hours of contact time. This will comprise:

The course will also require an estimated 100 hours of project work, at least 36 hours of which will be spent in contact with the business.

Course Plan

Week 1 1 Course Intro and Description 2 Awareness of Wastage 3 Introduction to Cleaner Production Assessment
Project Establishment
Week 2 4 The Small Business Client 5 Student Teams 6 Presentation to the Small Business
At end of week 2, teams ready to approach small businesses and start to prepare presentations
Week 3 7 Team Rules 8 Power of Teams 9 Tutorial - Presentations to Small Business
Preliminary Assessment
Week 4 10 Preliminary Assessment - Part 1 11 Preliminary Assessment - Part 2 12 Preliminary Assessment - Part 3
At end of week 4, presentations to small businesses completed
Week 5 13 Preliminary Assessment - Part 4 14 Preliminary Assessment - Part 5 15 Environmental Awareness
Week 6 16 Tutorial - Preliminary Assessment and Report 17 Tutorial - Preliminary Assessment and Report 18 Detailed Study - Part 1
At end of week 6, Preliminary Assessment report completed
Detailed Study and Implementation Plan
Week 7 19 Detailed Study - Part 2 20 Detailed Study - Part 3 21 Detailed Study - Part 4
Week 8 22 Detailed Study - Part 5 23 Tutorial - Detailed Study 24 Tutorial - Detailed Study
Week 9 25 Detailed Study - Part 6 26 Tutorial - Detailed Study 27 Tutorial - Detailed Study
At end of week 9, all data collected and validated
Week 10 28 Detailed Study - Part 7 29 Detailed Study - Part 8 30 Tutorial - Detailed Study
At end of week 10, improvement options formulated and evaluated
Week 11 31 Tutorial - Detailed Study 32 Tutorial - Detailed Study 33 Tutorial - Detailed Study
At end of week 11, presentations to small businesses (by Business Team Member) on CP Assessment complete
Week 12 34 Course Review 35 Tutorial - Business Improvement Plan 36 Tutorial - Business Improvement Plan
At end of week 12, CP Assessment Report complete
At end of week 13, Reflection Papers complete

Timeframes and Deliverables

The table below shows the main project milestones and deliverables, and the dates they are due.

Project stage Deliverable By end of:
Project Establishment Small business client found Week 2
Presentations made by Student Team Week 4
Formal agreement signed by the business Week 4
Preliminary Assessment Preliminary information and data collected Week 5
Preliminary assessment report submitted Week 6
Detailed Study Detailed data collected and validated Week 9
Improvement options and draft business improvement plan developed Week 10
Presentation of business improvement plan Week 11
Business improvement plan submitted Week 12
Reflection Paper submitted Week 13

Presentation of Business Improvement Plan

A person from the business will be a fourth member of the student team. It is expected that in Week 11, this person will present the result of the team's work to the small business manager and employees. Having the business representative on the team present the business improvement plan should help to transfer "ownership" of the assessment outcomes to the business. (The students will, of course, also be present at the presentation).

The presentation to the business is scheduled before completion of the business improvement plan so that students have the opportunity of incorporating in the business improvement plan the outcomes of any discussion and ideas from the business presentation.

Timeframes are Tight

The timeframes for all deliverables shown above are very tight, especially given the possibility of delays beyond the team's control caused by production demands within the small business. You will need to keep up with this schedule if reports are to be submitted on time.

Assessment of Students

Allocation of Marks

Of the total marks, 65% will be based on the overall performance of the student team, and 35% on individual performance. Allocation of the total mark is shown in the table below, and explained in more detail in the following paragraphs. Note that no examinations are proposed.

Content and quality of preliminary assessment report (team assessment) 15% of total mark
Content and quality of business improvement plan (team assessment) 40% of total mark
Feedback from business manager (team assessment) 10% of total mark
Assessment by team peers & facilitator (individual assessment) 10% of total mark
Reflection Paper (individual assessment) 25% of total mark

Preliminary Assessment Report

The preliminary assessment report will be based on information collected using prepared preliminary assessment worksheets, observations made on-site and interviews with the business manager/owner and others. The worksheets are located at the end of the manual. One report is required per team. It will be marked by the facilitator and returned.

Business Improvement Plan

The business improvement plan is the main project outcome and so is allocated the largest fraction of the total mark. It will be based on data and information collected, validated and assessed by each team, and will present options for improvement developed from this information.

Feedback from Business Manager

The owner or manager of the business will be asked to give feedback on the performance of the student team. He/she will be asked a number of specific questions and the facilitator will give a mark to the team based on this feedback.

Assessment by Team Peers and Facilitator

The facilitator may seek peer reviews from members of each team (team members comment on particular aspects of the performance of other members of their team). The facilitator then gives a mark to each individual in the team based on this feedback and their own assessment of the student's performance.

Reflection Paper

Each student will be required to write a 1000-word report on the project as an individual exercise. Guidelines on the content and format for this report will be given later in the course.