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2022/2023  BA-BHAAV5003U  Introduction to Sustainable Business

English Title
Introduction to Sustainable Business

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn, Spring
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Jacobo Ramirez - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalisation and international business
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 13-09-2022

Relevant links

Learning objectives
The students should be able to demonstrate:
  • Describe and critically discuss concepts, theories and frameworks related to the broader debate around Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Analyse and critically assess a company’s understanding of its sustainability policies, practices, and strategies against concepts, theories, and frameworks of shared value creation for business and society.
  • Identify and critically assess how a company engages with its stakeholders to develop and implement a sustainability strategy
  • Develop well-argued recommendations for a company to improve its sustainability commitments, and to contribute value to society
Course prerequisites
Introduction to Sustainable Business:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 5 pages
Assignment type Case based assignment
Duration 24 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter and Summer
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
A new assignment must be submitted on the basis of new examination text.
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Course content and structure

The course is an introduction to sustainable business with a focus on firms’ environmental and social impact on society. It provides students with an understanding of business sustainability, Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility (CSiR), shared value and the triple bottom line. Students will obtain knowledge about how corporations integrate social and environmental issues in order to identify new business opportunities, communicate (and collaborate) with their stakeholders, compete in global markets, and address sustainability expectations and requirements of firms in the early 21st century. Beside introducing a number of sustainability issues (in companies of various sectors), the course provides students with analytical skills and theories to critically interrogate sustainability ideals and practices. 


The course structure provides a historical overview of ideas concerning the social responsiblity of business and the turn towards sustainability, followed by three approaches (or pillars) to examining sustainable business. These include the UN Global Compact, stakeholder, and corporate shared value approaches. These approaches are then integrated and applied in functional business areas, including decoupling and greenwashing, transnational governance and standards, global supply chains, circular economy, sustainable finance, and industrial clusters.

Description of the teaching methods
Theoretical and thematic material is discussed through interactive lectures, where students are expected to have read the class readings and participate.

Students then work concretely with the theories and thematic issues through assessing a specific case company's sustainability report. They will form 'industry expert groups' and choose a company from a provided list. In each class, they will be asked to discuss a specific set of questions with respect to the company's sustainability report and make short presentations.

The course also makes use of teaching cases related to sustainable business.
Feedback during the teaching period
For the period of teaching, individual feedback is offered during ‘office hours’ provided by the course instructor (see day and time on Canvas), and group feedback is provided during the student presentation.

Students are encouraged to ask questions or make comments in class, and form self-study groups to secure peer feedback on their work.

Student workload
Preparation 165 hours
Teaching 38 hours
Examination 24 hours
Expected literature

Preliminary list of readings:

  • Friedman, M. 1970. The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. New York Times. 
  • Carroll, A. B. 1979. A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 4(4): 497-505.
  • Bansal, T., & Song, H.-C. 2017. Similar But Not the Same: Differentiating Corporate Sustainability from Corporate Responsibility. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1): 105-149.
  • Herzig, C., & Kühn, A.-L. 2017. Corporate Resposibility Reporting, in: Rasche, A., Morsing, M., & Moon, J. (Eds). Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategy, Communication, Governance. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.
  • Rasche, A. 2009. A necessary supplement: what the UN Global is and is not. Business and Society, 48(4): 511-53.
  • Buhmann, K., Jonsson, J., & Fisker, M. 2018. Do no harm and do more good too: connecting the SDGs with business and human rights and political CSR theory. Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society, 19(3): 389-403.
  • Mitchell, R.K., Agle, B.R. & Wood, J. 1997. Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts”, Academy of Management Review, 22(4): 853-886.
  • AccountAbility. 2015. AA1000 Stakeholder engagement standard (2015).
  • Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. 2011. Creating Shared Value. Harvard Business Review, 89(1/2): 62-77.
  • Crane, A, Palazzo, G, Spence, L & Matten, D. 2014. Contesting the value of ‘Creating Shared Value’, California Management Review, 56(2): 130-153.
  • Montabon, F., Pagell, M., & Wu., Z. 2016. Making Sustainability Sustainable. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 52(2): 11-27.
  • Riera, M. & Iborra, M. 2017. Corporate Social Irresponsibility: review and conceptual boundaries. European Journal of Management and Business Economics, 26(2): 1-46.
  • Delmas, M.A. & Burbano, V.C. 2011. The Drivers of Greenwashing. California Management Review 54: 64-87.
  • Lashitew, A.A. 2021. Corporate Uptake of Sustainable Development Goals: Mere greenwashing or and advent of institutional change? Journal of International Business Policy 4: 184-200.
  • Bromley, P. & Powell, W.W. 2012. From Smoke and Mirrors to Walking the Talk: Decoupling in the contemporary world. The Academy of Management Annals 6: 484-530.
  • Lambin, E.F. & Thorlakson, T. 2018. Sustainability Standards: Interactions between private actors, civil society, and governments. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 43: 369-393.
  • Mena, S. & Palazzo, G. 2012. Input and output legitimacy of multistakeholder initiatives. Business Ethics Quarterly 22: 527-556.
  • Moog, S., Spicer, A. & Boehm, S. 2014. The Politics of Multistakeholder Initiatives: The crisis of the forest stewardship council. Journal of Business Ethics 128: 469-493.
  • Kim, Y. & Davis, G. 2016. Challenges for global supply chains sustainability: Evidence from conflict minerals reports. Academy of Management Journal 59(6): 1896-1916.
  • Jiang, B. 2009. The effects of inter-organizational governance on supplier's compliance with SCC: An empirical examination of compliant and non-compliant suppliers. Journal of Operations Management 27(4): 267-280.
  • Narula, R. 2019. Enforcing higher labor standards within developing country value chains: Consequences for MNEs and informal actors in a dual economy. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(9): 1622-1635.
  • Lund-Thomsen, P., Lindgreen, A., & Vanhamme, J. 2016. Industrial clusters and corporate social responsibility in developing countries: what we know, what do not know, and what we need to know. Journal of Business Ethics, 133(1): 9-24.
  • Jamali, D., Lund-Thomsen, P., & Khara, N. 2015. CSR institutionalized myths in developing countries: An imminent threat of selective decoupling. Business & Society, 56(3):  454–486. 
  • Giuliani, E. 2016. Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility in Developing Countries Industrial Clusters. Journal of Business Ethiccs 133: 39-54.
  • Bril, H., Kell, G. & Rasche, A. 2021. Sustainable Investing: A path to a new horizon. In Sustainable Investing: A path to a new horizon (Eds) Bril, Kell and Rasche. London: Routledge, pp. 1-14.
  • Ruggie, J. 2021. Corporate purpose at play: The role of ESG investing.   In Sustainable Investing: A path to a new horizon (Eds) Bril, Kell and Rasche. London: Routledge, pp.173-189.
  • Serafeim, G. 2018. Investors as Stewards of the Commons? Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 30(2): 8-17.
  • Borland, H., Ambrosini, V., Lindgreen, A. & Vanhamme, J. 2016. Building Theory at the Intersection of Ecological Sustainability and Strategic Management. Journal of Business Ethics 135: 293-307.
  • Pedersen, E.R.G., Gwozdz, W. and Hvass, K.K. 2018. Exploring the Relationship between Business Model Innovation, Corporate Sustainability and Organisational Values within the Fashion Industry, Journal of Business Ethics 149: 267-284.
  • Mathew, J., Tan, H. & Hu, M-C. 2018. Moving to a Circular Economy in China: Transforming industrial parks into eco-industrial park. California Management Review 60(3): 157-181.
Last updated on 13-09-2022