International Business Law: Climate Change and Sustainability

Targeting the most complex legal challenge of our time

Targeting the most complex legal challenge of our time

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

What are legal venues to fight climate change? What rights and responsibilities do businesses and governments have in terms of sustainability? Can states be forced to bring their policies in line with the Paris 2015 Agreement? How can corporate law facilitate green startups?

VU Amsterdam is the first university in Europe to offer a specific International Business Law degree that combines an outstanding, all-round Master’s in Business Law with a specific focus on one of the most complex legal challenges of our day: climate change. It took some time for the corporate world to acknowledge the existential threat to mankind that climate change poses. But now, sustainability goes hand-in-hand with business success – and business survival. VU Amsterdam will help you become a lawyer in high demand, in both the public and private sector.

More information for international students regarding COVID19

In sustainability issues, the role of the law is complex. There are multiple jurisdictions, numerous areas of law and multiple actors. Scientific, economic, political, social and ethical questions feed into legal processes. We will ensure you’re ready to address those questions.

However, you must first be trained as an all-round attorney. High-level thinking about climate change and sustainability is only possible with a thorough understanding of classical fields of law, such as Corporate, Contract, Tort and Public International Law. This Master’s thus begins with a core curriculum that will make you a great lawyer. We then explore the sustainability question in depth, from a variety of disciplines.

We will delve into doctrinal issues, legislation and case law. You will visit law firms, welcome guest speakers and work on real-life cases. The combination of law in the books and law in action has proven to be highly successful – and the most fun.

To break it down:

You’ll take four courses, to prepare you for any career in law:

  • Contract Law and Psychology of Negotiations
  • Anatomy of Corporate Law
  • Problems of Market Regulation
  • Corporate Social Responsibility

The rest of the curriculum focuses on sustainability and the law:

  • International Law on Climate Change and Sustainability
  • Energy and Climate Governance
  • Climate Change Litigation
  • The Circular Economy LAB
  • You'll write a Master’s Thesis on the topic of your choice, in consultation with your advisor.
  • You’ll work with experts in Psychology, Economics and Physics, and hear from thought-leaders to help you gain a well-rounded view of this highly complex field of law.

Programme overview

Want to know more? Check out the Curriculum.

Extensive information about the programme.

New: exchange program with Copenhagen Business School
In the coming academic year 2020-21 we will (for the first time) offer an international exchange program with the Copenhagen Business School (CBS, Denmark) to a limited number of VU Climate Change & Sustainability students. CBS is a challenging and vibrant academic environment that will broaden your intellectual horizon. If selected, you will study in Copenhagen for a quarter (November-December) and follow the courses Fundamentals of International Economic Law and Law and Supply Chain. If you are interested in participating in the selection for CBS exchange please indicate this (in the motivation letter) when you apply for the program International Business Law: Finance & Behavior.

Student experience: Kenji Jiménez (Mexico)Kenji Jimenez

"What I enjoy most about the programme is its analytical approach and the enthusiasm from the people involved in it. As for the first one, you are encouraged to think out of the box all the time. On the other hand, you have a high learning curve thanks to the good quality of the programme’s courses, combined with the wide expertise of the professors (and guest lecturers) in their fields of study. Last but not least, the possibility to actively participate in class and to listen to the points of view of students from different parts of the world, makes this academic experience quite international and enriching".

The Greenpeace Scholarship
The Greenpeace Scholarship combines full reimbursement of your tuition fee with an internship at Greenpeace International (Amsterdam) during the program. Greenpeace aims to provide interns with:

  • A better understanding of the organisation’s goals and objectives
  • Insight into how an international organisation operates
  • Framework to enhance their educational experience through practical work assignments, thereby developing personal and professional skills which will be useful for their future employment
  • An open and inclusive, multicultural, multilingual and multi-ethnic work environment, contributing to the development of mutual understanding, trust and tolerance


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  • VU Amsterdam is the only university in Europe that offers a specific Law Master’s track that combines business law with climate change and sustainability.
  • Our close connections with local firms, businesses and governmental agencies gives us first-hand knowledge of the most pressing legal issues, and what is being done to address them.
  • With only around 25 students admitted into the programme, you will get the individual attention you need, and will be one of only a select few lawyers with this type of specialised and in-demand expertise. 
  • The International Business Law programme at VU Amsterdam is already highly regarded by employers around the world.  The addition of this particular study track only increases the value of your degree.
  • Professors and guest speakers in the programme are law practitioners, physicists, judges, psychologists, economists and academics. Their multi-disciplinary approach will ensure you the most well rounded view of the legal aspects of this topic.

