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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 22-09-2017

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

In the last twenty years several international media and NGO reports have highlighted poor labor and environmental conditions at the base of the global production networks of internationally branded companies such as Nike, Puma, Apple, and Levi’s. The emergence of so-called sweatshops in formal factory, semi-formal workshops, or home-based settings has prompted these companies to develop ethical guidelines that they require their suppliers in developing countries to abide by. More recently, multi-stakeholder initiatives have emerged in which brands, factories/farms, NGOs, governments, and other organizations join hands in trying to address CSR challenges in export-oriented industries in developing countries.


In this course, we explore the potential and limitations of CSR in global production networks in relation to improving poor work and environmental conditions in export-oriented industries in developing countries. We do this through the lens of private, public, civil society, and multistakeholder governance. First, we look at “private governance” - the role that private sector companies play in self-regulating the economic, social, and environmental impacts of export-oriented and domestic industries in developing countries. First, we highlight the pros and cons of the two dominant approaches to buyer-driven CSR in global production networks – the compliance and the cooperation paradigms. This leads to a discussion of whether local agglomerations of firms – so-called local industrial clusters - in developing countries are better placed to self-regulate their operations through collective action initiatives.  


The second part of the course deals with ‘public governance’ – i.e. the role of public sector agencies in regulating the economic, social, and environmental impacts of firm activities. We here analyze the strengths and weaknesses of intergovernmental agencies, particularly the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO has been instrumental in initiating social upgrading initiatives such as the Better Work and Better Factories programs in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This leads to a focus on the role of the state in developing countries in regulating the economic, social, and environmental impacts of export-oriented production within their countries.


The third section of the course deals with “civil governance” – i.e. how civil society organizations seek to regulate the economic, social, and environmental impacts of company operations. First, we look at transnational NGO advocacy networks, and how they influence the global brands. We then analyze the role of the international trade union movement in improving work conditions in export industries in developing countries.


In the final part of the course we zoom in on multi-stakeholder initiatives. We use the Better Cotton Initiative as an example of a “global MSI” with operations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, focusing on whether the BCI makes any positive impact on the income of farmers, the conditions of workers, and environmental pollution levels on cotton farms in developing countries.


Two cross-cutting themes run throughout the course. The first relates to how private, public, civil and MSI governance of CSR in global production networks are likely to contribute to the achievement (or undermining) of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The second has to do with impact assessment of private, public, civil society, and multi-stakeholder approaches to CSR on the earnings of firms/farmers, the conditions on workers, and environmental pollution levels in the Global South.

Teaching methods
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. Attention is paid to developing 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, and government policy-makers that work with CSR in developing countries.

Mostly, the first part class is 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. 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 obtain feedback on their readings and work for this course is through active participation in class. Students are therefore expected to attend lectures and classes and to come prepared and ready to participate actively. Mid-way through the course we will test your understanding of key concepts and their definitions through a multiple choice test. In addition, students are given 10 minutes of supervision in connection with their exam 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 22-09-2017