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2018/2019  KAN-CCMVI2077U  Circular Economies and Sustainable Development Goals

English Title
Circular Economies and Sustainable Development Goals

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 - Associate Professor, Dr. Martin Skrydstrup MSC, CBS, msk.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 ISUP academic director, Sven Bislev at sb.msc@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • Corporate governance
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalization and international business
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 05/12/2018

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Craft a research question for the mini-project, which lends itself well to an ethnography of circular economies conducted within Denmark or based on interviews with key stakeholders abroad
  • Identify and critically discuss the connection between linear/circular economies and environmental sustainability generally and between circular economies and SDG 12 specifically
  • Identify and critically discuss the histories, concepts, business models, goals and scopes for circular economies
  • Couple insights in circular economic thinking based on business models and guest lectures given by practitioners with theoretical readings
  • Apply relevant models, concepts and theories from the syllabus to the selected mini-project
  • Identify critical sectors and give examples of areas of implementation for models of circular economies
  • Identify and discuss ideas for transitions to circular economies
  • Identify and discuss advantages and limitations of circular economies
Course prerequisites
Completed Bachelor degree
Circular Economies and Sustainable Development Goals:
Exam ECTS 7.5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer, Ordinary exam: Home Assignment: 25/26 June - 29 July 2019. Please note that exam will start on the first teaching day and will run in parallel with the course.
Retake exam: Home Assignment: 72-hour home assignment: 8-11 October 2019 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously
3rd attempt (2nd retake) exam: 72-hour home assignment: 25-28 November 2019 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously

Exam schedules available on https:/​/​www.cbs.dk/​uddannelse/​international-summer-university-programme-isup/​courses-and-exams
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Retake exam: 72-hour home project assignment, max. 10 pages, new exam question
Exam form for 3rd attempt (2nd retake): 72-hour home project assignment, max. 10 pages, new exam question
Course content and structure

In the linear economy, businesses extract materials, use them to manufacture products and then sell those to consumers, who most often dump these, when they no longer serve their purpose. Such a linear economy extracts resources at increasing rates – currently humanity uses resources that would require 1,5 Planet Earths to keep up each year – without consideration of the environment in which it operates. Of late, a new geological term has emerged to describe the environmental consequences of the linear economy: The Anthropocene. This term implies that in our time, humanity is the decisive factor in shaping the natural environment. A critical component of the Anthropocene is our current patterns of production and consumption, i.e. the Take-Make-Waste approach of the linear economy. Most agree that this cannot continue indefinitely and that business as usual is not an option any longer.

The concept of the circular economy promises a way out. Here products do not become waste. The circular economy promises to keep products and goods at their highest utility and value at all times and is restorative and regenerative by design. Services and goods are distributed and shared in new and innovative ways without compromising the functioning of the biosphere. The common point of departure for the many ideas clustered under the rubric of “circular economy” is to change the linear economy of “Take-Make-Waste”. The rationale is to lower resource use and waste and build smarter governance of natural capital. The key notion of circular economy builds on the idea of cycles in nature fueled by solar energy, where nothing is wasted and stuff circulates in loops.

Attracting increased attention from governments, businesses and civil society, the circular economy is an emerging field of study, where we will cover a range of critical questions from conceptual and practical perspectives: What is the relationship between the circular economy and growth? Who (business leaders, industrial designers, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, etc.) venture into the spaces of circular economy? What might their business models look like? How is environmental impact of production and consumption measured and assessed? And ultimately, does circular economy create value and prosperity for the current generation that is not at the expense of the opportunities for future generations?


Preliminary assignment: To jumpstart the class, pls read the article by Sachs (2015) and the SDG goal 12 (links provided below). Identify a case of circular economy that you are familiar with (e.g. a new business, a governmental policy, civil society innovation, etc). Prepare 2 slides to introduce what this circular economy idea is about (who is advancing it, since when and aiming at which goals) and discuss how this particular case is/is not addressing Goal 12 of the SDGs. Come prepared to present your reflections in the first class.


