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2023/2024  KAN-CCMVI2125U  Sustainable Capitalism in the Nordics?

English Title
Sustainable Capitalism 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
Min. participants 30
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for cand.merc. and GMA (CM)
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 22/11/2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
To achieve a superior grade, students should meet the following learning objectives:
  • 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 Capitalism" vis-a-vis "American Capitalism"
Course prerequisites
Completed Bachelors degree or equivalent.
Sustainable Capitalism in the Nordics?:
Exam ECTS 7.5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Project
Release of assignment An assigned subject is released in class
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.
If the number of registered candidates for the make-up examination/re-take examination warrants that it may most appropriately be held as an oral examination, the programme office will inform the students that the make-up examination/re-take examination will be held as an oral examination instead.
Description of the exam procedure

Home assignment written in parallel with the course.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Humanity faces significant challenges. Climate change, poverty, health & wellbeing, access to quality education, decent work, eradication of biodiversity, and growing inequalities are just a few of the interconnected “wicked problems” represented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demanding urgent action. Against these challenges, the Nordics stand out as a valuable benchmark.  Nordic countries and companies are routinely cited as global sustainability leaders, frequently topping sustainability performance indicators like the SDG Index. While the Nordics have their challenges, their standout SDG performances invite deeper exploration.


This course delves into the essence of capitalism, examining its interplay with the concepts of sustainability, democracy, and freedom.  We begin with the question, “is capitalism sustainable?” and proceed from there in this discussion-based course. We compare the US and the Nordic contexts, thereby contrasting “American capitalism” with “Nordic capitalism.” As a base text, we utilize the (forthcoming) book Nordic Capitalism: Lessons for Realizing Sustainable Capitalism by the course instructor, Robert Strand.


In our explorations, we aim to understand the cultural norms and institutional factors of the Nordic context and hypothesize how they influence sustainability activities and outcomes at the societal and company levels. 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.


Preliminary assignment:  Familiarize yourself with 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 SDG 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 30 hours
Preparation 129 hours
Feedback activity 7 hours
Examination 20 hours
Further Information

3-week 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 and grading.



Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


Strand, Robert. (forthcoming). Nordic Capitalism: Lessons for Realizing Sustainable Capitalism.  Chapters by the course instructor will be provided in advance of the course.


Partanen, Anu. (2017). The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. Gerald Duckworth & Co. (Available via Amazon, other booksellers. Any version of the publication is suitable.)


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. Any version of the publication is suitable.)


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.


Last updated on 22/11/2023