New Trends in Sustainable and Regenerative Business (2225.YR.015260.1)

General information






S semester

ECTS Credits:

1.5 ECTS

Teaching Staff:

Group Teacher Department Language
Year 2 Janina Grabs Sociedad, Política y Sostenibilidad ENG
Year 2 Maja Tampe Ciencias Sociales ENG


No prerequisites

Previous Knowledge

No previous knowledge necessary

Workload distribution

The workload will be divided as:

25% Reading and answering questions on preparatory material
25% Participation in the classroom
50% Individual reflection on applicability of ideas to own career


As environmental issues keep mounting, so do calls on businesses to take meaningful action. In addition to stakeholder pressures, strategic internal considerations also push businesses to seek positive impact, regarding climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection, or safeguarding the natural environment more generally. New trends are emerging as the limitations of existing initiatives, such as environmental management systems and multi-stakeholder initiatives, are increasingly apparent. New trends in sustainable and regenerative business include, for instance, (payments for) ecosystem services, nature-based solutions, carbon neutrality, regenerative business strategies, and collaborative work with national governments or the European Union. The goal of this course is to unpack such trends, to critically assess their scientific foundations and theories of change, and to review evidence of their implementation in corporate settings and their likely effectiveness. In addition, we will discuss how these trends complement or supersede existing environmental business initiatives. Last but not least, we will explore how these new trends can avoid greenwashing accusations and live up to expectations of meaningful impact.

Course Learning Objectives

In this course, we empower students to become leaders in sustainable and regenerative business practices by providing them with the skill set to understand contemporary stakeholder demands and to understand and evaluate leading innovative approaches to enhance businesses' environmental sustainability. We further foster critical thinking and ethical reasoning skills by reflecting on the theories of change and existing evidence behind the new ideas that emerge to allow our future business leaders to avoid reputational threats linked to greenwashing.
At the end of the course, students should be able to:
- Understand contemporary environmental sustainability challenges
- Understand and critically evaluate new trends in environmental sustainability initiatives of firms
- Explain the theories of change and best practices linked to new trends covered in the course
- Critically evaluate the likely effectiveness and impact of said trends
- Link current trends to students' own prospective careers


1. Overview: Sustainability challenges, existing approaches, and nature-based solutions

In our introductory session, we first provide a brief overview of global sustainability challenges and the call for action by businesses. We also review traditional approaches such as environmental management systems and multi-stakeholder initiatives as background for why new trends in sustainable and regenerative business are on the horizon. Finally, we take a first deep dive into a current trend, namely businesses¿ involvement with nature-based solutions and ecosystem services, and we ask to what extent it may be beneficial to firms to take natural capital stocks and flows into consideration when making executive decisions. We also inquire into potential drawbacks of such solutions.

2. Science-based targets: The example of carbon neutrality

Our second session focuses on setting corporate targets in line with the best available science by looking at the increasing number of companies pledging greenhouse gas reductions and net-carbon neutrality. We review what allocation principles underlie such commitments and assess best practices to making forward-looking corporate commitments with credible mechanisms of change. We also put emphasis on what not to do when setting corporate targets to avoid greenwashing claims, by evaluating corporate communications from different stakeholder perspectives.

3. Strategies for regenerative business

Regeneration is a new term that is increasingly appearing in corporate communications, especially in agrifood, but also in other sectors, such as tourism and retail. An important feature of regenerative business is that it enhances the health of social-ecological systems where business is a co-evolving part of these systems. However, regeneration is not a black-or-white choice but exists on a continuum, namely on a restore-preserve-enhance scale for regenerative business strategies. After introducing the general principles of regenerative business, we further explore business applications on this continuum, using case studies of regenerative business from the agricultural and other sectors.

4. New ways of public-private cooperation, and conclusion

The final session highlights the recent trend of businesses working together with local governments for environmental sustainability on the ground through so-called landscape or jurisdictional programs, and other ways in which businesses participate with governments to enhance environmental sustainability. We will examine the fine line between lobbying and co-creation, and assess how leading businesses can use their market dominance for ambitious, rather than regressive, policy changes.
Finally, we compare and contrast the trends covered in the sessions and engage in a discussion on which trends students believe are the most promising and impactful in relation to their own fields of work.


The methodology of this course is designed to foster critical thinking, dialogue, reflection, to connect ideas and to manage complexity. Students are encouraged to engage with key readings and ideas through individual work in advance of the course, whereas the course sessions will be focused on brief inputs by the professors and ample time for group discussions and collaborative, applied work to put concepts and ideas into practice.

