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2020/2021  KAN-CCMVV1431U  Sustainability Challenges 1: Multi-disciplinary Approaches (SC1)

English Title
Sustainability Challenges 1: Multi-disciplinary Approaches (SC1)

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
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
  • Maria Figueroa - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Supply chain management and logistics
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 04-06-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • describe, classify and critically discuss the concept of sustainability from a holistic cross-disciplinary perspective;
  • explain the systemic nature of sustainability challenges, drawing from different natural, technical and social science perspectives, bussiness in society interaction and systems thinking;
  • identify the interactions and links between different parts of these systems;
  • account for the main approaches to examining sustainability, such as planetary boundaries, life cycle assessment, cradle-to-cradle, and the triple bottom line
  • reflect upon the sources of risk, uncertainty and controversy and trade-offs in carrying out actions targeted at sustainability – from the points of view of business, government and civil society actors
  • be able to identify and assess contributions from various technological, scientific, business and political solutions to specific sustainability challenges and their interactions
Course prerequisites
DTU students will have to enrol directly at their own institution.
Sustainability Challenges 1: Systems Thinking:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Duration 20 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Preparation time With the listed preparation time: 15 Minutes
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn
Aids Open book: all written and electronic aids
The student is allowed to bring to the preparation room: Simple writing and drawing utensils, laptop/tablet as a reference book (NB: there are no electric outlets available), any calculator, books including translation dictionaries, compendiums, notes. PLEASE NOTE: Students are not allowed to communicate with others during the preparation time.
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

This course is taught by faculty and attended by students at CBS, KU and DTU. The exam is individual and oral; CBS students will have two examiners (one from CBS and one from either KU or DTU); students will extract three questions from a list of 12-15, and choose one to be discussed in the oral exam, with 20 minutes to prepare and full access to all study materials.

DTU students will sign up for the exam separately in their own institutions and will have their exams organized separately

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach




Business, government and civil society are facing complex sustainability challenges that they cannot solve alone. No single discipline can shape in isolation the complex solutions needed. Sustainability requires interaction between disciplines and actors. A momentous global commitment was reached in 2015 with the adoption of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Climate Agreement, with countries chosing to tackle major development challenges while working toward delivering a future where nature and people can trhive. These challenges have global and local, financial, managerial, political, social and environmental components. Tackling them require strong, trustworthy and longlasting partnerships between the private and public sectors, or multi-stakeholder initiatives involving non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, venture capital and universities.


There is an increasing need, and demand for, managers and employees who have sustainability specialist skills, and who can also operate in multi-disciplinary teams. They need to have developed a common language and understanding with specialists in other fields so they can bridge the gaps between science, technology and business solutions to sustainability. Many scientific discoveries, technological developments or business innovations on sustainability fail because of the lack of understanding from specialist in different fields regarding the complex challenges that are involved. Business plans can fail because of lack of understanding of their technological complexities; scientific breakthroughs may be abandoned or rejected because clearer communication to the public or the political system is lacking; policy relevance may be unappreciated and technological innovations end up financially unfeasible.


This course builds interdisciplinary skills and seeks to strengthen students capabilities to work toward filling these gaps. It is taught by faculty members from CBS, KU and DTU (see details below) and is particularly suited to cultivate interaction between students from these three universities. The aim is to provide a new generation of specialist professionals with the relevant skills to properly operate and communicate in multi-disciplinary teams that seek to tackle and find innovative solutions to the complex sustainability challenges society and business face. The course will consist of lectures from faculty in the three participant universities, active group work, discussion, presentations and hands-on exercises; all group work requires interaction of students from all three universities.




