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2023/2024  KAN-CCMVV2323U  Sustainable and Responsible Business Conduct: What functional managers should know

English Title
Sustainable and Responsible Business Conduct: What functional managers should know

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Spring
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for cand.merc. and GMA (CM)
Course coordinator
  • Henrik Andersen - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
  • Karin Buhmann - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Business Law
  • Globalisation and international business
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 16-02-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
After following the course, students are expected to:
  • To demonstrate an understanding of the concepts, theories, institutional frameworks, and normative perspectives presented in the course;
  • · To analyze, compare, and critically reflect upon the concepts, theories, institutional frameworks, and normative perspectives presented in the course;
  • · Discuss the managerial implications of hard and soft law relating to sustainable and responsible business conduct (theoretical and practical) that has been presented during the course;
  • · Identify legal and managerial dilemmas concerning sustainable and responsible business conduct;
  • · Apply hard and soft law on sustainable and responsible business conduct on specific cases concerning present day challenges for private businesses and organizations.
Sustainable and Responsible Business Conduct: What functional managers should know:
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 Essay
Release of assignment Subject chosen by students themselves, see guidelines if any
Duration 2 weeks to prepare
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
Syge-/omprøve er som ved ordinær prøve. En studerende, der ikke har bestået den ordinære prøve, skal indlevere en ny opgave (ikke alene en revision af den tidligere).
Description of the exam procedure

The exam is a max 15-page essay, which must be based in part on the course literature and reflect the student’s learning during the course. The essay is graded according to the 7-point scale.


The essay topic is optional and there are no formal requirements with regard to form (how the student structures the essay). The essay is an opportunity for each student to engage in some depth with a particular issue within the range covered by the course. This serves as a point of departure for the student to analyse and reflect on a broader selection of topics covered by the course.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Aim and outline of the course

This course aims to equip students with a basic understanding of the hard and soft law demands on sustainable and responsible business conduct that are increasingly an expectation and a requirement for the conduct of business pertaining to functional managers, whether or not they have access to in-house legal expertise. The course targets students with no or limited previous knowledge of law. At a time when legal sustainability demands are on the steep rise in the EU, the course will respond to a need for future managers with such knowledge who are able to undertake functions related to a range of fields where corporate sustainability is no longer mainly business-driven but subject to legal requirements on finance, value chain management, production processes, natural resource management, energy use and production, sustainability reporting and other functions. The knowledge will assist students understand the demands, assess the implications, apply them and explain the demands to colleagues and business partners.


Led by national governments, the EU and international organisations like the OECD and the United Nations (UN), the past 15 years have seen a surge in both soft and hard law to shape Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). This is not simply about compliance, but, rather, about understanding the context and the wider implications for integrating soft and hard law demands throughout business operations related to a range of functional disciplines. The surge in legal regulation leads to expectations on managers without legal training to understand the overall legal frameworks so that they can deliver on and advance businesses’ contributions to social, environmental and economic sustainability and the fight against climate-change, within the frameworks of the organization in which they work. The EU has taken a particular lead in regulating corporate sustainability, leading to an exceptional growth in requirements on managers in regard to responsible investment that takes account of climate change impacts, supply chain management, sustainability reporting, and doing business with respect for the environment, working conditions and human rights. EU requirements are also affecting supply chain management and other business interaction with companies from outside the EU. Accordingly, the course is relevant to students from all parts of the world.


Offered in collaboration by the Department of Management, Society and Communication and CBS Law, the course is taught by experts with broad experience in addressing legal demands in a sustainability context, and translating those into managerial contexts and language.


The course will mainly cover EU and international hard and soft law demands. To some extent, national sustainability regulation and governance will be included as example (e.g., the Danish Climate Change Act, the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Law, the Dutch Child Labour Law, the Norwegian Business Ethics and Transparency Act). 


Providing unique learning that no other CBS course offer, the course will complement other CBS courses on sustainable business, sustainability governance, responsible business conduct and finance including ESG. Students attending this course will add a specialized layer to their already existing knowledge on those topics. They will graduate with expertise that are becoming in high demand on the implications of legal demands and how to internalize those in business operations and management contexts.


The course is an advanced course, which means that some basic theoretical knowledge on corporate sustainability will be taken for granted. Recognizing that typical students attending the course will have limited legal knowledge the course will provide students with a fundamental awareness of the relevant EU and international institutional and normative frameworks and related theoretical backgrounds before it advances into specific topics. The course will also introduce students to fundamentals of legal method in order to assist their reading and understanding legal texts. We will study academic literature as well as specific legal texts, and learn from practitioners what the implications of the legal demands are on business operations and how they work to implement them.


The course is divided into three parts:

(I.) The opening three lectures set the theoretical stage for the course. The students get a sense of the overall institutional set-up for hard and soft law sustainability regulation, with a particular focus on the EU, the OECD and the UN, as well as a general introduction to the national level stage and the interaction between the EU and its member states. Moreover, students will be introduced to legal method for identifying, reading and applying hard and soft law and relevant sources of law, including case law, distinctions between soft and hard law, and implications for application. This will involve law from the EU, OECD, UN and the national setting, explaining how to understand legal texts and their objectives and demands in the context of policy, as well as the type of demands and binding force of different types of law and legal documents.

