84147 - Sustainable Business

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

This course has been designed to introduce students to the general notion of sustainability and sustainable strategies, both at the global level and with emphasis at the corporate level, and has three core objectives. 1) To allow students to gain a solid and robust understanding of what sustainability is (and what it is not) in two core contexts: society as a whole, and business. The hard to define nature of sustainability leaves it open to misinterpretation. To implement sustainability, one needs to start by being clear on what it actually is. Otherwise, as the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” No one and no organization works well without clear objectives. 2) To allow students to understand the impact of sustainability on business (both challenges and opportunities) and the managerial challenges associated with it. According to many business leaders the impact of sustainability on business is unprecedented and expected to become greater in the following years. 3) To allow students to appreciate the complexities associated with tacking sustainability issues and offer you tools for appreciating the potential of sustainability as an opportunity for business and value creation. At the business level, the course will focus on discussing the role of business model innovation (in addition to traditional process and product innovation) as a way to tackle sustainability issues profitably.

Course contents

How can business sustainability be defined? Why most companies operating within today’s dominant business paradigm overlook long-term sustainability in the name of short-term profit maximization? What can companies do to become more environmentally friendly? Is a more ethical and humane way of doing business emerging from the current crisis of capitalism?

This course provides a multi-disciplinary perspective into the future evolution of business, according to what can be already observed in the present. Students will directly interact with companies at the forefront of sustainability, learning to adopt both a scientific and a pragmatic outlook on them. The course explores such topics as circular economy, biomimicry and frugal innovation, "slow" management, responsible sourcing, B-Corporations, integrated reporting.


We will read and comment scientific papers, articles from major economic magazines, and publicly available company materials. Students will reflect on the different challenges and opportunities associated to business sustainability, paying attention to the assumptions under which different stakeholders operate.

Teaching methods

Ten class sessions (3 hours each) will cover the following activities:
- frontal lectures, supported by slides and videos
- class debates, on specific topics or previously assigned papers
- conversations with guest speakers from innovative companies
- a company visit to directly experience the reality of a sustainability-oriented enterprise

Assessment methods

Students' evaluation will be anchored to class participation. Each student will be asked to keep a course learning journal, to be discussed in a final one-to-one conversation with the teacher.

Students not attending class activities will be allowed to take the exam, provided that they have indipendently revised all class materials, all foundational readings, and a majority of recommended readings (all inputs will have to be commented in the class journal).

Office hours

See the website of Filippo Dal Fiore


Quality education Decent work and economic growth Industry, innovation and infrastructure Partnerships for the goals

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.