GRA 6038 Ethics and Sustainability in Organizations

GRA 6038 Ethics and Sustainability in Organizations

Course code: 
GRA 6038
Leadership and Organizational Behaviour
Course coordinator: 
Øyvind Kvalnes
Caroline Dale Ditlev-Simonsen
Course name in Norwegian: 
Ethics and Sustainability in Organizations
Product category: 
MSc - Core course
2020 Spring
Active status: 
Level of study: 
Teaching language: 
Course type: 
One semester

The main aim of this course is to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to take an active, professional part in countering the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century, including climate change, poverty, environmental degradation and employment issues generated by the automation of human labor. Private and public organizations, as well as governments and individuals, on different levels are ethically responsible for finding constructive measures to deal with these challenges. To do so, knowledge about the scope and relevance of sustainable development is crucial.

This course highlights the relevance of ethics and sustainability for the decision-making processes in organizations, and provides a theoretical framework for understanding and balancing responsibilities toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. The course has an applied orientation, introducing cases and dilemmas for discussion in light of the theoretical and practical input.

Learning outcomes - Knowledge

The candidate …

  • Has thorough knowledge of the basic concepts and theories of applied ethics and sustainability research and their links to core organizational objectives and strategies.
  • Can analyze and evaluate companies’ engagement associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) from environmental, social and economic perspectives.
  • Can analyze and evaluate processes that can lead to misbehavior and neglect of sustainability concerns in organizations, as well as constructive ways to establish and maintain responsible leadership and decision-making.
  • Can see sustainability issues from the point of view of different stakeholders, including employees, media and investors.
  • Is aware of climate challenges, and psychological barriers and solutions, of green growth and green growth strategies from a corporate perspective.
Learning outcomes - Skills

The candidate …

  • Has applied the knowledge above in concrete situations through analyzing situations, dilemma training, dialogue and practical applications.
  • Can provide justification for their choices based on factual and normative input, and analyze disagreements about ethical and sustainability issues.
  • Can evaluate social responsible investment from different perspectives.
  • Is aware of how organizations in the private and public sectors address the above issues in practice.
General Competence

The candidate …

  • Will be able to view their own professional education and practice in the light of possible effects on society and the environment.
  • Will have insight into the requirements necessary to establish sustainable business, and recognize ethics as an integral part of any high-level professional competence.
  • Will realize that ethical decisions related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have personal ramifications, shaping the individual's responsibilities at work in different sectors.
  • Will become better equipped to navigate in organizational environments where dilemmas and challenges are commonplace.
Course content

Issues covered in the course:

  • Introduction to ethics in organizations
  • Sustainable development and corporate responsibility — in practice
  • Moral psychology
  • Professionalism and conflict of interest
  • Ethical navigation
  • Anti-corruption and bribery
  • Dilemma workshops
  • Sustainability and stakeholder management — industry case
  • Sustainability and climate psychology
  • Ethical investment - Social responsible investment (SRI), ESG, and impact assessment and innovation
Teaching and learning activities

The course will be taught through lectures, guest lectures, group work and presentations. Digital tools for communication and dialogue will be applied.

The course will consist of six 3-hour plenary sessions, four 3-hour group sessions and two 6-hour dilemma workshops. The plenary and group sessions will present the main concepts and ideas, and provide students with cases to discuss. In group sessions the students will be divided into four groups, while in the dilemma workshops they will be divided into eight groups. Each student can participate in 18 hours of plenary session teaching, 12 hours of group teaching and 12 hours of dilemma workshop activities.

This course has two required coursework papers connected to the two dilemma workshops. In each of the workshops, students are divided into groups of five to six who will work together on a paper with a one-week deadline. The papers will be evaluated on how they demonstrate empirical, theoretical, structural and critical capabilities. The group papers will be evaluated on a pass/fail scale, and students will get feedback on strengths and weaknesses of their papers. Students who are unable to participate in the dilemma workshops will need to submit individual papers within the same timeframe and with the same deadline as the group papers. These individual papers will get a pass/fail grade, but no other evaluative feedback. Each student needs to contribute to two papers that have received a pass grade, either as group or individual papers, to be eligible for the exam.

The plenary sessions will include different forms of active learning in small groups. After four of the plenary sessions (weeks 2, 8, 9 and 10), students will receive assignments following up on the lecture topics. ONE of these assignments will be part of the home exam. The assignment chosen will be announced together with the exam.

Software tools
No specified computer-based tools are required.
Additional information

Please note that while attendance is not compulsory in all courses, it is the student’s own responsibility to obtain any information provided in class.


All courses in the Masters programme will assume that students have fulfilled the admission requirements for the programme. In addition, courses in second, third and/or fourth semester can have specific prerequisites and will assume that students have followed normal study progression. For double degree and exchange students, please note that equivalent courses are accepted.

Mandatory courseworkCourseworks givenCourseworks requiredComment coursework
Mandatory22It is a requirement that each student must have written two papers containing an analysis of a dilemma or case in order to take the final exam. The students can cooperate in groups in writing the papers.
Mandatory coursework:
Mandatory coursework:Mandatory
Courseworks given:2
Courseworks required:2
Comment coursework:It is a requirement that each student must have written two papers containing an analysis of a dilemma or case in order to take the final exam. The students can cooperate in groups in writing the papers.
Exam category: 
Form of assessment: 
Written submission
48 Hour(s)
A 48 hour take home exam concludes the course. The students will submit one text based on one of the assignments given in connection with a plenary session (counting for 20% of the grade), and one text based on an assignment published at the beginning of the home exam (counting for 80% of the grade).
Exam code: 
Grading scale: 
Examination when next scheduled course
Type of Assessment: 
Ordinary examination
Total weight: 
Sum workload: 

A course of 1 ECTS credit corresponds to a workload of 26-30 hours. Therefore a course of 6 ECTS credits corresponds to a workload of at least 160 hours.