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2023/2024  BA-BFILO2221U  Business Ethics and Sustainbility

English Title
Business Ethics and Sustainbility

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory (also offered as elective)
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Spring
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc in Business Administration and Philosophy, BSC
Course coordinator
  • Claudia Eger - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
  • Steen Vallentin - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Philosophy and ethics
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 21-11-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To deserve the grade 12, students must be able to
  • Identify and discuss different sustainability and ethical perspectives in business
  • Apply relevant theories and concepts to contemporary sustainability challenges faced by business
  • Analyze the ethical dilemmas faced by businesses using the theories and concepts introduced in the course
  • Demonstrate critical thinking abilities to explain and discuss current sustainability trends and explore the social responsibility of business
Course prerequisites
Ingen særlige forudsætninger
The course shares exams with
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The aim of the course is to provide students with in-depth knowledge about current – and highly urgent – developments in the broad field of business ethics, CSR and sustainability. Our starting point is that questions about corporate social responsibility are fundamentally ethical questions that have to do with the contribution of business to human flourishing and sustainable development.


The course familiarizes students with the research frontiers as well as the most recent practical developments in the field, ranging from corporate practices to new forms of regulation. Overall, the course provides a nuanced and multi-faceted understanding of the lay of the land – opportunities, threats and barriers to development in an era of climate crisis and Global Goals. On the empirical side of things, students will have opportunity to explore the ethical dilemmas around issues like whistleblowing, discrimination, diversity and trust and build analytical skills in ethical decision-making. The course makes use of a variety of cases, including live guest presentations, to ensure that the theoretical reflections are rooted in practice.


The course is divided into three parts. The first part provides a mapping of the responsibility landscape, that is, an overview of relevant theory developments, research streams and concepts in the realm of business ethics, CSR and sustainability. The second part focuses on ethical choices and strives to put the individual and individual responsibilities at the center of discussions. Here, we will explore ethical choices and dilemmas relating to the role of being a consumer and an employee, alongside the managerial challenges involved in dealing with diversity and inclusion issues. The final session is a workshop based on norm-critical design thinking methods where we will work with a real-life case to develop diversity and inclusion strategies. The third part provides a summary and overview of the course and prepares the students for the exam. It contains two lectures, one on the role of government and regulation as external forces driving sustainable development, with a particular focus on EU developments, the other on relational ethics as an internal driver of responsible behavior. 


Overall, the course invites students to engage, critically and constructively, with current developments in business ethics, CSR and sustainability. It combines and oscillates between two scholarly perspectives or starting points: one taking its point of departure in the business and society literature as it is builds on and mainly reflects developments in the Global North, the other drawing on feminist and post-colonial scholarship with more emphasis on globalization, diversity and inequality issues and the Global South.   


Course outline:



  1. Setting the scene: Developments in sustainability
  2. The theory and practice of business ethics
  3. CSR and sustainability in perspective
  4. Ethical dilemmas in global business



  1. Ethical consumption – In an age of aspirational talk and greenwashing
  2. The ethical employee: Dilemmas of whistleblowing
  3. Diversity, inclusion and management
  4. Workshop: Diversity lab



1)    Government, regulation and responsibility

2)    Ethics of relationality and care

3)    Final reflections and exam

4)    Project workshops and feedback

Description of the teaching methods
The course methods include lectures, workshops, debate exercises and case-based discussions. The teaching approach will rely on real-life cases to identify and explore ethical dilemmas and responsibilities of business and participate in problem resolution. This includes an element of learning about one’s own moral values and thresholds to build capacity to deal with ambiguity and differences in opinion. In addition, Canvas will contain further learning materials which are provided to support students’ independent studies.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will receive continuous feedback during lectures based on the exercises and case-based discussions conducted in class, which will include elements of peer-to-peer feedback. The workshops provide the opportunity for students to present their own work and receive feedback on their progress. Students further have the opportunity to receive feedback during the office hours and they are encouraged to use this time for both individual and group feedback.
Student workload
Lectures 38 hours
Preparation 128 hours
Exam 40 hours
Further Information

Business Ethics and Sustainbility has a joint exams with the another course: Ethics. Students are permitted to take the exam in both English and Danish 

Expected literature

Christensen, J. F., Mahler, R., & Teilmann-Lock, S. (2021). GenderLAB: Norm-critical Design Thinking for Gender Equality and Diversity. Organization, 28(6), 1036-1048.


Christensen, L.T., Morsing, M. & Thyssen, O. (2013). CSR as aspirational talk. Organisation, 20(3), 1‐22.


Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Rhodes, C. (2007). Business ethics as practice. British Journal of Management, 18(2), 107-122.


Crane, A. (2013). Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 49-69.


Crane, A., LeBaron, G., Phung, K., Behbahani, L., & Allain, J. (2022). Confronting the business models of modern slavery. Journal of management inquiry, 31(3), 264-285.


Fotaki, M., Islam, G., & Antoni, A. (2019). The contested notions and meaning of care: An overview. In: Fotaki, M., Islam, G., & Antoni, A. (Eds.). Business ethics and care in organizations (pp.3-21). London: Routledge.


Hardin, C. D., & Banaji, M. R. (2013). The Nature of Implicit Prejudice: Implications for Personal and Public Policy. In E. Shafir (Ed.), The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy (pp. 13–31). Princeton University Press.


Khan, F. R., Munir, K. A., & Willmott, H. (2007). A dark side of institutional entrepreneurship: Soccer balls, child labour and postcolonial impoverishment. Organization studies28(7), 1055-1077.


Kirchherr, J., Reike; D. & Hekkert, M. (2017). Conceptualizing the Circular Economy: An Analysis of 114 Definitions. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 127, 221–232.


Kirchherr; J. et al. (2018). Barriers to the Circular Economy: Evidence from the European Union (EU). Ecological Economics, 150, 264-272.


Sjåfjell, B. (2018). Redefining the Corporation for a Sustainable New Economy. Journal of Law and Society, 45(1), 29-45.


Valente, M. (2017). Corporate Responsibility Strategies for Sustainability. Ch. 4 in: Rasche, A., Morsing, M. & Moon, J. (Eds.). Corporate Social Responsibility – Strategy, Communication, Governance (pp. 86-109). St Ives: Cambridge University Press.

Last updated on 21-11-2023