Sustainable Business Models

BUS446D Sustainable Business Models

Autumn 2024

  • Topics

    Sustainability concerns are increasingly influencing companies' strategies, business models, and governance practices. One major reason for this is the need to comply with comprehensive regulations like the EU Taxonomy and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

    There is also a growing demand from investors and other financial market players to enhance and disclose companies’ sustainability performance, and companies are encountering broader stakeholder expectations for improved social and environmental performance from consumers, NGOs, and local communities.

    These advancements pose considerable risks for companies, encompassing reputational, litigation, and regulatory risks, among others. Nevertheless, the rising prominence of sustainability, along with new technologies and business models, also implies substantial opportunities for those companies that are successful in integrating sustainability concerns into their strategies and operations.

    For these reasons, sustainability is becoming a strategic priority for small and large companies across all industries and sectors. However, a transition to sustainable practices and business models requires new knowledge and skills, and most companies have to make considerable changes to turn their unsustainable business models into sustainable ones. 

    This course is divided into two modules to offer a thorough framework for addressing this knowledge and practice gap, and it equips the students with the critical skills and insights necessary to design and implement sustainable business models effectively in real-world scenarios.

    Module 1:

    This module provides an overview of key concepts and frameworks necessary for understanding sustainability in the context of business strategies and operations. It starts with the basics of the business model framework, including its components and the role of innovation in promoting sustainability. The module then covers the concept of sustainability, focusing on its social, environmental, and economic aspects relevant to businesses.

    Students will also learn about the regulatory environment affecting companies, with an emphasis on the importance of double materiality assessment for identifying and prioritizing sustainability issues. The module offers insights into practical approaches for addressing questions related to value proposition, delivery, and capture within the framework of sustainable business model design.

    The module explores the circular economy as a sustainable alternative to traditional business models. Additionally, it introduces other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations that influence business model innovation. It also emphasizes the critical role of ethical considerations in shaping sustainable business practices.

    Module 2:

    This module focuses on the practical application of sustainability concepts learned in the first module, emphasizing innovation in business models for enhanced sustainability. This involves refining existing models to be more sustainable and developing new models that better align with sustainability goals without compromising profitability. 

    The module delves into strategy formulation, leadership, organizational design, and management control that support sustainability performance. A significant aspect of this module is its hands-on approach, featuring case workshops conducted in collaboration with Norwegian companies. These workshops provide real-world experiences in experimenting and piloting sustainable business solutions, offering students insights into the challenges and opportunities of implementing sustainability in practice.

    The module also covers effective methods for disclosing sustainability efforts, focusing on sustainability reports and other means of internal and external communication. 

  • Learning outcome

    Upon successful completion of the course the student can:


    • Understand the of central concepts and theories on business model innovation and sustainability.
    • Explain research methods used in studies on aligning sustainability performance and financial performance.
    • Demonstrate knowledge of the most recent research in the field of sustainable business model innovation.


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

    General competence

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

  • Teaching

    This course is a fully digital version of BUS446 for students following the course from abroad. Lectures are given as a combination of prerecorded video lectures, videos from a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on the Coursera platform and live sessions in Zoom.  

    Course requirements:

    • Blog posts and comments on the course's Facebook page
    • Project paper in groups of 4 (+/- 1) students

  • Restricted access

    BUS446D is offered as a CEMS Global Online Elective course, and to students in the ENGAGE.EU alliance as an Online Exchange Course (Universityof Mannheim, the University of Toulouse Capitole, LUISS University, Tilburg University, University ofNational and World Economy in Sofia, Vienna University of Economics and Busines, Ramon LlullUniversity and Hanken School of Economics).

  • Compulsory Activity

    Written group project papers, ca. 10 pages; groups of 4 (+/- 1) students.

    Previous course approvals are still valid.

  • Assessment

    6 hours digital home 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 Leganto

    • Bashir, H., Jørgensen, S., Pedersen, L. J. T., & Skard, S. (2020). Experimenting with sustainable business models in fast moving consumer goods. Journal of Cleaner Production270, 122302.
    • 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.
    • Bocken, N., Boons, F., & Baldassarre, B. (2019). Sustainable business model experimentation by understanding ecologies of business models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 208, 1498-1512.
    • Bocken, N. M., & Short, S. W. (2021). Unsustainable business models-Recognising and resolving institutionalised social and environmental harm. Journal of Cleaner Production312, 127828.
    • Davenport, T. H. (2009). How to design smart business experiments. Strategic Direction, 25(8).
    • 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.
    • Forstater, M., Zadek, S., Evans, D., Knight, A., Sillanpaa, M., Tuppen, C. and Warris, A. (2006), The Materiality Report: Aligning Strategy, Performance and Reporting, AccountAbility, London.
    • Johnson, M.W., Christensen, C.M. and Kagermann, H. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model, Harvard Business Review, 86, 1-11.
    • Jørgensen, S., Mjøs, A., & Pedersen, L.J.T. (2021). Sustainability reporting and approaches to materiality: Tensions and potential resolutions. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal [Available OnlineFirst].
    • Jørgensen, S., Pedersen, L. J. T., & Skard, S. (2021) How going green builds trusting beliefs. Business Strategy and the Environment [Available OnlineFirst].
    • Konietzko, J., Das, A., & Bocken, N. (2023). Towards regenerative business models: A necessary shift?. Sustainable Production and Consumption38, 372-388.
    • Lüdeke‐Freund, F., Gold, S., & Bocken, N. M. (2019). A review and typology of circular economy business model patterns. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23(1), 36-61.
    • Lüdeke-Freund, F., Carroux, S., Joyce, A., Massa, L., & Breuer, H. (2018). The sustainable business model pattern taxonomy—45 patterns to support sustainability-oriented business model innovation. Sustainable Production and Consumption15, 145-162.
    • 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.
    • Schaltegger, S., Lüdeke-Freund, F., & Hansen, E. G. (2016). Business models for sustainability: A co-evolutionary analysis of sustainable entrepreneurship, innovation, and transformation. Organization & Environment, 29(3), 264-289.
    • Skard, S., Jørgensen, S., & Pedersen, L. J. T. (2020). When is sustainability a liability, and when is it an asset? Quality inferences for core and peripheral attributes. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-24.

  • This is an ENGAGE-course

    BUS446D is offered as an Online Exchange Course to students from the ENGAGE.EU alliance.


ECTS Credits
Teaching language

Spring and autumn. Will be offered autumn 2024.

Course responsible

Professor Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law (main contact person)

Associate Professor Sveinung Jørgensen, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law