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2021/2022  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 60
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 course coordinator Robert Strand (rs.msc@cbs.dk)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Strategy
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 01/12/2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve a superior grade, 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 Stakeholder Capitalism" vis-a-vis "American Shareholder Capitalism"
Course prerequisites
Completed Bachelors degree or equivalent.
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
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

We face big challenges in this world.  Climate change, poverty, health & wellbeing, access to quality education, decent work, loss of biodiversity, and growing inequalities are just a few of the interconnected sustainability challenges represented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In the face of these challenges, the Nordics offer inspiration.  Nordic countries and companies are cited as global sustainability leaders, frequently topping sustainability performance indicators like the SDG Index.


Our inquiry in this course focuses on the very concept of capitalism itself, and the relationship between capitalism and sustainability and democracy.  We utlize the US as a comparative context and, in doing so, we consider the ideas of “American shareholder capitalism” vis-à-vis “Nordic stakeholder capitalism” to compare American and Nordic policies and cultures, and their effects on sustainability practices and performances.  As a base text, we utilize the (in-progress) book Sustainable Vikings: What the Nordics Can Teach Us about Reimagining American Capitalism by the course instructor, Robert Strand.


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. We consider Nordic business but our line of inquiry extends beyond to consider the role that Nordic culture and Nordic policy have 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 Stakeholder Capitalism” with “American Shareholder Capitalism” while exploring the sustainability ramifications of the differing approaches.



Preliminary assignment:  Familiarize yourself with some of the course's required texts (papers by Milton Friedman & Robert Strand; books by Anu Partanen & Lynn Stout).   This does not mean you are expected to have fully read 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.
Description of the teaching methods
Students complete readings and assigned materials in advance of each session followed by live, in-person engagement during scheduled class periods with dynamic and interactive discussions.
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

Short 3 weeks course that cannot be combined with any other course


Preliminary Assignment: The course coordinator uploads Preliminary Assignment on Canvas at the end of May. It is expected that students participate as it will be included in the final exam, but the assignment is without independent assessment&grading.


Course and exam timetable is/will be available on https://www.cbs.dk/en/study/international-summer-university/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/en/study/international-summer-university/courses-and-exams in start March.


Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


Sustainable Vikings: What the Nordics Can Teach Us about Reimagining American Capitalism.  Chapters from the book by the course instructor, Robert Strand, will be provided.


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)


Last updated on 01/12/2021