Class 1: Introduction
We will discuss the linear economy, path-dependencies and lock-ins; general principles of sustainability and the SDGs; class overview/presentation of mini-project parameters

Class 2: Principles of Circular Economies
We will investigate biomimicry, the sharing economy, cradle-to-cradle, and the roots/genealogies and conceptual frameworks of circular economies.

Class 3: Business Models of and for Circular Economies
How can businesses create value by reusing/recycling? How can industrial designers provide smarter solutions? Offering products as “service” rather than selling products and transferring ownership to consumers, is one of many business models, which we will explore further. We shall also survey the legal and regulatory frameworks, which circular business models often challenge.

Class 4: Measurements and Metrics
How do we measure circularity? How do we know what the carbon foot print or environmental impact of any given product or service is? We will review Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and other metrics to assess environmental impacts of production and consumption.

Class 5: Global Supply Chains and Circular Economies
We will review the case for proximity and appropriate scale in the design of production-trade-consumption-networks. Case studies may include biofuels from the production of palm oil in Indonesia & Malaysia and the recent EU import ban on biofuels and/or Coltan mining in Congo and the manufacture of mobile phones.

Class 6: How are businesses adopting circular economy models? (Part I)
In this class we will be reading from/hearing from the following sectors: food & agriculture; mining & minerals

Feedback activity:All mini projects are based upon a research question crafted by the students individually, and must be handed in to the course instructor for his/her approval no later than 11 July 2019. The instructor must approve the research question no later than 16 July 2019. The approval is a feedback to the student about the instructor's assessment of the problem's relevance and the possibilities of conducting ethnography and writing an excellent mini-project. The mini-project must be handed in Monday 29 July 2019 at noon.


Class 7: How are businesses adopting circular economy models? (Part II)
In this class we will be reading from/hearing from the following sectors: transport & cycling; fashion & textiles

Class 8: How are businesses adopting circular economy models? (Part III)
In this class we will be reading from/hearing from the following sectors: consumer electricals & electronics; industrial manufacturing (furniture)

Class 9: Circular economies and Development
We will survey the critical literature dealing with the adoption of circular economies in development economies, often fueled and brokered by Western NGOs. 

Class 10: Transitions to Circular Economies
We will assess how the European Environmental Agency (EEA) understands transitions and what they perceive as barriers and obstacles to circular economies. We shall compare this with the lessons learned from particular sectors in class 6/7/8.

Class 11: Giving Back
Drawing on readings in the economic anthropology on exchange, circulation and flows of materials in specific societies, we shall attempt to situate the concept of “circular economies” in space and time as we review the entire course materials.


Description of the teaching methods
Lectures, group discussion, presentations, hands-on-exercises
Group work
Blended learning materials
Feedback during the teaching period
We shall arrange a mini-project cafe, where students present 3 slides and receive feed-back from peers working on related topics.

All Home Project Assignments/mini projects are based upon a research question (problem formulation) formulated by the students individually, and must be handed in to the course instructor for his/her approval no later than 11 July 2019. The instructor must approve the research question (problem formulation) no later than 16 July 2019. The approval is a feedback to the student about the instructor's assessment of the problem's relevance and the possibilities of producing a good report.
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 2019 at the latest.


Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


Angelis, Roberta De (2018) Business Models in the Circular Economy: Concepts, Examples and Theory (Palgrave)

Weetman, Catherine (2016) A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains (Kogan Page)


Additional relevant readings:


For the kick off assignment, pls read:
Sachs (2015) The Age of Sustainable Development: Ch 1: pp. 1-14, for a good introduction to the concept of Sustainable Development – and, Ch 14: pp. 481-496, for an overview of the development work leading to the SDGs.

United Nations (2015) Sustainable Development Goals – after reading Sach's overview, you can browse through the further details behind each of the goals: http:/​/​www.un.org/​ga/​search/​view_doc.asp?symbol=A/​RES/​70/​1&Lang=E

Last updated on 05/12/2018