Student experience: Denise Larsson (The Netherlands)Denise Larsson
“I think that focussing on a social problem in a master such as climate change instead of concentrating on a specific legal field provides a broad view when thinking about the function of the law. It is a challenging master where not only the legal perspective is integrated but also political, economical and psychological positions. The study materials are supplemented with guest lectures and field trips that bring the theory to life. You see how companies struggle with their corporate social responsibilities but also how scientists are eager to learn about the legislation on this topic. During this master you will find out who all the ‘players in the field’ are and how we should work on understanding each other and together work on a solution. It is definitely a great programme for anyone who wants to explore options for a future profession in both in legal and other fields.”

Fieldtrip

Field trip in 2019 (extra curricular activity) to the island of Texel where students experienced cutting edge marine science and climate research at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).

Fieldtrip 2

This Master’s degree is not for everyone.  It takes a unique blend of empathy and ambition. Passion and drive. Compassion and intellect. You must be able to apply your legal mind to address some of the most complex and challenging legal issues of our day. That means:

  • You’re not only passionate about addressing climate change and sustainability, but also have an analytical mind that can apply the rules of law to help companies make the right decisions. 
  • You aspire to serve both your own interests and the common good.
  • You’re hard working and dedicated.
  • You are eager to study the law from many different perspectives: not only the letter of the law, but psychological, economic, political and social components, as well.

Does this sound like you? Then come along to our Master’s Evening, where you can find out more and try out the programme for yourself! If you’re keen to apply and meet the entry requirements (see below), then take a look at our application procedure and deadlines. 

How employable will you be after completing the programme? 
There isn’t a single company – large or small – that isn’t affected by the increasing attention and legislation with regard to climate change and sustainability. It’s not a question of whether companies will want you, but which company is the right fit for you.

What will your role be in future jobs?
Depending upon how – and in what country – you choose to use your Master’s in International Business Law, your role will be to guide corporate decision-making, business strategy and innovation, based on your knowledge of climate change legislation. You will be an invaluable asset to any company or organisation for whom you work.

Why will you be in such high demand with employers?
You will not only be a highly qualified and trained all-round jurist, but you will also have the latest and most influential information about sustainability. You will be trained by the leading minds in the field, and will have access to state-of-the-art tools and information that will make you a specialist in your field.

Martyna Bajer (Poland)

Student

Martyna Bajer 

"This programme is unique at the moment because it offers a well-rounded and profound insight into climate change law. With the small number of students and pleasant atmosphere, everybody can participate in class. By including other fields, such as psychology, sociology, economics and climate science, the programme offers a perspective on law that can be eye-opening to law students, who often develop a tunnel vision during their time in law school. Participating in this programme made me see the law as a tool and showed me many ways in which it can be used to mitigate climate change.”

Overview International Business Law: Climate Change and Sustainability

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

1 year

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 May for students from non-EU/EEA countries. 15 July for EU students and Dutch degree holders.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Economics, Business and Law

Daisy Ivanova (Bulgaria)

Student

Daisy Ivanova 

"What intrigued me in the programme was the currently rarely observed combination of business- and climate change law. The former influences the latter, and it is primordial to look for solutions to climate change issues in business reforms. This is why I believe that this programme is essential for future legal practitioners that want to deal with the ever-increasing threat of climate change. The course has so far taught our rather small, yet very invested and motivated class a lot about the psychological and behavioural aspects of consumers' decision-making processes, but also about the scientific, political, and extensively about the legal international state of affairs concerning the climate change issue.”

Admission with a Dutch degree

This Master is selective and open to a limited number of students only. The Admissions Board selects on merit.