Finally, at the end of the course students will have to hand in an individual final reflection on the class, their learnings and takeaways for their future careers. Students have the option to hand in a short paper (1,200-1,500 words), or a 10-12 min video or podcast. These reflections will have to be turned in two weeks after the last day of class.

What we expect from you in class

- To have a productive dialogue it is imperative that students come to class prepared and that while in class you are focused. This means not using your laptop, tablets or phones for other purposes than class and not being distracted. That is, laptops/tablets may not be used for emailing, facebooking, tweeting, chatting, skyping, internet surfing, and so forth. Using them for such purposes will strongly penalize the class participation grade. We are all responsible for creating an atmosphere that is conducive to the learning goals of the course.
- For the class to work properly we need you to be on time and respectful of your classmates. Class starts on time, at the beginning and after the break. Contributions should be always constructive and all points of view should be allowed. That means that tardiness or disrespectful attitudes will be penalized by deducting points from the participation grade.
- ESADE's honor code is very much applicable here. We will not accept plagiarism, cheating or lying.
- Each student must attend at least 3 sessions to pass the class. Since we check participation we will also control attendance.
- A learning area will be available in the intranet where you will find instructions for the sessions, readings, forums, communications and so forth. We expect you to check the course site a couple times a week.
- We will publish all course slides in the course website always AFTER each class.

Assessment criteria


25% Preparation of readings and answers to questions
25% Class attendance and participation
50% Individual reflection

Preparation of readings and answers to questions (25%)

Recognizing that speaking out loud is only one way to demonstrate that you have engaged with the material, you participate in written form, too. You will receive Discussion Questions to prepare for classes. We will provide a forum online where to share answers to these questions. You will see others' responses about half an hour after you submitted your response. Providing a response gets you credit for that day (10 for a submission, 0 for a non-submission), as long as you cross the minimum bar.
Crossing the minimum bar means that
(1) you submit on time for the established deadline (with a 10-minute tolerance; after that you receive 5 instead of 10 points even if your response meets the minimum bar otherwise),
(2) your answer adequately responds to the question(s), and that
(3) you write at least one paragraph per question (about 100-200 words, as a rule of thumb; do not use bullet points). While there is no penalty for length, please note that concise answers are better than long-winded ones.

If your response does not meet the minimum bar regarding (2) and (3), you will get an email from us to alert you and to inform you whether your response still qualifies for partial credit. For issues with lateness (1), we will not email you since you see that yourself.

Class attendance and participation (25%)

Attendance: As noted above, attendance in 3 sessions is mandatory to pass the class. We will check regularly check attendance in a pass/fail way. If a student is sick or needs to attend an official (bureaucratic) appointment, this should be communicated ahead of class time to allow for possible adjustments, including Zoom-based participation.
Participation: This is a participative course, not one geared to passive learning. We expect you to have read and thought about the readings. You should expect to spend between one to two hours for preparing in advance of each class. When available, Discussion Questions will help you sharpen your thinking and have a high-quality conversation.

After each class, we grade your participation on the following 10-point scale:
(0) Absent
(5) In class, but no participation
(7) Minor contribution (e.g., case fact, brief comment, meaningful chat argument)
(8.5) Contribution(s) that demonstrate understanding of the issues and add to the class
(10) Significant contribution(s) that move the class discussion forward
What counts against your classroom participation? By being distracted (e.g., with a phone), by being unprepared (e.g., not being able to respond to a cold call), or by being disrespectful to others. Arriving late or leaving early also lowers your grade.

Individual reflection (50%)

This assignment provides you with an opportunity to reflect on the class content and your own ideas about how new trends that we covered could be relevant for the sector(s) you come from or want to move into. We expect you to distill the key principles of the approaches covered and describe how you could put them into practice in your own work. You may also take a critical approach and discuss why they are not useful and/or would not contribute to improving environmental sustainability outcomes in your context. The goal is that you engage thoughtfully and critically with the class.
You have several format options: Either a written essay (the document should be submitted using 12 font size double spaced and it should have around 1,200-1,500 words, please include a word count), or a 10-12 min video or podcast.


Course will include some required and optional readings, which will be detailed in the syllabus as well as the Moodle.

Timetable and sections

Group Teacher Department
Year 2 Janina Grabs Sociedad, Política y Sostenibilidad
Year 2 Maja Tampe Ciencias Sociales

Timetable Year 2

From 2023/2/20 to 2023/2/23:
From Monday to Thursday from 9:30 to 13:00.