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2017/2018  KAN-CCMVI2055U  Behavioural Public Policy for Sustainable Development

English Title
Behavioural Public Policy for Sustainable Development

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration Summer
Start time of the course Summer
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Course instructor - Lucia Reisch, Full Professor, Copenhagen Business School, lre.msc@cbs.dk
    Sven Bislev - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
In case of any academic questions related to the course, please contact the course instructor or the academic director, Sven Bislev at sb.msc@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Political Science
  • Economics
Last updated on 26/06/2018

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Assess the key academic literature in the field of behavioral economics (BE) and behaviorally based public policy (BBP) in general
  • Learn and appraise the theory and practical application of BPP for sustainable development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in specific
  • Understand and apply methods used in BPP and BE
  • Assess policy problems in the field of sustainable development and suggest effective and efficient BPP instruments ("nudges")
Course prerequisites
A basic knowledge of microeconomics and psychology is needed. The main part of the course focuses on the application of behavioural insights to the Sustainable Development Goals. The first four lessons will, however, recap the basics of Behavioural Economics (BE) and Sustainable Development; hence it is also suited for students without prior formal education in BE. Preparatory reading assignments will compensate, the two books are a MUST reading.
Behavioural Public Policy for Sustainable Development:
Exam ECTS 7.5
Examination form Written sit-in exam on CBS' computers
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration 4 hours
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer, Ordinary exam: 31 July - 3 August 2018

Retake exam: September - October 2018

3rd attempt (2nd retake) exam: November - December 2018

Exam schedule is available on https:/​/​www.cbs.dk/​uddannelse/​international-summer-university-programme-isup/​courses-and-exams.
Aids Open book: all written and electronic aids, including internet access
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
If the number of registered candidates for the make-up examination/re-take examination warrants that it may most appropriately be held as an oral examination, the programme office will inform the students that the make-up examination/re-take examination will be held as an oral examination instead.
4 hour written sit-in exam, new exam question
Exam form for 3rd attempt (2nd retake): home project assignment, max. 15 pages.
Course content and structure

Since a few years, behaviorally based public policy ("Nudging") is on the rise. The 2017 Nobel Prize has been awarded to Richard Thaler "for his work on Behavioral Economics" (BE). To date, more than 200 governments worldwide apply the insights of behavioral studies
in general and behavioral economics in specific complementing traditional policy instruments.
This course offers an opportunity for students to learn about the insights of behavioral economics and "nudging" in general and applied to the field of sustainability policy in specific. 
The main question of the course is: How can Behavioral Public Policy help to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  
Fields of applications include energy use, food waste, education, poverty, and healthy lifestyles. A specific focus is put on sustainable consumption. 
We will also look at methods of policy evaluation as well as on my own research (together with Cass Sunstein) in this field. 


Preliminary assignment: Reading and understanding of the two mandatory books. We will have a "book talk" in the first session. 

Class 1: Introduction to Behavioral Economics (BE) and Sustainable Development Policy
Class 2: Foundations of BE (1)
Class 3: Foundations of BE (2) 
Class 4: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): Concept and issues
Class 5: BPP and the SDGs (environment, energy)
Class 6: BPP and the SDGs (health and nutrition, poverty)

Feedback activity: 
We will have an interactive feedback session where we learn about how to give good feedback and apply this to the content of the course. Students will be asked to prepare small home assignments (e.g. a Blitz presentation, a pro & con debate, a panel debate) and we will practice how to feedback them in a productive way. 

Class 7: Theory and methods of Behavioral Public Policy (BPP)
Class 8: The ethics of nudging
Class 9: Implications for research
Class 10:Implications for policy and corporate actors
Class 11: Overview, review, Q&Q, test exam 

Teaching methods
This is largely a seminar style lecture with one interactive element (i.e., small in-class assignments) per session. This could be: minutes speeches, Blitz presentations, group work and other). Cass Sunstein (Harvard University) will join one lecture by video conference and be available for questions from students.
Feedback during the teaching period
We will have an interactive feedback session where we learn about how to give good feedback and apply this to the content of the course. Students will be asked to prepare small home assignments (e.g. a Blitz presentation, a pro & con debate, a panel debate) and we will practice how to feedback them in a productive way.
Student workload
Preliminary assignment 20 hours
Classroom attendance 33 hours
Preparation 126 hours
Feedback activity 7 hours
Examination 20 hours
Further Information

Preliminary Assignment: To help students get maximum value from ISUP courses, instructors provide a reading or a small number of readings or video clips to be read or viewed before the start of classes with a related task scheduled for class 1 in order to 'jump-start' the learning process.


Course timetable is available on https://www.cbs.dk/uddannelse/international-summer-university-programme-isup/courses-and-exams.


We reserve the right to cancel the course if we do not get enough applications. This will be communicated on https://www.cbs.dk/uddannelse/international-summer-university-programme-isup/courses-and-exams end February 2018 at the latest.

Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


1. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Yale University Press (but any other edition is fine)
2. Cass Sunstein (2013). Simpler: The Future of government. Simon & Schuster

The e-book has ISBN 9781476726618 and can be ordered online http:/​/​www.simonandschuster.com/​books/​Simpler/​Cass-R-Sunstein/​9781476726618


Additional relevant readings:


A list of relevant articles for the respective sessions will be provided in the syllabus 6 weeks before the class starts. All articles will be available from the CBS library. These articles are useful additional reading, most of them very recently published studies; but they do not substitute the two books. 

Last updated on 26/06/2018