Factors which will be taken into account are:

  • GPA at least 3.25 or an overall grade point average at least B+ or 7.2
  • talent and motivation
  • proficiency in research methods and techniques
  • relevant extra-curricular academic and/or legal work experience
  • sufficiently proficient in the English language (see language requirements for details)

The main focus for selection is on GPA and proficiency in research methods and techniques, the other criteria are of equal importance.

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

Applicants with a Bachelor's degree in Law (LL.B) can apply.

Applicants who do not have such a degree, but who have considerable working experience (in number of years and quality of the work) in the field of law, are also invited to apply, provided that they have a sound academic background.

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

You can apply with a Bachelor's degree other than Law, only if you have considerable experience in the field of law and can demonstrate this with documentary evidence.

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

You can apply with an HBO-Law degree plus a completed premaster: VU Schakelzone Rechtsgeleerdheid, offered via the Open Universiteit (in Dutch only). 
You can also apply with an HBO-Law degree including the premaster track, completed at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA). 
You cannot apply with other HBO degrees, even if you have completed a relevant premaster. 
The faculty does not offer a pre-master programme specifically for the IBL Master or in English.


Premaster: VU Schakelzone Rechtsgeleerdheid offered via the OU (in Dutch)
You apply to the premaster via the Open Universiteit. The premaster includes one module which you complete at the Vrije Universiteit. More information is available of our website

Premaster HvA –VU (in Dutch)
This premaster is an honours track within the HBO-programme, more information can be found on the HvA website.

HBO-Law + other premaster
If you have completed a premaster which is equal in content and level to the VU-OU Schakelzone premaster, you can ask the Admissions Board to determine if you can apply to the programme. 
Please send scans of your HBO degree, certified transcript of the premaster courses completed plus the course descriptions of all premaster courses to admission.law@vu.nl

ADMISSION WITH A DUTCH DEGREE - CORONA MEASURE

If you will have nearly completed your Bachelor's degree on August 31 2020, then you may be able to start the Master's degree programme on September 1 2020 if you meet the conditions of the corona measure. 

You will be required to complete your Bachelor's degree during the 2020-2021 academic year. Completing your Bachelor while starting a Master is difficult. Please consider carefully whether this is a good option for you. Seek guidance from your academic advisor if you are unsure. You can also opt to apply again next year. 

Conditions you must meet to be eligible for the measure: 

- you have been selected for the programme; and

- the missing credits are corona related; and

- you will meet the language requirements by August 31 2020; and 

for an academic degree : 

- you have obtained at least 162 ec of the curriculum of your Bachelor's degree. 

for an HBO degree :

- you have obtained at least 55 ec of the premaster, including the premaster thesis. 

Additionally the following stipulations apply: 

- the provisional admission is only valid for academic year 2020-2021; 

- before you can start the Master thesis, you must demonstrate to the thesis coordinator that you have successfully completed your Bachelor thesis;

- the Master's degree can only be obtained after you have formally completed your Bachelor's degree; 

- if you do not complete your Bachelor's degree by Augustus 31 2021, you cannot continue with the Master's programme until you do; completed courses will remain valid for 4 years.  

Submit a request: 

Do you meet these conditions or do you expect to meet these conditions by 31 August at the latest? If so, you can request exceptional admission no later than 1 August. You can do this by completing and submitting the form.

For the master International Business Law a minimum C1 proficiency in English is required. This requirement is met if no longer than two years before the start of the programme, the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with at least the scores indicated:

  • IELTS: minimum total score ≥ 7.0, minimum score per test section: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 600
  • TOEFL PBT: minimum total score 68, minimum score per test section: 22
  • TOEFL iBT (internet based test): minimum total score ≥ 100, minimum score per test section: 22
  • C1 Advanced (formerly Cambridge Advanced English): minimum score B
  • C2 Proficiency (formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency): minimum score C

Exemption is granted to students who :

  • have completed their secondary education or an academic degree in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have an English-language ‘international baccalaureate’ diploma; or
  • have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an accredited English-taught programme in the EU.

The proof of English proficiency can be submitted after the application deadline, but must have been received by the faculty before the start of the programme. Without an English proficiency test score which meets the specifications mentioned above or a waiver, you cannot start the programme.

