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Corporate Sustainability and Green Cities

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With more of the global population now living in urban environments than rural (World Resources Institute, 2005) cities across the world are facing significant environmental and social challenges. Business is a critical urban actor as it both directly contributes to sustainability problems but has also the capacity to provide solutions. A growing number of corporate executives are taking real leadership on the complex sustainability issues of cities and seek new business models to create real value to society in the long-term.

Such firms and individuals are beginning to question the basic assumptions behind business-as-usual and are seeking to challenge current mind-sets, paradigms, worldviews and practices (Marshall et al, 2011). Effective corporate sustainability results in new business models and innovations capable of providing the vehicle to enact sustainability principles in cities and deliver on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit (Elkington, 1997).

The reality check for business leadership is that the projected 6 billion people (UN, 2011) who will live in global cities by 2050 simply cannot live well if companies do not start leading new partnerships to co-create a safe operating space for humanity. In this course we consider how business leaders are taking this challenge seriously. Cutting-edge examples of practice are used to present current approaches and frameworks are provided for how students may both analyze these and also seek formulate their own in the future.

Module Objectives:

  1. To introduce the topic of corporate sustainability and its meaning with regards to the urban environment.
  2. To present strategies and mechanisms by which business can contribute toward green cities and their motivation for doing such.
  3. To give students understanding of the cutting-edge developments shaping the global agenda of business in cities.

Learning objectives and skills objectives:

Corporate Sustainability: Students will connect with the natural and social sciences to learn and understand about the concept of corporate sustainability. Corporate sustainability will be connected to the urban environment as students learn of how and why companies care and act on city sustainability issues.

Business strategies: Students will learn about corporate strategies for green cities through engagement with corporate front-runners. Students will engage with how businesses are finding opportunities through providing sustainability solutions and how this is bringing benefits and real value to firms.

State of the art practices: The course heavily engages with companies and academics at the forefront of corporate sustainability and green cities. Students will be taught of the cutting edge advancements in the field and an outlook upon the future of business.

Analytical skills: Students will learn how to analyze the corporate sustainability activities of companies in connection to green cities.

Elevator pitching skills: Students will be taught how to make an ‘elevator pitch’ and will need to put this into practice with an individual recorded message to the CEO. 

For more information about the module, contact the module developer Steve Kennedy (, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Creative Commons

All SUSTAIN materials are subject to the basic terms and conditions in accordance with the Creative Commons license agreement. Users should give credit to the SUSTAIN Project as well as to the module developer. Furthermore, users are not allowed to use any module material for commercial purposes without permission from the SUSTAIN Project and module developer.