  • 33 contact hours organized in 11 blocks (3x45 min each) twice a week:
    • 1 block: joint introduction and overview
    • 9 blocks on specific topics (see below), delivered in rotation at the three participating universities
    • 1 block: joint conclusion and sum-up


Provisional programme


- Joint introduction

- Blocks 1-3: Earth system & planetary boundaries (@KU)

  • Earth system and planetary boundaries: Overview
  • Global assessments of nine planetary boundaries 1
  • Global assessments of nine planetary boundaries 2

- Blocks 4-6: Production systems & system thinking (@DTU)

  • Sustainability of products and systems: Introduction
  • Frameworks for assessing sustainability of products and systems
  • Societal challenges and environmental economics

- Blocks 7-9: Business and sustainability (@CBS)

  • Consumer behaviour and sustainability 
  • Business strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship for sustainability
  • Sustainability governance and business-government-civil society interactions

- Joint conclusion


​30 seats for CBS students and 30 seats for credit students

Description of the teaching methods
• lectures, group work/​discussion/​presentations, hands-on exercises
• group work includes students from all three universities
Feedback during the teaching period
Oral presentation feedback
Student workload
lectures and group work in class 33 hours
preparation for classes 172 hours
exam 1 hours
Further Information

This course is the first one of the two mandatory courses for students wishing to obtain the COSI ‘Joint Certificate in Sustainability: Science, Technology and Business' (CBS/KU/DTU)


The certificate is assigned by a joint COSI committee from the three participating universities. To obtain the certificate, students need to pass the two Sustainability Challenges SC1 and SC2 courses.


For more info on this initiative, please see: http://cosiuni.weebly.com


CBS students:
CBS students not seeking to obtain the joint certificate can also take SC1 or SC2 as self-standing electives.

Expected literature

Preliminary literature list:


