• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2020/2021

Sustainable development

Type: Elective course (Business Administration)
Area of studies: Management
When: 4 year, 3 module
Mode of studies: offline
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3

Course Syllabus

Abstract

This elective course takes a broad view of sustainability as an interdependent complex system of the ecosystem, economic system, and other systems with dynamic complexities. To reveal the non-linear complexities in sustainability issues we will utilize systems thinking. The objective is to foster intuition and conceptual knowledge of systems thinking analysis and to develop practical systems thinking skills for solving complex problems in the context of business sustainability. Results from current research and materials from business practices will be emphasised. We will start by making a business case for sustainability, followed by an examination of different ways of sustainable thinking: context, circular, life-cycle, long-term, resilience, and systems thinking. Then, we will delve into the practical use of systems thinking as an approach increasingly used in the business environment for solving complex business dynamics problems. Students will develop their systems thinking skills through practical individual and group assignments. Course sections are designed for equal acquisition of knowledge and skills. After successful completion of this course, students will be better equipped with knowledge and skills for evaluating and solving sustainability problems that they will face throughout their careers in today’s management employment market.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • To foster intuition and conceptual knowledge of systems thinking analysis and to develop practical systems thinking skills for solving complex problems in the context of business sustainability.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Express how sustainability can help business increase sales or innovate
  • Discuss ways in which becoming more sustainable can reduce risk in a company
  • Prepare analysis of the value of a sustainability investment using Net Present Value
  • Express the values of context thinking, circular thinking, life-cycle thinking, long-term thinking, and resilience thinking
  • Recognize the importance of systems thinking for solving real-world complex sustainability problems
  • Identify elements of a problem as components in a system
  • Practice evaluating sustainability in systems
  • Test computer simulation models in sustainability settings
  • Recognize situations where the implementation of changes is likely to bring unanticipated side effects
  • Propose ways of dealing with situations thwarted by unanticipated side effects
  • Apply systems thinking concepts to practical situations
  • Communicate effectively in writing
  • Formulate and defend independent judgments and proposals
  • Integrate core course ideas into and apply managerial skills to the team project
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • The business case for sustainability
    This section is dedicated to knowledge and skills acquisition. Course introduction and requirements discussion. Reasons for companies to become sustainable. Why aren't businesses already sustainable? Market failures that may cause sustainability problems. Externalities, common access resource problems, information failures. The business case for sustainability: financial and non-monetary sustainability impacts of sustainable changes. Financial benefits of sustainable changes. Time value of money. Net Present Value (NPV). Return on investment and payback. Non-monetary benefits of business sustainability. Ways to approximate and include intangible benefits of sustainability in NPV analysis.
  • The basics of systems dynamics
    This section is dedicated to knowledge and skills acquisition. Practice in visualization of business organization’s structures. Purpose of simulation models. Resistance and unintended consequences. Feedback process. Dynamic complexity. Limited information. Confounding variables and ambiguity. Bounded rationality. Cognitive maps. Errors and biases. Imperfect implementation. Virtual world in system modeling. Overview of simulation software. Applications based on case studies illustrating the process of system dynamics modeling in the topics: production and earnings, market growth and stagnation, diffusion of new technologies, rationality of business decision making, and environmental sustainability.
  • Sustainable ways of thinking
    This section is dedicated to knowledge acquisition. Sustainable ways of thinking about problems: life-cycle thinking; circular thinking; long-term thinking; context thinking; long-term thinking, resilience thinking, systems thinking. What the material life-cycle of product is. Upstream and downstream phases of a product's material life cycle. Life cycle of products for identifying the biggest impacts. Close the loop concept at three levels: companies and products, companies and markets, the entire economy. Management of biological and technical nutrients to upscaling materials. Long-term value creation. Intergenerational equity. Strong vs. weak form sustainability. Context based sustainability. Science-based target setting. Unexpected disruptions and catastrophic events. Diversification. Linear cause and effect models vs. system models. Thinking system-wide.
  • Sustainability as a complex problem
    This section is dedicated to knowledge acquisition. Parts of a system: elements, flows, stocks, feedback loops, purpose. The principles of system boundaries and behaviors. System boundaries related to sustainability. System-level behaviors affecting sustainability. Approaches to evaluating sustainability in systems. Complexity as a concept. The second law of thermodynamics. Complexity and energy flows. The relevance of understanding complexity to real world issues. Complex physical systems. Social complexity. Complex adaptive systems. Complex ecosystems. Complexity, wealth, and consumption. Systems’ fragility and breakdown. Complexity in the anthropocene. Evaluation of complex problems. Effective use of statistics for problem solving in management. Problems of the future. Innovations for solving complex problems. Planned and top-down innovation. Innovation by market forces. Innovation in the anthropocene.
  • Systems thinking application
    This section is dedicated to skills acquisition. Practical exercises will be utilized to promote effective learning in teams. Games, current international business practices, and case studies of successful strategy design and implementation using system dynamics will be stressed, including “Fishbanks”, “Nintendo's “Revolution”, “Ford vs. Ferrari”, “Nike Considered: Getting Traction on Sustainability”, “Environmental Management at IBM (A): Making Sustainability Sustainable through Passion and Process”.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Individual homework assignment
  • non-blocking The group project is a proposal written in a form of a briefing paper
    The group project is a proposal written in a form of a briefing paper. In that paper the group will identify a significant complex problem in a selected organization, utilize systems thinking to describe problem’s status and trajectory, and propose a strategy for exploiting opportunities and avoiding threats when addressing the problem. The group paper should be within the range of 4-5 pages, 12 point Calibri font, Normal margins. It should be aimed at decision-makers who can implement the proposal, it should inform and persuade and be specific and precise. The group project paper must be submitted strictly before the designated deadline. Late submissions will not be accepted.
  • Partially blocks (final) grade/grade calculation Final written examination
    Блокирует следующую часть оценки по дисциплине: 25% (final exam). An individual short five-paragraph paper written in an open book format based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired throughout the course. Questions will be assigned at 9am. Papers to be submitted back at 11am. For each segment of 15 minutes of delay in submission, starting with 2nd minute one point will be deducted from the final paper grade.
  • non-blocking Peer Evaluation
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.25 * Final written examination + 0.25 * Individual homework assignment + 0.15 * Peer Evaluation + 0.35 * The group project is a proposal written in a form of a briefing paper
Bibliography

