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2017/2018  KAN-CCBDO1007U  CSR ‐ A Path to Sustainable Development?

English Title
CSR ‐ A Path to Sustainable Development?

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Second Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc og MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Peter Lund-Thomsen - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalization and international business
  • Supply chain management and logistics
Last updated on 18-04-2017

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Describe theories and concepts covered in the course readings that are relevant to the analysis of CSR in global production networks
  • Apply concepts and theories from the course to analyse how CSR in global production networks is embedded in developing country contexts.
  • Critically evaluate the theories, their application and limitations in relation to explaining how CSR in global production networks affects and is affected by local producers, workers, and communities in Asia, Africa, or Latin America.
  • Demonstrate appropriate academic writing skills, including: correct referencing, clear argumentation and correct usage and definition of key concepts.
Course prerequisites
The most important qualification you need to participate is intellectual curiosity and a willingness to examine and challenge your own assumptions about what CSR is, and how it works in developing country contexts. Students returning from or intending to undertake internships or fieldwork in the broad area of business and development studies might find the “hand-on” approach of this course particularly useful.
The course shares exams with
Course content and structure

A lot of the management-oriented literature on CSR that is taught in business schools around the world focuses on the different management strategies that companies can use in integrating CSR within the corporation and in its external stakeholder relations. Much of this literature assumes that CSR policies positively influence economic, social, and environmental conditions in developing countries. However, impact assessments have shown in the last decade that the gains accruing to local producers, workers, and communities from the implementation of CSR policies in global production networks are often quite limited. Moreover, factory fires and collapses in countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have recently led to the deaths of hundreds of workers, and in some cases, the factories had been CSR audited shortly before these accidents happened.


Against this background European and North America-based retailers and supermarkets are experimenting with both compliance-based and cooperation-based approaches to improving labor and environmental conditions at their supplier factories in developing countries and economies in transition. They are also increasingly engaging in multi-stakeholder initiatives involving brands, NGOs, trade unions, suppliers, and other interested parties with a view to finding common solutions to complex challenges such as child labor, forced labor or unsustainable forms of resource extraction in developing countries. At the same time, the rise of developing country mega-suppliers, retailers, and consumers are beginning to influence CSR in global production networks in new ways.


In this course, we will explore whether CSR really constitutes a path to sustainable development? Sustainable development is here understood as the integration of economic, social, and environmental concerns in the policy-making of public and private actors in ways that improve the incomes, labor, and living conditions of local producers and workers while reducing environmental pollution from developing country firms. We will be doing this by comparing and integrating theories of global production networks/global value chains; economic, social, and environmental upgrading; labor agency; as well as the adoption of particular CSR approaches. We will do this in order to explain the income, work, and environmental conditions of local producers and workers in developing country export industries. In practice, we will examine how CSR policies are structured from the top-down in global production networks (using examples from the football, textile, agro-industrial production or other industries) and the bottom-up in local economic, social, and cultural contexts in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.



Teaching methods
The course’s development of personal competences:

The course is structured in such a way that theory and practice are closely related. It combines theories of global production networks, economic, social, and environmental upgrading, as well as labor agency with a practical, action-oriented, case, and dialogue-based approach to teaching which seeks to develop students’ ability to consider a variety of options and devise solutions to the complex ‘real-life’ dilemmas faced by corporate executives, NGO workers, trade union representatives, government policy-makers etc. that work with CSR in developing country contexts outside the classroom.

Mostly, the first part of each class will be devoted to a practical, case or video-based exercise and subsequent discussion of a real-life CSR and development dilemma. The use of small group discussions is employed to promote individual learning, and common points are subsequently discussed in a plenary forum. During the second part of each class this is often followed by a more traditional lecture-based presentation that links class discussions during the first part with insights from the course literature, particularly the theories and concepts that are covered as part of the course. Students may also be asked to prepare in groups at home in order to be able to take part in a discussion of CSR dilemma cases in the next class session. Invited guest lecturers who are working directly with the topics covered in the course will also contribute to the students’ understanding of the real-world challenges faced by CSR and development practitioners.
Feedback during the teaching period
The principal way for students to receive feedback on their readings and work for this course is through active participation in lectures. Students are therefore expected to attend all lectures and classes and to come prepared and ready to participate actively. In addition to this, students are given 10 minutes of supervision in connection with their assignments. Feedback is also obtained as part of the question and answer session at the oral exam and students are given an explanation of their grade immediately after the oral exam. Finally, students have the possibility of receiving individual and group feedback during regular consultation hours.
Student workload
Lectures 30 hours
Exam 35 hours
Preparation 141 hours
Total 206 hours
Expected literature

To be announced on Learn

Last updated on 18-04-2017