  • Andonova, L.B., M. Betsill, and H. Bulkeley (2009) Transnational Climate Governance, Global Environmental Politics 9.2: 52-73.
  • Bäckstrand, K. (2008) Accountability of Networked Climate Governance: The Rise of Transnational Climate Partnerships. Global Environmental Politics 8.3: 74-102.
  • Barnosky, Anthony D., et al. (2011) Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471.7336: 51-57
  • Barrett, J., H. Coninck, and C.F.D.  Morejon (2014), Drivers, Trends and Mitigation. Chapter 5, Sect 5.8. In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. IPCC. Cambridge University Press.  https:/​/​www.ipcc.ch/​pdf/​assessment-report/​ar5/​wg3/​ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf
  • Bjørn, A., Hauschild, M.Z. (2013) Absolute versus Relative Environmental Sustainability. Journal of Industrial Ecology 17: 321-332.
  • Borucke M, Moore D, Cranston G, et al. (2013) Accounting for
  • Bridges, T. S., et al. (2013). Climate change risk management: a Mental Modeling application. Environment Systems and Decisions, 33.3: 376–390
  • Bruine de Bruin, W., & Bostrom, A. (2013). Assessing what to address in science communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 Suppl, 14062–14068
  • Day, G.S., and P.J.H. Schoemaker (2011), Innovating in uncertain markets: 10 lessons for green technologies, MIT Sloan Management Review, 52.4: 37-45
  • De Vries, W., et al. (2013) Assessing planetary and regional nitrogen boundaries related to food security and adverse environmental impacts. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5.3: 392-402
  • demand and supply of the biosphere’s regenerative capacity: The National Footprint Accounts' underlying methodology and framework. Ecological Indicators, 24: 518–533
  • Demeritt, D (2002) What is the ‘social construction of nature’? A typology and sympathetic critique, Progress in Human Geography, 26.6: 767-790.
  • Elkington, J. (2001). Enter the Triple Bottom Line. The Triple Bottom Line: Does It All Add Up?, 1: 1–16.
  • Fleurbaey, M, Kartha, S, Bolwig, et al. (2014) Sustainable Development and Equity. Chapter 4, Sect. 4.4. In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. IPCC. Cambridge University Press.  https:/​/​www.ipcc.ch/​pdf/​assessment-report/​ar5/​wg3/​ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf
  • Fleurbaey, M., S. Kartha, S. Bolwig, et al. (2014), Sustainable Development and Equity. Chapter 4, Sect. 4.1-4.3 and 4.7-4.8. In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. IPCC. Cambridge University Press. https:/​/​www.ipcc.ch/​pdf/​assessment-report/​ar5/​wg3/​ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf
  • Fransen, L. 2012. Multi-stakeholder governance and voluntary programme interactions: legitimation politics in the institutional design of Corporate Social Responsibility. Socio-Economic Review 10.1: 163–192.
  • Goldemberg, J. (1998) Leapfrog energy technologies. Energy Policy 26.10 (1998): 729-741.
  • Guinee, J.B. et al. (2011) Life Cycle Assessment – Past, Present, and Future, Environmental Science & Technology 45: 90-96.
  • Haapala, K.R. et al. (2013) A Review of Engineering Research in Sustainable Manufacturing. J Manuf Sci Eng. 2013;135(4):041013. doi:10.1115/1.4024040.
  • Hale, T., and C. Roger (2014) Orchestration and Transnational Climate Governance, Review of International Organizations 9: 59–82.
  • Hanjra, M.A., and M.E. Qureshi (2010) Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change. Food Policy 35.5: 365-377
  • Hauschild, M. (2005), Assessing environmental impacts in a life-cycle perspective. Environmental Science & Technology 39.4: 81A-88A
  • Henriksen, L. and S. Ponte (2015) Public Orchestration, Social Networks and Transnational Environmental Governance: Lessons from the Aviation Industry. Under review.
  • Hepburn, C. and A. Bowen (2013) Prosperity with growth. Economic growth, climate change and environmental limits. In Fouquet, R. (ed). Handbook of Energy and Climate Change, Edward Edgar.
  • Hoegh-Guldberg, O., et al. (2007) Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318.5857: 1737-1742
  • Hoekstra, A. Y. et al. (2011) The Water Footprint Assessment Manual - Setting the Global Standard. Earthscan: Washington, USA
  • International Reference Life Cycle Data System Handbook (“ILCD Handbook”) - General guide for Life Cycle Assessment - Detailed guidance. First edition March 2010, Chapters tba
  • IPCC AR5 Summary Report for policy Makers https:/​/​www.ipcc.ch/​pdf/​assessment-report/​ar5/​syr/​AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf;
  • Jackson, T. (2009) Prosperity without Growth. Earthscan.
  • Jasanoff, S. (2010) A New Climate for Society, Theory, Culture and Society, 27.2-3: 233-253.
  • Lieb, C.M. (2004) The Environmental Kuznets Curve and Flow versus Stock Pollution: The Neglect of Future Damages. Environmental and Resource Economics 29.4: 483-506.n
  • Lister, J., R.T. Poulsen and S. Ponte (2015) Orchestrating Transnational Environmental Governance in Maritime Shipping. Under review.
  • Matzler, K., V. Veider and W. Kathan (2015) Adapting to the Sharing Economy, MIT Sloan Management Review, 56.2: 71-77
  • McAloone, T. C. and N. Bey (2009) Environmental improvement through product development - a guide, Danish EPA, Copenhagen Denmark, ISBN 978-87-7052-950-1
  • McDaniels, D. and F. Bowen. (2011) Total's Carbon Capture and Storage Project at LACQ (A): Risk Opportunity in Public Engagement. Harvard Business School Publishing
  • Mulder, K. (ed.) (2006) Sustainability for Engineers, Chapter 1,  ‘Why do we need sustainability?’ Greenleaf Publishing, UK
  • Nidumolu, Ram, C. K. Prahalad, and M. R. Rangaswami (2009), Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation. Harvard Business Review 87.9: 56-64
  • Orsato, R. (2009) Sustainability Strategies: When Does It Pay to Be Green? Palgrave, Chapter 2.  
  • Reinhardt, F.L. (1999), Bringing the Environment Down to Earth, Harvard Business Review, 77.4: 149-157
  • Richardson, K. and W. Steffen (2015). Network of Cooperation between Science Organisations in Handbook of Science and Technology Convergence DOI 10.1007/​978-3-319-04033-2_80-1
  • Richardson, K., W. Steffen and D. Liverman (2014) The human-Earth relationship: past, present and future, Ch. 17 in Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions, Cambridge University Press.
  • Rothenberg, S. (2007), Sustainability Through Servicizing, MIT Sloan Management Review, 48.2: 83-89
  • Searchinger, T., et al. (2008) Use of US croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science 319.5867: 1238-1240
  • Steffen, W., et al. (2015) Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347.6223: 1259855.
  • Thomas, M., et al. (2015). Mental models of sea-level change: A mixed methods analysis on the Severn Estuary, UK. Global Environmental Change, 33: 71–82. 
  • Unruk, G.C. (2000) Understanding carbon lock-in. Energy Policy 28.12: 817-830.
Last updated on 04-06-2020