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Special Topics on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability

University of the Aegean, Department of Environment
Syllabus, Lecture, Course material
Thematic Area
Social Sciences and Humanities, Natural Sciences
Factual description
The undergraduate course “Special Topics on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability” of the Department of Environment, University of the Aegean, Greece has been selected to be examined since it is relative to COSY. The attributes of complex systems highlighted in this course are related to how an interest group affects the decisions and strategies of the other. For example, in terms of corporate strategies on the environment and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies, there are two opposing approaches: the proactive and the reactive approach.
Course material includes papers from scientific journals, power point presentations and online videos and aims to emphasize the interconnection between the different parties.
In order to demonstrate this nexus of interrelationship between government policies, corporate strategies and stakeholders, different approaches and tools are implemented. One approach is to use debates where, for example, one team of students argue for proactive CSR strategies debating with the other team supporting reactive approaches. Another approach is to use special software (Stella) to demonstrate how each party affects and is being affected by the decisions of others. For example, how government policies that emphasize command and control approaches lead companies to be reactive or how high social capital and active NGOs can actively promote voluntary approaches in the business sector (ie implementation of certified management systems – EMAS and ISO 14001, development of CSR strategies etc). Furthermore, brainstorming techniques are also utilized.
In this course the interdisciplinary teaching approach is used since effective environmental management requires inputs from various disciplines i.e. technical aspects of environmental performance, legislative requirements about the specific environmental impacts, social acceptability and economic and financial aspects.
According to the interviewee, the interconnection between the various parties is the most relevant aspect to be taught regarding sustainable development. For example, how government policies affect corporate responses or how stakeholder behaviour can affect government policies and /or corporate responses.
Moreover the ethical dimension is also emphasised to the students when discussing sustainability issues through specific case studies or intitiation of discussion in the class i.e. child labor from multinationals in developping countries, the tranfer of electronic waste to countries such as China, etc.
Relevance in complex systems
This course is related to complex systems in different ways. For example, corporate strategies, government policies and stakeholders’ expectations are interconnected and explain the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental policy and management.
Strong points
The strong point of this interview is that it describes a course which combines systems thinking, sustainability issues and the ethical dimension.
Transferability potential
Approaches such as the debate method, the flipped classroom approach and the problem-based approach that are proposed can be easily used by other courses.