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2021/2022  KAN-CCBDO1009U  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 (also offered as elective)
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
  • Juliane Lang - 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
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 18-06-2021

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.
Responsible Value Chains - a Path to Sustainable Development:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance, see also the rules about examination forms in the programme regulations.
Individual or group exam Individual oral exam based on written group product
Number of people in the group 2-5
Size of written product Max. 30 pages
2 students max 20 pages. 3 students max 25 pages. 4-5 students max 30 pages.
Assignment type Written assignment
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
20 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Winter and Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
A) If the student is absent from the oral exam due to documented illness but has been part of handing in the report,s/he does not have to submit a new project report, but MUST hand in the same project AGAIN for the re-exam.
B) If an individual student fails the oral exam, s/he does not have to submit a new project report, but MUST hand in the same project report again for the re-exam.
C) If a whole group fails, they must hand in a revised report for the re-take.
D) If a student has not handed in anything for the ordinary exam, he/she will hand in a report for the re-exam.
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 (GPNs)/global value chains (GVCs) 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 GVCs/GPNs in the age of COVID-19 and their relation to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the course is divided into two sections. The first deals with labor issues, the second with environmental issues. 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. In the environment 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.

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.

A variety of teaching methods are used in the course. Practical, case or video-based exercises are used as a basis for debating CSR/sustainability dilemmas in GVCs. The use of small group discussions is employed to promote individual learning. Common points are subsequently discussed in a plenary forum. Traditional lecture-based presentations also form part of the course in ways that link class discussions to 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/sustainability cases in the next class session. Moreover, invited guest lecturers who are working directly with the topics covered in the course will contribute to the students’ understanding of the real-world challenges faced by CSR and sustainability 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
Feedback during the teaching period

Individual and group feedback to students is given in five ways:

a) In class discussions, students will be challenged by the course lecturers to reflect deeply on their own assumptions and views about constitutes “appropriate” ways of addressing CSR/sustainability issues in GVCs/GPNs.
b) Students will have to fill out an online Kahoot quiz during the middle of the course to be able to self-assess their own understanding of key concepts covered in the course curriculum. The course lecturer will also give joint feedback to the class in this connection on the definition and usage of key concepts covered in the Kahoot.
c) In addition, students are given limited supervision in connection with their exam assignments. The information for meeting hours and place will be uploaded on Canvas and students will have to fill out an online doodle to self-select a supervision time on the indicated dates. This takes place at the end of the semester.
d) Students will obtain on their written assignments and oral performance at the end of their oral exam.
e) Finally, the course lecturers also give individual feedback to students during regular consultation hours.
Student workload
Lectures 30 hours
Exam 35 hours
Preparation 141 hours
Total 206 hours
Expected literature

To be announced on Canvas

Last updated on 18-06-2021