(II.) The second part focuses on theoretical and empirical developments in the field. This includes the theoretical framing of hard and soft business regulation pertaining to sustainability and responsible business conduct; as well as empirical examples comprising specific regulations and sources of interpretation. We will look in depth at the following areas and their mutual interaction and complementarities:

  • Sustainable finance, including the EU Taxonomy and transparency requirements on financial institutions to disclose or report on their sustainability policies and impacts
  • Responsible value chain management, with a particular focus on supply chain due diligence for businesses to identify and manage harmful societal impacts. This will include general EU regulation of supply chain due diligence, sector-specific EU regulation on due diligence in regard to minerals required for the green transition and other natural resources, including timber; as well as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and relevant UN soft law and guidance.
  • Energy and the green transition: This topic connects the finance and responsible value chain management and illustrates complementarities and regulatory interaction and dilemmas. Taking point of departure in the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals we will consider regulatory demands on supplies for wind and solar power facilities and energy-storage batteries (e.g., environmental and social impacts from mining for rare earth minerals for wind turbines and timber procurement for light-weight wings; governance of natural resources sourced from weak governance zones; working conditions in cobolt mines) and on sustainable finance (e.g., soft and hard law demands on financial institutions to ensure that they do not contribute to adverse environmental or social impacts and dilemmas related to funding the energy transition). We will consider EU, OECD, UN and national sources of law, including legal demands as well as case law that explicates corporate demands, dilemmas and potential solutions.

Students will be exposed to the reality of demands on business through guest lecturers from corporate managers as well as civil society and authorities.


(III.). The third part, towards the end of the course, includes workshops centered on students’ ideas for their exam papers with opportunities for students to present and get feedback on their analytical ideas. The final lecture of the course is a review session enabling students to ask questions and get responses on the course curriculum and as well as on the exam. 


Teaching methods

Class time will include lectures, case work, presentations by guest lecturers from corporations and business associations, civil society and Danish authorities and group assignments and presentations.



The course will be based on academic articles and texts; complemented by legal texts and reports from companies, civil society and authorities. Most readings will be available online. Those that are not will be made available on Canvas. In order to place the legal issues into the wider theoretical context of business studies and management, the readings will comprise academic and empirical texts on legal demands and case law shaping the understanding of those demands. as well as academic articles on wider business governance, business ethics and management.

Description of the teaching methods
Class time will include lectures, case work, presentations by guest lecturers from corporations and business associations, civil society and Danish authorities and group assignments and presentations.
Feedback during the teaching period
In in-class plenary discussions, students' sharing of group and case work findings, discussion following guest lecture presentations and other in-class debates, feedback is provided continuously, partly by the instructor and partly by peers with the instructor facilitating peer-to-peer discussion. We encourage students to ask questions or make comments in class to make the most of these feed-back opportunities.
Student workload
teaching (in class attendance) 33 hours
Preparation 133 hours
exam essay 40 hours
In total 206 hours
Further Information

Vedr relation til Nordic nine: se noter til kursusbeskrivelsen.



Expected literature

Indicative curriculum/​list of readings [to be updated when the course is offered, as literature is fast developing in the field]:

- Savaresi, A (2016) The Paris Agreement: A new beginning? Journal of Energy and Natural Resources Law 34(1) 16-26

- Ahlström, Hanna & Monciardini, David. (2022). The Regulatory Dynamics of Sustainable Finance: Paradoxical Success and Limitations of EU Reforms. Journal of Business Ethics. 177. 10.1007/​s10551-021-04763-x.

- Spijkers, O (2022) The influence of climate litigation on managing climate change risks: The pioneering work of the Netherlands Courts. Utrecht Law Review 18(2) 127-144

- Buhmann, K (2021) Institutional investors and climate justice for a fair transiton. In V Mauerhofer (ed) Governance, Law and Sustainability (Routledge) 222-236 

- Schlosberg, D. and L.B. Collins (2014) From environmental to climate justice: climate change and the discourse of environmental justice, Climate Change, 5(3) 359-374

- Krajewski, M, Tonstad, K, & Wohltmann, F (2021), Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence in Germany and Norway: Stepping, or Striding, in the Same Direction? Business and Human Rights Journal, 6(3), 550-558

- Bhatt, K and Türkelli, GE (2021) OECD National Contact Points as Sites of Effective Remedy, Business and Human Rights Journal, 

- Senden, Linda (2005) Soft law, self-regulation and co-regulation in European Law: Where do they meet? Electronic Journal of Comparative Law Vol. 9(1) 1-27

- Cambou, D (2020) Uncovering injustices in the green transition: Sámi rights in the development of wind energy in Sweden, Arctic Rev. on Law and Politics, 11, 310-333

- Bright, Claire & Buhmann, K (2021) Risk-based due diligence, climate change, human rights and the just transition. Sustainability 13(18)

- James P, Miles L, Croucher R, & Houssart M (2019) Regulating factory safety in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Regulation & Governance 13: 431–44

- Monciardini, D, Bernaz, N, and Andhov, A (2021) The Organizational Dynamics of Compliance With the UK Modern Slavery Act in the Food and Tobacco Sector, Business & Society, 60(2) 288–340.


Legal texs [selected parts to be read]The Paris Climate Change Accord; Agenda 2030 (listing the 17 The Sustainable Development Goals): Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Danish Climate Act (English version), EU (2020) Taxonomy Regulation,  U (2022) Deforestation Regulation, EU (2022) Sustainability Reporting Directive, EU (2017) Conflict Minerals Regulation,German Supply Chain Due Diligence Law; Dutch Child Labour Due Diligence Law.

Last updated on 16-02-2023