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Sustainable Business Innovation - ENV00098M

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Clarence Bluntz
  • Credit value: 5 ECTS
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Innovation is a cornerstone of growth-based societies. Whether it is at the origin or growth, or a consequence of it, remains to be seen. Even those seeking to establish a steady-state economy or even a de-growing society need to foster innovation. Therefore, innovation does not only refer to developing a new product or a new organisational process, although these can be a part of it.

Innovation means to successfully achieve something that was not doable before: for example, switching your whole supply chain to organic cotton. Convincing your customers to pay more for a less-impactful product might also be achieved through innovation. Convincing your shareholders that an increase in production costs and a decrease in profit is acceptable is another example.

Therefore, innovating for sustainability means transforming the rationalities of organisations in a way that lead to decreasing their negative impacts on the environment and society in absolute terms, and/or increasing their positive impacts.

This course consists of lectures and PBL sessions. During the lectures, we will first focus on understanding innovations, learning to recognise and classify them. As an introduction, we will explore the history of Patagonia, a US outdoor clothing and equipment company, to learn how innovative processes can be enacted in every function of an organisation. We will then spend the remainder of the lectures on exploring these organisational functions. The PBL sessions will closely follow this framework, usually dealing with the previous lecture’s subject. During a PBL session, students will work to tackle a particular question with help from the scholarly literature.

This course is particularly important for sustainability-inclined students, in that most of organisational processes existing today are in some way unsustainable. Therefore, students will have to, when they enter or create their future professional occupation, go against established “common sense” and be able to do their part in changing the practices and habits of their organisations and stakeholders.

Thus, innovation and resistance to innovation can be found at every level of every organisation (in marketing, design, strategy, HR, finance...): students have to be able to develop an advanced understanding of the concepts relevant to it, to critically reflect on innovation cases in various industries, to participate in discussions related to sustainability innovations and to create their own narratives and rationales for sustainability innovation. In short, this course aims to equip students with means to tackle typical retorts to their future proposals such as “this will be too costly” or “this is irrelevant to our organisation”.

The course directly links to a following course, Sustainable entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship: as innovation is always a break from established rationality, change has to be encouraged by groups of people (and not only individuals) convinced of its need and, who will strive to act as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, in the broadest sense of the term.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to assess the potential and limits of sustainability-oriented innovations and to implement them in organisations.

Skills:

  • Team working

  • Design thinking

  • Creativity

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will be able to:

  1. Describe, explain and discuss the relevant concepts related to the field of sustainable innovation as well as the role of different business and organisational functions regarding innovation.

  2. Investigate and appraise the business and organisational responses related to innovation and sustainability challenges.

  3. Formulate a sustainable business innovation case taking into account multiple business and organisational functions perspectives.

  4. Defend and critique cases for sustainable innovation in various business and organisational functions, based on scholarly literature and/or interactions with businesses and organisations.

Module content

Teaching will be a combination of weekly lectures and PBL sessions over seven weeks.

  • Lectures: 8 hours

  • PBL sessions: 14 hours

  • Assessment: Case study analysis (70%) and video (30%)

  • Private Study: 128 hours

This is a module taught by Maastricht University. Please visit Maastricht University webpage for further information by following this link https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/node/445706/courses-curriculum.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Case study analysis and Case study video
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

Pass/fail

Additional assessment information

Formative assessment consists of:

  • Oral feedback given by tutors during the PBL sessions.
  • Written feedback provided by the course coordinator on the draft proposal for the individual case study.

Summative assessment consists of:

  • Individual case study (70%); students will write a 3000 words case study on an innovation of their choice. They will first draw up a proposal to submit no later than week 6, for which they will receive individual formative feedback. The case study itself will have to be turned after the end of the course and will be graded according to rubrics made available to students. The case study will focus on a particular organisation or company. Students might use information publicly available, or partner with an existing company if the opportunity arises. They will make use of the methods and theories learned during the lectures and PBL sessions to critically assess an organisational phenomenon and discuss 1. Its potential as sustainability innovation and 2. Possible generalisations to be made, as well as limits. In the first PBL session in particular they will familiarise themselves with the methodology required for such a case study.
  • Group video (30%); during week 4, students will meet professionals who will introduce them to an innovation and/or sustainability dilemma they are currently facing. Students will then work in groups on a possible solution. During week 8, this solution will be pitched during a second business meeting: students will also produce a 3-minute video that might be used for grading and if their internet connection is unstable. Students will be graded according to rubrics known to them, as well as input and reactions from the business professionals.

This is a module delivered by Maastricht University and will be subject to Maastricht Education and Examination Regulations.

The module will appear as Pass/Fail Module on your York transcript (and for award purposes), Maastricht will provide a transcript detailing your assessments for this module.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Case study analysis and Case study video
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative feedback will be provided in weekly workshops. Summative feedback will be provided on written feedback sheets.

Indicative reading

Bocken, N., & Ritala, P. (2021). Six ways to build circular business models. Journal of Business Strategy, ahead of print.

Buhl, A., Schmidt-Keilich, M., Muster, V., Blazejewski, S., Schrader, U., Harrach, C., … Süßbauer, E. (2019). Design thinking for sustainability: Why and how design thinking can foster sustainability-oriented innovation development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 231.

Kerschner, C., Wächter, P., Nierling, L., & Ehlers, M.-H. (2018). Degrowth and Technology: Towards feasible, viable, appropriate and convivial imaginaries. Journal of Cleaner Production, 197.

Rosa, H. (2017). Dynamic Stabilization, the Triple A. Approach to the Good Life, and the Resonance Conception. Questions de Communication, 1.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.