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2020/2021  KAN-CCBDO1008U  Responsible Value Chains ‐ a Path to Sustainable Development?

English Title
Responsible Value Chains ‐ 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 and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Jakob Lindahl - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
  • Peter Lund-Thomsen - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalisation and international business
  • Supply chain management and logistics
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 15-06-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Describe theories and concepts covered in the course readings that are relevant to the analysis of CSR/sustainability in global production networks
  • Apply concepts and theories from the course to analyse how CSR/sustainability in global production networks is embedded in developing country contexts.
  • Critically evaluate the theories, their application and limitations in relation to explaining how CSR/sustainability 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 corporate social responsibility (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 “hands-on” approach of this course particularly useful.
The course shares exams with
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

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/sustainability 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 global value chain and global production network analysis. GVC and GPN analysis helps us understand the transnational organization of industries and power relations within these industries, as we map the linkages that exist in the global economy between consumers, brands, suppliers, workers and communities that reside in different parts of the Global South. In particular, we zoom in how the CSR/sustainability policies of global brands travel through GVCs/GPNs and touch down in different localities, differentially impacting upon local firms/farmers, workers, and local communities.


After a general introduction to CSR/sustainability in the Global South and their relations to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the course is divided into two sections. The first deals with environmental issues, the second with labor issues. In the environmental part of the course, we first look at green capital accumulation in the Global South and power in sustainability governance before turning to environmental upgrading and multi-stakeholder sustainability initiatives in GVCs. In the labor part of the course, we will first discuss different approaches to assessing the impact of CSR in GPNs. This leads onto a discussion of buyers, supplier and worker perspectives of CSR in GPNs.

Description of the teaching methods
The course is structured in such a way that theory and practice are closely related. It combines theories of global production networks/global value chains; 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. In the final session, an overview of the course contents are introduced, and we discuss the exam requirements in greater detail.
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. In addition, students are given limited 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
Further Information

This is a joint exam with the course entitled “Governance and Development”. See the course description of “Governance and Development” for the detailed information regarding the exam.

Expected literature

To be announced on Canvas

Last updated on 15-06-2020