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2023/2024  KAN-CPHIO2016U  Sustainable Business: Critical and Constructive Approaches

English Title
Sustainable Business: Critical and Constructive Approaches

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory (also offered as elective)
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Third Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc in Business Administration and Philosophy, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Steen Vallentin - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalisation and international business
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 14-02-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
After following the course, students are expected to:
  • be familiar with and able to use, compare and critically reflect upon the concepts, theories and perspectives relating to CSR and sustainability that have been presented and discussed during the course
  • understand and be able to explain and reflect upon the most recent developments (practical and theoretical) in the field of CSR and sustainability
  • be able to put the concepts, theories and perspectives of the course to use – in a qualified and nuanced manner – in an analysis of a CSR- and sustainability-related topic
  • be able to exemplify concepts, theories and perspectives by relating them to present day challenges met by private businesses and other organizations
Sustainable Business: Critical and Constructive Approaches:
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 Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 5 pages
Assignment type Synopsis
Release of assignment An assigned subject is released in class
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
20 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 external examiner
Exam period Spring
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The aim of the course is to provide students with in-depth knowledge about current developments in the broad field of CSR and corporate sustainability. It is an advanced course that 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.


The course stresses the need for a critical and reflective (as opposed to instrumental) approach to matters of responsibility and sustainability. It combines philosophical and political insight with business and communication studies in order to provide 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, it makes use of a variety of cases in order to ensure that the theoretical reflections are rooted in practice.


The first two sessions set the scene for the course, the first by providing an overview and discussion of the most recent developments in sustainability, the second by reflecting on the question of what it means to approach sustainability from a philosophical point of view. Lecture 3 focuses on the transition from CSR to corporate sustainable and developments in the realm of stakeholder governance. Lecture 4 provides a critical take on the ideological underpinnings of the modern responsibility debate. Lecture 5 explores the paradox perspective on sustainability. Lecture 6 focuses on notions of circular economy and new sustainable business models. Lecture 7 explores the most recent developments in non-financial reporting and new sustainability regulation, particular within the EU. Lecture 8 zooms in on sustainability issues concerning finance in general and ESG and corporate taxation in particular. Lecture 9 focuses on the communicative aspects of responsibility and theoretical and practical implications of ‘aspirational talk’. Finally, lecture 10 wraps up the course, reflects on future developments and looks forward to the exam.

Description of the teaching methods
Class time will include lectures, occasional presentations by the students and discussion groups in which students will explore theoretical perspectives and apply them to specific cases.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will be asked to develop a short case, individually or in groups. They can choose to focus on a particular company or a particular event that they find interesting. They then have to pick four readings to underpin their analysis of the case - two from the course curriculum and two of their own choosing. They will present their case and design for the analysis in the plenary and get feedback from faculty and fellow students. They will also have opportunity to get feedback from faculty on their case analysis before presenting it.

Student workload
Lectures 33 hours
Exam 10 hours
Preparation 164 hours
Expected literature

Indicative literature (incomplete):

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


Adler, P.S. (2019). Six Crises. Ch. 1 in: The 99 Percent Econ%my. How Democractic Socialism Can Overcome the Crises of Capitali$m (pp. 9-20). USA: Oxford University Press.


Jones, C. (2003). As if Business Ethics were possible, ‘within such limits’ …. Organization, 10(2), 223-248. Link


Painter-Morland, M. & ten Bos, R. (2016). Should Environmental Concern Pay Off? A Heideggerian Perspective. Organization Studies, 37(4), 547-564.


Barnett, M.L. (2019). The business case for corporate social responsibility: A critique and an indirect path forward. Business & Society, 58(1), 167-190.


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. 


Vallentin, S. & Murillo, D. 2021. Ideologies of Corporate Responsibility. From Neoliberalism to ‘Varieties of Liberalism’. Business Ethics Quarterly, online first, 1-37.   

Fine, B. & Saad-Filho, A. (2017). Thirteen Things You Need to Know About Neoliberalism. Critical Sociology, 43(4-5), 685-706.


Hahn, T. et al. (2015). Tensions in Corporate Sustainability: Towards an Integrative Framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 127(2), 297–316.


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


Boons. F. & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2013). Business models for sustainable innovation: state-of-the-art and steps towards a research agenda. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 9-19.



Last updated on 14-02-2023