37382 - Environmental, Political and Economic Management Systems

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Affordable and clean energy Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student has aquired adequate skills for system modelling and has acquired the capacity to represent relationships of the system components with the purpose to manage the investigated system. The student knows the economic and political instruments for environmental management. He will be able to set up a life cycle assessment study of a product and to distinguish among those tools applying the life cycle thinking aiming to analyse and certify the environmental management of products, processes and services.

Course contents

The course is organised in 2 modules.

In MODULE 1 (M1) focus will be placed on "understanding systems for managing purposes". Systems evolving in time will be studied starting from system representation and formalisation through the system dynamic technique. Students are required to be familiar with differential equations, statistics and stochastics.  Laboratory will be based on a fit-on-purpose software. The students will be assigned a project to develop the technique and the use of the software. Systems studies will serve the basis to introduce theory of Environmental Economy and Policies: goods value, cost of production, market price, externalities will lead to acquire basic notions of Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA). The student will be introduced to different policies such as taxes and subsidies and to discounting operations.  Finally the student will be presented with Environmental Management tools: the logical framework approach (LFA) and basic notions on the PDCA environmental management systems such as ISO14001 and EMAS.

MODULE 2 (M2) will be based on the Life Cycle Thinking approach and its main tool: the Life Cycle Assessment according to the ISO standard ISO14040. This will include: characterisation methods like mid-point and end-point, the USEtox method to compute the characterisation factors of hazardous substances for the health and the environment and uncertainty in LCA. A comparative analysis between health risk and LCA will be presented along with other LCT tools: the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), the Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF), ECOLABEL and the Environmental Product Declaration, the Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA).


The course of instruction is made of manifold disciplines and topics which are not covered in one or few monographs. It is highly recommended to use the material provided by the teacher.

Beside the teaching material the following books and resources are suggested. 

  1. Wainwright, John, and Mark Mulligan, eds. Environmental modelling: finding simplicity in complexity. John Wiley & Sons, 2005.
  2. Hannon, Bruce, and Matthias Ruth. Dynamic modeling. Springer Science & Business Media, 2001.
  3. Hannon, Bruce, and Matthias Ruth. Dynamic modeling of economic systems. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
  4. McDowell, Moore, et al.Principles of economics: European edition. University College Dublin, 2006. APA
  5. King, Stephen, et al.Principles of economics. 2012. APA

Further reference and insights can be found here: 

  1. Open Courses del MIT
  2. Turner R.K., Pearce D.W., Bateman I. (2003) Economia ambientale, (a cura di Pellizzari F.), il Mulino, Bologna.

Teaching methods

The course consists of two modules and the teaching is held by  professors Marazza and Righi with the occasional contribution of the collaborators for practice and laboratory: Enrico Balugani, Filippo Baioli, Luciano Vogli. Numerous and different learning tools will be used such as: analysis of case studies, guided discussions, individual and group work and lectures. Lectures will be carried out with the aim of transferring knowledge and focusing attention on key points. The experimental activities will have the aim of consolidating and applying the principles and tools studied in the course. A dedicated laboratory is provided for the modeling of dynamic systems. Attendance - especially laboratory and practice - is important to have a full understanding of the topic.

Assessment methods

The learning evaluation aims to assess the achievement of the learning outcomes (see above "Learning outcomes").

The evaluation criteria include:

  • the ability to examine and resolve questions during oral examination,
  • the practical capacity in system modelling
  • the accuracy and appropriateness of the language used for both content and form,
  • argumentation and critical discussion of the concepts expressed
  • contribution to the discussion in class and attendance at lectures and seminars.

The exams consist of answering open questions during an oral test and to perform a written assignment: a project personally elaborated some weeks before the oral test in M1. The assignment is the basis to verify the ability of the students to model systems in real projects. Full grade can be in the oral examination can be obtained only if completing the assignment.

The Grade is the average of the grades obtained as for M1 (oral + assignment) and M2 (oral).

Students will also be given a list of specific goals for the exam preparation.

Grades are given on a basis of 30, with possible laude (30+laude=33).

Important note for working students and non-attending students: working students and students unable to attend are asked to notify and justify this condition by a written note to drop to the teachers. This is particularly relevant in the case of M1 because not attending the laboratory would compromise the realisation of the assignment. Following the teachers' decision, these students shall be exempted from the realisation of the assignment. For  these students the teacher will verify the modelling capacity by asking the student to carry out a written task (duration: up to 2h)  to be performed in class during the oral test session.

Teaching tools

Beamer, PC, blackboard.


Vensim https://vensim.com/free-download/

Simantics http://sysdyn.simantics.org

software Gabi Education http://www.gabi-software.com/international/software/gabi-universities/gabi-education-free/

Office hours

See the website of Diego Marazza

See the website of Serena Righi