Sustainable Business Models

BUS446 Sustainable Business Models

Autumn 2019

Spring 2020
  • Topics

    The course consists of three main parts, after a general introduction (two lectures) that

    outlines the central challenge of designing and innovating business models that are both

    sustainable and profitable.

    Part 1: Business models and business model innovation

    This part of the course introduces the business model framework, the three components

    of business models, and the manifold ways in which they can be innovated. This part of

    the course emphasizes the practical nature of the business model concept, in the sense

    that it relates to the concrete questions managers need to address in the design and

    innovation of a business model. This is related to the offering to customers (value

    proposition), the configuration of resources, activities and partners needed to deliver the

    offering (value delivery), and the choices related to revenue streams, payment models

    and cost structures that allow the company to make a profit (value capture). This part of

    the course also emphasizes new business models and innovative approaches to create,

    deliver and capture value.

    Part 2: Sustainability and circular economy

    This part of the course introduces the concept of sustainability, with regard to both the

    social and the environmental externalities of business models. Different perspectives on

    sustainability and the measurement thereof are introduced, and emphasis is placed on

    analyzing how different business models have different footprints with regard to

    sustainability. Furthermore, this part of the course introduces the concept and

    perspectives of the circular economy, as a contrast to traditional, linear models of

    business. Implications for product and service design as well as for business model

    design and innovation are discussed.

    Part 3: Designing and innovating sustainable business models

    In the final part of the course, the emphasis is placed on how to innovate existing

    business models in a way that makes them more sustainable, or design new business

    models that represent an improvement on the status quo with regard to sustainability.

    Furthermore, the big question that is addressed is how to make such improvements in a

    way that is compatible with profitability, and that might even lead to competitive

    advantages. In this part of the course, issues related to strategy formulation, leadership,organizational

    design and management control for sustainability performance are also

    addressed. Moreover, this part of the course includes two or more case workshops in

    close collaboration with Norwegian companies in the process of innovating their

    business models for sustainability.

  • Learning outcome

    Upon successful completion of the course the student:


    • will have developed an understanding of central concepts and theories on business model innovation and sustainability.
    • will have knowledge of the various research methods used in studies on aligning sustainability performance and financial performance.
    • can demonstrate knowledge of the most recent research in the field of sustainable business model innovation.



    • have advanced skills in business modelling.
    • can explain concepts such as business models, innovation, sustainability and circular economy.
    • can identify and analyze relevant sustainability issues for a company, and distinguish between more and less material sustainability concerns.
    • can apply theories of sustainable business model innovation on concrete company cases.


    General competence

    • can communicate with specialists in both academia and practice about complex issues in business modeling and innovation for sustainability in business.

  • Teaching

    Lectures, case workshops with companies, online sessions in Adobe Connect, blog post writing and discussion

  • Requirements for course approval

    Written group project papers (ca. 10 pages; groups of 4-5 students), where two and two groups are paired to comment on each others drafts prior to final submission.

    Two blog posts on group basis (4-5 students).

    Eight blog post comments (individual basis).

  • Assessment

    4 hours written school exam.

  • Grading Scale


  • Literature

    Text book:

    • Jørgensen, S. og Pedersen, L.J.T. (2018). RESTART Sustainable Business Model Innovation. London: Palgrave.

    Collection of scientific articles and other readings provided on its:learning:

    • Birkinshaw, J., Foss, N.J. and Lindenberg, S. (2014). Combining Purpose with Profits. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55, 3, 49-56.
    • Bocken, N. M., de Pauw, I., Bakker, C., and van der Grinten, B. (2016). Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering, 33(5), 308-320.
    • Bocken, N. M. P., Short, S. W., Rana, P., and Evans, S. (2014). A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 65, 42-56.
    • Eccles, R.G., I. Ioannou, and Serafeim G. (2014). The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance, Management Science, 60, 11, 2835-2857.
    • Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2015). Towards a Circular Economy: Business Rationale for an Accelerated Transition. Isle of Wight, UK: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
    • Johnson, M.W., Christensen, C.M. and Kagermann, H. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model, Harvard Business Review, 86, 1-11.
    • Jørgensen, S. and Pedersen, L.J.T. (2016). `Designing Sustainable Business Models¿. T.W. Andreassen, S. Clatworthy, M. Lüders and T. Hillestad (Eds.), Innovating for Trust. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
    • Khan, M., Serafeim, G., and Yoon, A. (2016). Corporate sustainability: First evidence on materiality. Accounting Review, 91(6), 1697-1724.
    • Morris, M., Schindehutte, M., and Allen, J. (2005). The entrepreneur's business model: toward a unified perspective. Journal of Business Research, 58(6), 726-735.
    • Nidumolu, R., Prahalad, C. K., and Rangaswami, M. R. (2009). Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation. Harvard Business Review, 87(9), 56-64.
    • Porter, M.E. and Kramer, M.R. (2011). Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent capitalism - and unleash a wave of innovation and growth, Harvard Business Review, 89, 1/2, 62-77.
    • Schwab, K. (2015). The Fourth Industrial Revolution [*excerpt of chapters 1-2]. Davos: World Economic Forum.
    • Serafeim, G. and Gombos, S. (2015). Turnaround at Norsk Gjenvinning. Harvard Business School Case Study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.
    • Varadarajan, R. (2017). Innovating for sustainability: a framework for sustainable innovations and a model of sustainable innovations orientation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(1), 14-36.


ECTS Credits
Teaching language

Autumn and spring. Offered autumn 2019 and spring 2020.

Course responsible

Associatie Professor Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen, Department of accounting, auditing and law

Associate Professor Sveinung Jørgensen, Department of accounting, auditing and law