Application is possible from 1 October. The application deadline is 15 July for Dutch degree holders (extended).

Application steps

  1. Register via Studielink.
  2. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  3. Upload the following application documents via VUnet (preferably PDF format):
    1. certified transcript of grades obtained so far;
    2. curriculum vitae;
    3. letter of motivation, explaining your reasons for wishing to participate in the programme;
    4. proof of academic writing in English:
      • final paper or thesis for your academic degree (excerpt, maximum 3 pages);
      • if no thesis in English available: any other 3-5 page piece of academic writing as an alternative;
      • if no academic writing in English available: write 3-5 pages abstract of an academic paper, including bibliography, in English.
        Please note we check application documents for plagiarism.
    5. 2 letters of recommendationfrom academic referees (if possible including the ranking position of the applicant); we prefer digital copies uploaded in VUnet, but referees may also mail their references directly to admission.law@vu.nl;

      The admissions board may ask for additional documentation at a later stage if this is deemed necessary for reviewing your application.
  4. If applicable to you: send proof of English proficiency to admission.law@vu.nl. This may be sent at a later stage (see Language requirements for details).
  5. As soon as all required application documents have been received, your dossier is submitted to the Admissions board. Please note that your dossier must be complete on the application deadline! Incomplete dossiers cannot be taken into consideration.
  6. The Admissions Board decides monthly on applications.
  7. If you have been admitted: finalize your application

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Admission / Applicationadmission.law@vu.nl
General details programmecontact@vu.nl
Programme coordinators
IBL-FB: Pien Werkman (p.werkman@vu.nl)
IBL-CCS: Alexandra Duarte-Correia (a.duartecorreia@vu.nl)
IBL-TT: Ioana C. Ciobanasu (i.c.ciobanasu@vu.nl)
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days
Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.

Admission with an international degree

This Master is selective and open to a limited number of students only. The Admission Board selects on merit.

Factors which will be taken into account are:

  • GPA at least 3.25 or an overall grade point average at least B+ or 7.2
  • talent and motivation
  • proficiency in research methods and techniques
  • relevant extra-curricular academic and/or work experience
  • sufficiently proficient in the English language (see language requirements for details)

The main focus for selection is on GPA and proficiency in research methods and techniques, the other criteria are of equal importance.

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

Applicants with a Bachelor's or equivalent degree in Law (LLB) can apply.

Applicants who do not have such a degree, but who have considerable experience in the field of law, are also encouraged to apply, provided that they have a sound academic background.

Your bachelor education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes. Especially students from non-EU countries should factor in the possibility that a relevant Bachelor’s degree could not be sufficient to enter into this Master in Law programme and their application could result in a rejection.

Admission on the basis of a law degree from an international University of Applied Sciences in not possible. The faculty does not offer a premaster for the IBL Master.

Due to the Corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this Master's programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection ‘Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s.

You can apply with an academic Bachelor's degree other than Law, only if you have considerable experience in the field of law and can demonstrate this with documentary evidence.

Your previous education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes.

Admission on the basis of a degree from an international University of Applied Sciences in not possible. The faculty does not offer a premaster for the IBL Master.

IBL/ ADMISSION WITH AN INTERNATIONAL DEGREE - CORONA MEASURE

 This measure only applies to students, who are pursuing a Bachelor's degree in an EEA country. All other students must have obtained their Bachelor’s degree before starting a Master’s degree programme at our faculty. 

If you will have nearly completed your Bachelor's degree on August 31 2020, then you may be able to start the Master's degree programme on September 1 2020 if you meet the conditions of the corona measure. 

You will be required to complete your Bachelor's degree during the 2020-2021 academic year. Completing your Bachelor abroad while starting the IBL Master is very difficult, we do not recommend it. We advice you to complete the Bachelor first and apply again next year.

Conditions you must meet to be eligible for the measure: 

- you have been selected for the programme; and

- the missing credits are corona related; and

- you will meet the language requirements by August 31 2020; and 

- you have obtained at least 162 ec (or 90%) of the curriculum of your Bachelor's degree. 

