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2015/2016  KAN-CCBDO1003U  CSR in Action

English Title
CSR in Action

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 Intercultural Communication and Management (ICM)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalization and international business
  • Supply chain management and logistics
Last updated on 07-12-2015
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • assess how the implementation of CSR policies in global production networks affects the income, work and environmental conditions of local producers, workers, and communities in developing countries and countries in transition.
  • analyze how CSR policies are embedded within different economic, social, and environmental contexts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
  • critically appraise theories of global economic organization, local economic development, and CSR, as well as the research methods, that may be used to explore or explain similarities and differences in the income, work, and environmental conditions of local producers, workers, and communities across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
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.
CSR in Action:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
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, a number of impact studies have shown that the gains accruing to local producers, workers, and communities from the implementation of CSR policies in global production networks can at best be described as limited. Against this background a new CSR paradigm seems to be emerging. This involves long-term trading relationships between buyers and suppliers, review of buyer purchasing practices, capacity building and awareness-raising at the level of local producers and workers, increased use of civil society monitoring, and engagement in multi-stakeholder partnerships to enhance the positive impact of CSR policies implemented in global production networks (GPNs).


In this course, we will explore whether this new CSR paradigm really constitutes a new 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 economic organization, local economic development strategies, and the adoption of particular CSR approaches 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 developing countries, primarily in Asia but also in Africa and Latin America.


The course is divided into three parts. The first part is an introduction to how CSR may be defined in the context of developing countries, and the limited effects achieved under the “old CSR” paradigm in relation to improving the conditions of local producers, workers, and the environment. We will then try to understand the key features of the new paradigm of working with CSR in global production networks. In the second part of the course, we take an in-depth look at the cross-cutting theme of impact assessment that is important in relation to analyzing how CSR policies affect and are affected by local suppliers, contractors, workers, and logistics providers in developing countries. We will discuss various approaches to impact assessment, highlighting their philosophy of science underpinnings (critical realist, positivist, and social constructivist ones), the advantages/disadvantages of using quantitative vs. qualitative methods, and finally debate the ethical dilemmas related to undertaking impact studies of CSR initiatives in global production networks. Moreover, we analyze how these CSR policies are perceived from the perspectives of international buyers, suppliers, contractors, workers and logistics providers in developing countries. Finally, the course looks at whether these different actors in GPNs can jointly work together through multi-stakeholder partnerships with the aim of implementing CSR policies in global production networks?

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 CSR, global economic organization, and local development strategies 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 in 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 of the potential, limits, and impacts of each CSR issue covered in that session. 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.
Expected literature

To be announced on Learn

Last updated on 07-12-2015