Bibliography

Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Collins,RD, de Neufville,R, João Claro, Oliveira,T, & Abilio Pereira Pacheco. (2018). Forest fire management to avoid unintended consequences: A case study of Portugal using system dynamics.
  • Goryunova, E., & Hammond, S. (2020). Unpacking Complexity: Seven Operational Characteristics of Complex Problem Solving. American Journal of Management, 20(3), 46–54. https://doi.org/10.33423/ajm.v20i3.3106
  • Kreiss, C., Nasr, N., & Kashmanian, R. (2016). Making the Business Case for Sustainability: How to Account for Intangible Benefits-A Case Study Approach. Environmental Quality Management, 26(1), 5–24. https://doi.org/10.1002/tqem.21478
  • Lee, Y., Fong, E., Barney, J. B., & Hawk, A. (2019). Why Do Experts Solve Complex Problems Using Open Innovation? Evidence from the U.S. Pharmaceutical Industry. California Management Review, 62(1), 144–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/0008125619883617
  • Meadows, D. H., & Wright, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems : A Primer. Taylor & Francis [CAM].
  • Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, & Mark Paich. (2002). A multimethod approach for creating new business models: The General Motors OnStar project.
  • Whelan, T., & Fink, C. (2016). The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, 2–8.
  • Zamagni, A. (2008). Review of “Guidelines on why Take a Life Cycle Approach to Buildings and Construction.”

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Karen Delchet-Cochet. (2020). Circular Economy : From Waste Reduction to Value Creation. Wiley-ISTE.
  • Mitchell, S.-L., & Clark, M. (2019). Reconceptualising product life-cycle theory as stakeholder engagement with non-profit organisations. Journal of Marketing Management, 35(1/2), 13–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2018.1562487
  • Schönwandt, W. (2019). Solving complex problems: Applying a problem-oriented approach to the case of the Orient/East-Med Corridor. Forschungsberichte Der ARL: Aufsätze, 71.