Category Archives: Concepts

Sustainable Business Model Research –Time to Leave the Twilight Zone

By Dr. Florian Lüdeke-Freund.

Research on sustainable business models, or “business models for sustainability (BMfS)”, is still a niche topic in both the business model and sustainability communities. BMfS researchers often find themselves in a twilight zone, not knowing whom to address with or involve in their research. After one decade of BMfS research, it is time to develop a joint agenda to strengthen and shape this interdisciplinary field.

Leaving the Twilight Zone

Looking at seminal articles, we see that early work on BMfS deals with organisational and cultural preconditions of business models that contribute to corporate sustainability. Analysing business models is also seen as a means to overcome the technology bias of traditional eco-innovation approaches and move towards system level innovation, e.g. through product-service systems. Others see business models as tools to re-scale and re-localise monolithic industrial infrastructures, while again others investigate the links between business models and business success through corporate sustainability. Research on BMfS is often rooted in ecological sustainability, but some scholars see BMfS also as a means to address social issues.

These perspectives and topics clearly show that we need multiple disciplines, theories and methods to properly study BMfS. But reviewing the BMfS literature, which we have done in different projects and articles (Boons & Lüdeke-Freund, 2013; Schaltegger et al., 2016; Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2016), shows that we, as BMfS researchers, tend to talk to our “sustainability peers” only, in terms of how we frame and work on research problems and the journals we publish in. At the same time we are sitting somewhere in between. We are neither pure management scholars nor ecological economics veterans. We are in a twilight zone.

After one decade of BMfS research, it is time to step back and reflect on the topics we have studied, the theories we have used and developed, and the methods we have applied. We should ask ourselves, who – from outside our community – could help with the problems we are studying? Obviously, this is a multi- and interdisciplinary effort. Therefore, a joint, multi- and interdisciplinary research agenda and mutual exchange are required.

Towards a Joint Research Agenda

Our recent Organization & Environment special issue on BMfS covers a broad range of entrepreneurial, managerial and innovation issues. However, a lot remains to be done with regard to theory development and management support. Here, the original business model and the diverse sustainability communities could and should work together, develop projects and write articles that contribute to theory development and management support and are acceptable to their various audiences – including their respective journals.

The following exemplary research problems were identified in the editorial article of our special issue and could serve as a starting point for a joint research agenda for the original and the sustainability-oriented business model communities:

Theory development

  • How can theories on the organisational level (e.g. dynamic capabilities), individual level (e.g. responsible leadership) or on both levels (e.g. organizational learning) help explain green and social business model transformations?
  • How do BMfS co-evolve and trigger industry transformations both via market interaction and system transitions (e.g. evolutionary economics)?
  • Which learning-action networks and collaborations, but also power struggles between stakeholder groups, are involved in the creation of BMfS (e.g. stakeholder theory)?

Management support

  • Which management frameworks and instruments enable the management of and transition to BMfS (e.g. change management)?
  • Which frameworks and instruments can support innovation (e.g. design thinking, The Natural Step) and strategy implementation (e.g. Business Model Canvas) for BMfS?
  • How can performance and societal impacts be measured and managed on the business model level (e.g. balanced scorecard)?

These are just a few exemplary topics. But it is a starting point. It is also, or even much more, an open invitation to scholars from fields such as entrepreneurship, innovation, design, policy, and transition research, and many more, to develop a joint agenda that allows for true multi- and interdisciplinary BMfS research.

Our dynamically growing communities – e.g. Business Model Community, Sustainable Business Model Blog, Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group, Sustainability Transitions Research Network, Inno4SD – could benefit from such an agenda to progress in a more synergistic way, combining the best of these worlds: up-to-date knowledge about business model and sustainability research.

Such an agenda would shed some light on the twilight zone of BMfS research and would help to establish it as a research field in its own right.

Let’s start the conversation – now.

Florian Lüdeke-Freund is a senior research associate at the University of Hamburg, Germany. He is a research fellow at the Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM), Leuphana University, and the Governing Responsible Business Research Environment at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research deals with sustainable entrepreneurship, sustainable business models, and innovation. Florian founded as an international research hub addressing sustainability, business model, and innovation topics.

Pic by Rod Serling’s classic anthology, The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1961)

CSR as Power in Global Governance. The Anti-corruption policy of Danish Companies in China

On Tuesday 29 November 2016 Anestis Keremis will give his first WIP seminar with the title:

CSR as Power in Global Governance. The Anti-corruption policy of Danish Companies in China

When: Tuesday 29 November 2016 from 10:00 – 12:00

Where: Porcelænshaven 1, 1.04, 2000 Frederiksberg


Professor Hans Krause Hansen, Head of OMS, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, CBS

Associate Professor Steen Valentin, Department of Management Politics, and Philosophy, CBS


Associate Professor Antje Vetterlein, Department of Business and Politics, CBS

Professor Jeremy Moon, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, CBS

If you would like a copy of the paper to be presented, please e-mail Anestis Keremis ( ).

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The Ecosystem of Shared Value – Unoriginal, But Still Likely to Make an Impact

by Andreas Rasche.

The October 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an article by Mark Kramer and Marc Pfitzer called “The Ecosystem of Shared Value.” Positioned as a follow-up to Porter and Kramer’s very successful essay on “Creating Shared Value” (CSV), the authors suggest that to “advance shared value efforts […] businesses must foster and participate in multisector coalitions—and for that they need a new framework. Governments, NGOs, companies, and community members all have essential roles to play, yet they work more often in opposition than in alignment.” This new framework has a nice new label – Collective Impact.

