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2021/2022  KAN-CCMVV1737U  Achieving the SDGs: Feeding the Future of the Agricultural Sustainability

English Title
Achieving the SDGs: Feeding the Future of the Agricultural Sustainability

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn, Spring
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
  • Kristjan Jespersen - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalisation and international business
  • International political economy
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 15-02-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Develop an in depth knowledge of “sustainable agriculture” and “food security” from varying perspectives.
  • Identify the opportunities, challenges, risks and efforts needed to address agricultural sustainability.
  • Apply key notions of agricultural sustainability within an organizational/company context (both internally and externally) through both theoretical and practical cases.
  • Apply a broad set of indicators and considerations that will support the application of a sustainability vision, strategy and value system in support of business practices and deal flows within the agricultural sector.
  • The ability to generate a robust business case for sustainability management in the agricultural field that will offer the potential for actual improvements in business practices that consider environmental constraints.
Achieving the SDGs: Feeding the Future of Agricultural Sustainability:
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 Oral group exam based on written group product
Number of people in the group 2-4
Size of written product Max. 20 pages
Definition of number of pages:
Groups of
2 students 10 pages max.
3 students 15 pages max
4 students 20 pages max

Note that the exam is a group exam. If you are not able to find a group yourself, you have to address the course coordinator who will place you in a group.
Assignment type Case based assignment
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
15 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 Summer and Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
* if a student is absent from the oral exam due to documented illness but has handed in the written group product she/he does not have to submit a new product for the re-take.
* if a whole group fails the oral exam they must hand in a revised product for the re-take.
* if one student in the group fails the oral exam the course coordinator chooses whether the student will have the oral exam on the basis of the same product or if he/she has to hand in a revised product for the re- take.
Description of the exam procedure

The students will write a mini-project against the backdrop of this course. The mini project will present and analyze a sustainable agrifood case developed by the students. Students will defend their project and relate it to the course literature in an individual oral exam. The grade will be based on an overall assessment of the written mini-project and the oral exam.


The mini-project must be written in groups of 2-4 students

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach


A key consideration for sustainable development in the coming century is how to feed 9 billion people without decimating critical natural resources. This course will give students an opportunity to learn about current and coming changes in the agricultural and food system from multiple perspectives.  Students will be empowered to more critically consider the policy implications and tradeoffs associated with land use change as it relates to nations, communities, families and individuals.   This course provides foundational knowledge to students interested in multiple dimensions of agriculture and food systems; to graduate and undergraduate students it also provides access to real-world challenges of development organizations, health advocate, and petrochemical companies. They will develop an improved understanding of food security concerns, as it relates to the institutional, environmental, and political dimensions of achieving a more sustainable food and agricultural system.


Introduction/raison d’etre


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call for all stakeholders to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and secure the right and privilege for people to live in peace and prosperity. The spirit of the SDGs is to move away from being ‘less bad’ towards become ‘more good’. This course focuses on how businesses can enact and execute initiatives in service of these dynamic and inspiring goals with a focus on the agricultural sector. 


From international agribusinesses to smallholder farmers, food production and consumption lies at the center of several complex global issues: human health and nutrition, poverty, international development, ethical considerations of animal welfare, forest and biodiversity loss, and climate change. Often these issues are considered in isolation, or from an environmental (water and air pollution, pollinators), economic (industrial regulations, power dynamics), or social (human health, labour regulations) perspective. By taking a thematic approach, this course aims to tackle and make sense of integrated topics across the supply chain of food production -- from farm to table.  For example, considering various types of certification means understanding regulatory structures, reliability of audits, and economic as well as environmental priorities for producers as well as consumers.  From antibiotics to GMOs to animal welfare issues, the food industry is plagued with misinformation and students and citizens need to be better equipped to debunk pseudo-science and contribute to honest and productive discussion. This course seeks to equip students to navigate disciplines and scales, in order to address contemporary issues facing organizations (for example, Novozymes, Novo Nordisk, L’Oreal) and nations right now.  


By taking this course, students will be equipped to enter the workforce with highly needed and sought-after skills such as systems thinking; anticipatory modeling; negotiate different sustainability values; principles and goals; develop strategic tools that support innovative activities within firms and integrate problem-solving frameworks to complex agricultural sustainability problems. 


Food production and consumption highlights the integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals - a global effort in which countries of the world have committed to achieve by 2030. The goals (www.sustainabledevelopment.org ) have environmental and social dimensions, are intended to stand alone (e.g. eliminate poverty) but also reinforce each other. Particularly relevant to this course and associated themes are:


  • SDG 2 Zero Hunger:  End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  • SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • SDG 13 Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • SDG 15 Life on Land:  Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss


From this point of departure, the course will focus on the challenges linked to increased global food security, the limitations linked to modern “conventional” farming systems, and sustainable strategies to increase global food production and improve resilience in agricultural systems. The course will specifically focus on topics such as food productions systems, population growth, and food security.


This course will take an innovative approach to present students on and offline with diverse positions, cases, and research on food-related issues. Whether you are a large pharmaceutical company, a consumer good industry, an environmental or social NGO, or plan to work in a small and medium-sized firm, this topic is of vital importance.  Still further, whether you perceive yourself as a scientist, economist, commercial farmer, agribusiness and food company employee, environmentalists, a consumer organization member, and social justice advocate, you will benefit by exploring the conflicting interests and divergent visions linked to the sustainable food industry. We aim to advance the needed skills that organizations will require to consider the integrated nature of the SDGs and contemporary sustainability challenges in general.

Description of the teaching methods
The course is designed with a flipped classroom set-up in mind. A blended learning strategy is employed to reverse the traditional learning environment by delivering a large portion instructional content through online means (outside of the classroom).

Development of additional personal competencies linked to applied and project related characteristics of this course:
• Knowledge/competences in identifying, developing and evaluating ideas for environmental sustainability;
• Competences in innovative methods on how best to present, to develop and to integrate such sustainability recommendations focused on environmental sustainability;
• Competencies in sustainability case analysis and development
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will receive feedback in the following forms

1.) In class feedback based on the classroom discussions
2.) Digital feedback in response to emails
3.) Exam feedback following the exam
Student workload
Lectures and Preparation 100 hours
Group Meetings 36 hours
Writing final report 45 hours
Exam 25 hours
Further Information

Who is this class for:


This course is for students who aim at becoming sustainability change leaders in their future companies or organizations who wish to acquire a broader and deeper understanding on the notion of business sustainability, particularly as it applies to the SDGs. This is also a course for students who do not wish to proceed in a business as usual fashion and want to equip themselves with key knowledge that will be invaluable when moving forward in their careers. This is also a course that can help align your values with your future career.

Expected literature

Smil, Vaclav, Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch and the Transformation of World Food Production.


Morgan, Dan. Merchants of Grain: The Power and Profits of Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World’s Food Supply.


Hillel, Daniel. Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil


Thomas W. Hertel. The Global Supply and Demand for Agricultural Land in 2050. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. January 2011.


Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, et al. (2010) Food security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327:812–818.


Tilman D, Balzer C, Hill J, Befort BL (2011) Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108: 20260–20264.


Foley JA, Ramankutty N, Brauman KA, Cassidy ES, Gerber JS, et al. (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478: 337–342.


FAO (2013) Global agriculture towards 2050. Rome, FAO. OECD/FAO (2013), OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013–2022, OECD Publishing and FAO.


DBCCA, 2009. Investing in Agriculture. Far-Reaching Challenge, Significant Opportunity: An Asset Management Perspective


Robert Paarlberg, Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, Second Edition, September 2013



Last updated on 15-02-2021