Companies are facing increasing pressure from shareholders and stakeholders to hold themselves accountable for the impact they have on society. Further, shareholders expect companies to deliver a strong financial performance. Many companies do well by being “bad”, for instance, they engage in using creative accounting methods, allowing dodgy labor practices, abusing monopolistic power, and polluting the environment to generate higher profits, hoping for higher stock valuation and management compensation. Given the seemingly conflicting nature of the pressures explained above, many companies struggle to (1) integrate sustainability into their strategy and (2) report and communicate their strategy and (financial and sustainability) performance. Over the last years, the idea of Integrated Reporting (<IR>) has gained momentum to help dealing with these challenges. According to the <IR> framework, a business case for sustainability can have four building blocks: cost savings from eco-efficiencies, revenue growth from sustainable innovations, enhanced reputation with stakeholders, and lower risk and consequently cost of capital.
The general aim of this course is to sharpen your skills to manage a company that integrates sustainability into its strategy. After a general introduction in sustainability we will discuss the tension between business and society and introduce the concept of Creating Shared Value. We will then turn our focus to the external reporting of (financial and sustainability) performance and discuss challenges and solutions. It will become clear that current financial statements are not sufficient to understand the shared value creation of companies. Finally, we will again take an internal focus on the integration of sustainability in business practices. Apart from the two instructors responsible for the course, we will have at least two guest lectures by practitioners involved with developing sustainable strategies and reporting.
By the end of the course, you will have developed a toolkit that should enable you to advice companies on how they can successfully implement and report a strategy that integrates sustainability into their business practice. You will also be able to critically assess the quality current reporting frameworks used for integrated or sustainability reporting. As the pressure on companies to generate value for society and shareholders is expected to increase in the future and the reporting debate is ongoing with competing frameworks, this course is thus useful for everyone who wants to analyze and develop sustainable strategies in contemporary companies.
The concepts and frameworks will be developed through attending lectures, actively participating in class discussions and debates, reading articles from leading academic and practitioner journals, discussing case materials, and working on team assignments.
By the end of this course, we expect every student to be able to
- Describe the origins of the tension between business and society and how different theories look at it.
- Explain how the Creating Shared Value – concept can help companies to address the tension between business and society.
- Discuss the motivation of investors or creditors (not) to invest in companies with a strong sustainability performance.
- Describe and evaluate the most important standards, frameworks, recent trends and concepts related to sustainability and integrated reporting.
- Explain challenges of (mandatory and voluntary) reporting and apply them to Integrated Reporting.
- Develop reporting instruments that should enable companies to communicate with shareholders and internal and external stakeholders.
- Develop a (Sustainable) Balanced Score Card and explain challenges associated with its implementation.
There will be 14 lectures of 1.5 hours each in 7 weeks. The last lecture is reserved for a course review session.
We will split the enrolled students in two smaller groups. As we expect around 150 students to be present, we hope to get more classroom interaction and activation with groups of around 75 students. We specifically request to use the 80-persons classroom in CUBE for this course to facilitate teacher-students interaction.
Students are expected to read the assigned materials before class (academic papers, cases, popular press articles, etc.), including the assigned questions. Students will bring clearly visible nametags (first and last name) readable from larger distance.
Please, find the up-to-date planning of the lectures via MyTimeTable (https://rooster.uvt.nl/). We use Canvas as an important communication device in this course. Make sure that you check the announcements on Blackboard regularly.
The course materials consist of business press articles, case studies, academic articles and integrated reports. There is no textbook.
Your grade for this course will be determined as follows
- Final Exam 50%
- Team Assignments 40%
- Discussion Participation 10%
During the regular exam period, a written closed-book final exam will be organized. The questions of the final exam will test your knowledge of concepts and frameworks that have been developed during the course as well as your competency to use the concepts and frameworks to understand and address real-life situations.
Team Assignments can include the preparation and presentation of case studies and the composition of a small consulting report how a company could set-up their integrated reporting. Each member is responsible for doing his share of the effort. In case a member never shows up (or has performed extremely little effort), he or she faces the risk of being suspended from the group assignment by the other team members. In case, this drastic step has to be taken, the team is responsible for informing the course coordinator.
Discussion Participation can include the active individual involvement in classroom debates
To pass this course, the student has to obtain at least a 5 on the final exam and a non-zero grade for the team assignments. The grades for the team assignment remain valid until March 1, 2021. The same weights for the different components are used for calculating the resit grade. Team membership is by student choice. Team size can vary from 4 to 6 students.
|Course available for exchange students|
|Master level, conditions apply||Required materials-Recommended materials|
|To be announced|
|The course materials consist of business press articles, case studies, academic articles and integrated reports. There is no textbook.|
|Participation in Class Discussions|