Additionally the following stipulations apply: 

- the provisional admission is only valid for academic year 2020-2021; 

- you have obtained your visa/resident permit no later than August 31 2020; 

- before you can start the Master thesis, you must demonstrate to the thesis coordinator that you have successfully completed your Bachelor thesis;

- the Master's degree can only be obtained after you have formally completed your Bachelor's degree; 

- if you do not complete your Bachelor's degree by Augustus 31 2021, you cannot continue with the Master's programme until you do; completed courses will remain valid for 4 years.  

Submit a request : 

If you meet the conditions mentioned above, you can submit a request to be provisionally admitted to the Master's programme. Send the request no later than August 1 2020 to masters.law@vu.nl. We require a scan of your official transcript(s) as proof that you meet the conditions.

If you qualify during August, you have until August 31 2020 to prove this, until then we will keep your request under advisement.

If you cannot meet the conditions by August 31 2020, there is no point submitting a request. 


For the master International Business Law a minimum C1 proficiency in English is required. This requirement is met if no longer than two years before the start of the programme, the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with at least the scores indicated:

  • IELTS: minimum total score ≥ 7.0, minimum score per test section: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 600
  • TOEFL PBT: minimum total score 68, minimum score per test section: 22
  • TOEFL iBT (internet based test): minimum total score ≥ 100, minimum score per test section: 22
  • C1 Advanced (formerly Cambridge Advanced English): minimum score B
  • C2 Proficiency (formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency): minimum score C

Exemption is granted to students who:

  • have completed their secondary education or an academic degree in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have an English-language ‘international baccalaureate’ diploma; or
  • have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an accredited English-taught programme in the EU.

The proof of English proficiency can be submitted after the application deadline, but must have been received by the faculty before the start of the programme. Without an English proficiency test score which meets the specifications mentioned above or a waiver, you cannot start the programme.

Application with an international diploma is possible from 1 October. The application deadline is:

1 February for international students applying for one of the VU scholarships
1 May for international degree holders from non-EU/EEA countries (extended)
15 July for degree holders from EU/EAA countries (extended)

International students applying for university accommodation are strongly advised to apply before 1 April.

Application steps

  1. Register via Studielink.
  2. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  3. Upload the following application documents via VUnet (preferably PDF format):
    1. certified copy of academic degree or if not yet graduated: declaration from your home university with an expected graduation date;
    2. certified transcript in English of grades obtained so far;
    3. curriculum vitae;
    4. letter of motivation, explaining your reasons for wishing to participate in the programme;
    5. proof of academic writing in English:
      • final paper or thesis for your academic degree (excerpt, maximum 3 pages);
      • if no thesis in English available: any other 3-5 page piece of academic writing as an alternative;
      • if no academic writing in English available: write 3-5 pages abstract of an academic paper, including bibliography, in English.
        Please note we check application documents for plagiarism.
    6. 2 letters of recommendationfrom academic referees (if possible including the ranking position of the applicant); we prefer digital copies uploaded in VUnet, but referees may also mail their references directly to masters.law@vu.nl
    7. copy of passport and copy of residence permit (if applicable);
    8. optional: course descriptions of relevant courses completed;
    9. optional: literature list or bibliography of relevant books and articles used during your studies).

      The admission board may ask for additional documentation at a later stage if this is deemed necessary for reviewing your application.
  4. If applicable to you: send English language test score to masters.law@vu.nl. This may be sent at a later stage (see Language requirements for details).
  5. As soon as all required application documents have been received, your dossier is submitted to the Admissions board. Please note that your dossier must be complete on the application deadline! Incomplete dossiers cannot be taken into consideration.
  6. The Admissions Board decides monthly on applications.
  7. If you have been admitted: finalize your application

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Our International Office will assist you during the application process. They have assembled important information for you on: 

Admission /Application/ International services
masters.law@vu.nl
General details programmecontact@vu.nl
Programme coordinators
IBL-FB: Pien Werkman (p.werkman@vu.nl)
IBL-CCS: Alexandra Duarte-Correia (a.duartecorreia@vu.nl)
IBL-TT: Ioana C. Ciobanasu (i.c.ciobanasu@vu.nl)
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days
Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.

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