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2015/2016  KAN-CCMVV1705U  Sustainable Business Strategy and Innovation

English Title
Sustainable Business Strategy and Innovation

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 70
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Anders Ørding Olsen - Department of Innovation and Organizational Economics (INO)
Kontaktinformation: https:/​/​e-campus.dk/​studium/​kontakt eller Contact information: https:/​/​e-campus.dk/​studium/​kontakt
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Strategy
Last updated on 21-04-2015
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors: Upon completing the course, the student should be able to describe, account for and critically discuss:
  • Concepts of sustainability for products, services, technologies and innovation
  • The systemic nature of sustainability and the sources of uncertainty and controversy this gives rise to
  • The variety of and approaches to sustainable innovations, and the various ways in which the nature of sustainability influences and challenges existing and new firms, and their strategies
  • Theories, methods, and models of innovation and strategy selected for the course, both as they apply in general to the sustainability area and as they would apply to a specific example
Course prerequisites
The course is open to students in the CBS cand.merc./M.Sc. program or equivalent. Some prior exposure to business strategy and innovation is an advantage but not strictly required.
Sustainable Business Strategy and Innovation:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance.
Individual or group exam Group exam, max. 4 students in the group
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
20 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn, To allow coordination with other two courses in the minor: Ø64 and B137
Aids allowed to bring to the exam Closed Book
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure

The urgent need for new, sustainable technologies, products and processes will fundamentally alter competitive positions in existing industries and markets. This disruption threatens established products, technologies and firms, while creating new commercial opportunities and markets. The course studies relevant cases through theories on appropriate innovation approaches and competitive strategies to benefit from these developments. In doing so, the course among other seeks to answer questions such as:


"What is special about sustainable innovation, and how does it differ from other innovations?"

"What theoretical frameworks can help develop appropriate innovation strategies?"


"How can firms establish a competitive advantage from sustainability opportunities?"


This course is about the special challenges and opportunities inherent in developing business strategies and innovations where sustainability is a key driver. We approach this issue in four different ways by:


1) Characterizing and understanding sustainable innovations.


2) Applying selected theories, concepts and models from the general strategy and innovation literature to sustainability cases.


3) Presenting additional approaches specifically designed to address sustainable innovations and sustainability strategies.


4) Complementing the theoretical learnings with cases presented by companies that have been successful in their approaches to sustainable business strategy and innovation.


The first theme includes the significant role of regulation, public attitudes, the "sustainable consumer" and other stakeholder influences, as well as barriers and drivers of sustainability payoffs. It further includes the implications of the highly systemic nature of sustainability for developing and commercializing sustainable innovations. Among other, this requires complex societal and technical changes, as well as interaction between and acceptance from a multitude of stakeholders. The second theme is based on selected theories from the innovation and strategy literature, such as industrial-organization economics, the resource-based view of the firm, strategic alliances, first- and second-mover advantage, platform strategy, and open innovation, all applied to the sustainability context. Finally, the third theme presents frameworks and theories specifically addressing sustainable innovation, entrepreneurship and strategy.


Teaching methods
The course will combine lectures, in-class discussions and guest presentations. The early part of the course is primarily focused on an overall introduction to sustainability and relevant strategic implications for firms and their innovation activities. The following part focuses on specific theories and their application through guests from companies focused on sustainable innovation and strategy. Active class participation is expected, which will greatly enhance students’ own learning as well of that of fellow students. Students are required to enter into groups, which are assigned the responsibility of developing questions and driving the discussion with guests. The course includes an exam project focused on applying relevant theories and frameworks to a sustainability case chosen by student groups.
Student workload
Class attendance and oral exam 33 hours
Miniproject 80 hours
Reading and preparation 112 hours
Further Information

This course is part of the minor in Sustainable Business”.


Changes in schedule may occur)

Expected literature
  • Bansal and Roth (2000): "Why Companies Go Green: A Model of Ecological Responsiveness". Academy of Management Journal
  • Barney (1991): "Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage". Journal of Management
  • Carroll and Shabana (2010): "The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility - A Review of Concepts, Research and Practice". International Journal of Management Reviews
  • Bryson et.al. (2006): "The Design and Implementation of Cross-Sector Collaborations - Propositions from the Literature." Public Administration Review
  • Chesbrough (2010): "Business Model Innovation: Opportunities and Barriers". Long Range Planning
  • Chesbrough and Appleyard (2007): "Open Innovation and Strategy". California Management Review
  • Cusumano and Gawer (2002): "The Elements of Platform Leadership". Sloan Management Review
  • Esty and Winston (2009): "Why Environmental Initiatives Fail", Ch. 10 in "Green to gold: How smart companies use environmental strategy to innovate, create value, and build competitive advantage". Wiley, p. 235-259
  • Ghosh and Nanda (2010): "Venture Capital Investment in the Clean Energy Sector". Working paper, Harvard Business School
  • Hall and Vredenburg (2003): "The Challenge of Innovation for Sustainable Development". Sloan Management Review
  • Hart and Milstein (2003): "Creating Sustainable Value." Academy of Management Executive
  • Lavie (2006): "Capability Reconfiguration - An Analysis of Incumbent Responses to Technological Change". Academy of Management Review
  • Hockerts and Wüstenhagen (2010): "Greening Goliaths versus Emerging Davids - Theorizing About the Role of Incumbents and New Entrants in Sustainable Entrepreneurship". Journal of Business Venturing
  • Gawer and Cusumano (2008): "How Companies Become Platform Leaders". Sloan Management Review
  • Kruschwitz (2012): "Integrating Sustainability into Strategy, Governance and Employee Engagement" (interview). Sloan Management Review
  • Lieberman and Montgomery (1988): "First-mover Advantages". Strategic Management Journal
  • Markides and Geroski (2004): "Racing to be 2nd". Business Strategy Review
  • Manget et.al. (2009): "For Real, Not Just for Show". Sloan Management Review
  • Nidumolu et.al. (2009): "Why Sustainability is now the Key Driver of Innovation". Harvard Business Review
  • Porter and Kramer (2011): "Creating Shared Value". Harvard Business Review
  • Rao and Holt (2005): "Do Green Supply Chains Lead to Competitiveness and Economics Performance?" International Journal of Operations & Production Management
  • Rothenberg et.al. (2001): "Lean, Green and the Quest for Superior Environmental Performance". Production and Operations Management
  • Rothenberg (2007) "Sustainability through Servicizing." Sloan Management Review
  • Smith and Raven (2012): "What is Protective Space - Reconsidering Niches in Transitions to Sustainability". Research Policy
  • Smith et.al. (2005): "The Governance of Sustainable Socio-technical Transitions". Research Policy
  • Thøgersen (2011): "Green Shopping: For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good?" American Behavioral Scientist
Last updated on 21-04-2015