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2019/2020  KAN-CCMVI2081U  Sustainability in the Nordics

English Title
Sustainability in the Nordics

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 80
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Robert Strand - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
For academic questions related to the course, please contact instructor Robert Strand at rs.msc@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Strategy
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Online teaching
Last updated on 16/04/2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Summarize the ongoing debates about the purpose of the corporation and the ideas of shareholder value (aka shareholder-primacy) vis-à-vis stakeholder view of the firm
  • Explain the concepts of sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), creating shared value, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and relate them to the ongoing debates about the purpose of the corporation
  • Summarize fundamental cultural norms and institutional factors that comprise the Nordic business context
  • Hypothesize how the Nordic region is realizing comparatively superior sustainability outcomes
  • Be able to offer a characterization of "Nordic Capitalism" vis-a-vis "American Capitalism"
Course prerequisites
Bachelors degree.
Sustainability in the Nordics:
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-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer, Ordinary exam: Home Assignment: 23 June - 10 July 2020. Please note that exam will start on the first teaching day and will run in parallel with the course (teaching period: 23 June - 9 July 2020).
Retake exam: Home Assignment: 72-hour home assignment: 5-8 October 2020 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously
3rd attempt (2nd retake) exam: 72-hour home assignment: 23-26 November 2020 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously
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, structure and pedagogical approach
Nordic countries and Nordic-based companies are frequently cited as global sustainability leaders.  In this course, we more deeply explore sustainability in the Nordics in an effort to understand how the Nordics are achieving such comparatively strong sustainability performances and consider what lessons may be applicable elsewhere in the world. 
We root our exploration in the debates about the purpose of the corporation and explore ideas of shareholder view vis-à-vis stakeholder view of the firm.   This serves as the foundation from which we also consider the concepts of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).  We review how these concepts are increasingly recognized as key elements to corporate strategy and innovation as indicated by the recent engagement by strategic management guru Michael Porter and the recent “Creating Shared Value” (CSV) concept.
Throughout our explorations, we strive to identify the fundamental cultural norms and institutional factors that comprise the Nordic business context through which we also identify and hypothesize connections between these contexts and the sustainability activities and performances that follow.  As a matter of comparison, we invoke considerations of the Nordic context vis-a-vis the U.S. context - while welcoming participants to bring their comparative contexts from whatever parts of the world they may come. While we center our attention on Nordic business, our line of inquiry extends beyond to consider the role that Nordic culture and Nordic policy has on sustainability practices and performances of Nordic business - and society as a whole.  As a key part of this, we consider the very nature of capitalism and compare and contrast “Nordic Capitalism” with “American Capitalism” while exploring the sustainability ramifications of the differing approaches.



Preliminary assignment:  Familiarize yourself with the course's required texts (two papers by Milton Friedman & Robert Strand; two books by Anu Partanen & Lynn Stout).    This does not mean you are expected to have fully read both books in advance of the course - that would of course only be beneficial but is not expected - but rather it means that you spend time getting a good sense for the issues covered in these texts.   Based on all of this and any other research and experiences you may have previously done, offer your immediate hypothesis as to how the Nordic region is realizing comparatively superior sustainability outcomes in the form of a short paper.

Class 1: Course Overview & Introduction
Class 2: The Nordics: An Introduction
Class 3: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Class 4: Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Class 5: Purpose of Business: An American Story and a Nordic Story; Part I
Class 6: Purpose of Business: An American Story and a Nordic Story; Part II
Class 7: Creating Shared Value



Description of the teaching methods
This year all courses are taught digitally over the Internet. Instructors will apply a mixture of direct teaching through a live link (like Skype, Team, Zoom…) and indirect, where visual pre-recorded material is uploaded on Canvas. The instructor will inform participants about the precise format on Canvas.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback activity: Each student identifies a Nordic-based company that they feel is engaging in sustainability in a characteristically “Nordic” manner. Give an oral presentation to the class describing the company, what they are doing with respect to sustainability, and why they feel it is characteristically “Nordic” drawing upon materials and discussions from the course.
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 and Exam schedules are 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 March 2020.


Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


Strand, Robert. (2014). Scandinavia Can Be an Inspiration for Creating Shared Value. Financial Times, April 25.  Available at https:/​/​www.ft.com/​content/​84bbd770-b34d-11e3-b09d-00144feabdc0.


Partanen, Anu. (2017). The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. Gerald Duckworth & Co. (Available via Amazon, other booksellers)


Friedman, Milton. (1970). The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. New York Times Magazine.  (Google this article title to locate.)


Stout, Lynn. A. (2012). The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. (Available via Amazon, other booksellers)


Additional relevant readings:


A list of relevant articles for the respective sessions will be provided in the syllabus  in advance of  class commencement.  All articles will be available from the CBS library. The two aforementioned books (Shareholder Value Myth & Nordic Theory of Everything) must be purchased in advanced.


Last updated on 16/04/2020