A big (but unoriginal) idea… 

My claim here is that this new concept – Collective Impact – is oversimplifying and rather unoriginal (but nevertheless will be successful, at least in terms of corporations trying to reproduce the label and academics citing the paper). Much like its predecessor CSV, Collective Impact is old wine in new bottles; a new label for something we have known, studied, and practiced for many years. Talking about Collective Impact ignores the multi-stakeholder nature of many initiatives and partnerships within the field of sustainability and CSR. For instance, multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Fair Labor Association, have practiced collective impact for many years.

Also, partnership-based organizations like the Oxford Health Alliance have practiced many of the elements of what Kramer and Pfitzer call Collective Impact (e.g. a common agenda and mutually reinforcing activities). Even most quite simple NGO-business partnerships have these characteristics. Overall, it is hard to disagree with what Kramer and Pfitzer are writing, but it is equally hard to see any groundbreaking new idea here…

Collective Impact is also unoriginal in another way. My colleagues Andy Crane, Guido Palazzo, Laura Spence and Dirk Matten have convincingly argued in an article in the California Management Review a while ago, that CSV is an unoriginal concept and that its core premises have many similarities with well-known ideas in the CSR discourse (e.g., strategic CSR). They also showed that one of the core avenues for CSV – local cluster development – is neither new nor in any way surprising. Local clusters – which essentially are just a way to create collective impact – have been part and parcel of debates around sustainability in academia and practice. Understood in this way, Collective Impact just reiterates a part of the CSV story (which was unoriginal in the first place).

Why will the idea still be successful?

Considering all this, the important question seems to be: Why can concepts such as Collective Impact or CSV still make such an impact, despite their vague and unoriginal nature? One possible answer to this question relates to the so-called Matthew Effect in science. Robert K. Merton (1968) first observed this effect. The main claim is this: the credit for scientific work is distributed unequally. If similar research findings are communicated by a well-known, prestigious scholar and by one who is less widely known, it is the first who usually gets recognition. In other words, scientists with an existing good reputation receive greater increments of recognition, while the contributions of unknown scholars are rendered less visible. This makes science a “sticky”, path-dependent and self-reinforcing business…

Collective Impact and CSV (as well as other management fashions) are not successful because they offer new and innovative solutions. Rather, a significant part of their success can be attributed:

(a) to the already existing reputation of the people who promote the concept (in the case of Collective Impact we can assume positive legitimacy spillover effects of Porter’s work on CSV),
(b) to the perceived legitimacy of the outlet that the idea is published in (in this sense the Matthew Effect would not only be applicable to people but also to outlets), and
(c) to the short and simplifying nature of the message that is being sent.

All of this is not to say that Collective Impact, as framed by Kramer and Pfitzer, is totally useless or that it should not be published. Nobody has a patent on the idea of multi-stakeholder collaboration. It is even likely to spark interesting discussions among practitioners and will (hopefully) motivate more partnership-based initiatives. What I find worrying is that packing well-established ideas into such simplifying concepts may curb the advancement of knowledge in our field.

Andreas Rasche is Professor of Business in Society at Copenhagen Business School and directs CBS World-Class Research Environment “Governing Responsible Business”. More information at:

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Trump, Anti-Intellectualism and the New Role for Business

By Erin Leitheiser.

For anyone who pays even vague attention to the news it is clear that this year’s U.S. election is not only continuous, but perhaps exemplifies the growing divide between truth (facts) and lies (fabrications).  Politicians have a long track record of twisting and distorting facts to support their position, but Donald Trump has taken this to a new level.  In just the past week he blatantly misrepresented academic findings about voter fraud, continued to promote a debunked rumor about $6 billion in missing funds from the State Department under Clinton, and has sworn to question the results of the election if he doesn’t win.  Herein we see a dangerous disregard (at best) or rejection (at worst) of the truth.

Notions of Trust are Changing

Trump may indeed personify the growing divide between who and what information is trusted by the general public.  Every year the PR firm Edelman publishes their annual Trust Barometer, a worldwide study which, among other things, tracks the credibility and influence of various categories of “spokespeople” (such as CEOs, NGO reps, and the like).  Some of the related findings include:

  • There is no clear voice of authority.  When asked who they would trust to provide news and information about business, about half would find a CEO credible (49%) but only about one-third (35%) would trust the government.  NGOs are trusted about half the time (48%), and academics and technical experts fared a bit better with credibility rankings around two-thirds (64% and 67%, respectively).  When asked about how much each institution could be trusted to address social issues, government scored even lower than business – 15% versus 26%.
  • Increasingly, respondents trust their peers as much or more than anyone else.  Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) would trust information about a business given to them by “a person like yourself”.  This is up from less than half just five years ago (43% in 2011).  This trend is reinforced by rising rates of news consumption through social media.
  • Business is increasingly expected to take on a bigger role in promoting the public good.  In 2015, 74% of respondents indicated that “a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates”.  This number rose to 80% in 2016.

What do these trends mean for business? 

With fact-fighting figures like Trump looming over the world of politics, it is not surprising that trust in government is low.  What may be somewhat surprising, however, is the ever-growing expectation for business to take on a role in tackling societal issues.

Business thus far has risen to the occasion in a variety of ways, be it philanthropic donations to communities, like Target’s 5% give-back commitment; cause-brand alliances, like the NFL’s longstanding partnership to promote breast cancer awareness; partnerships with nonprofits to enhance the sustainability of business practices, like IKEA’s work with the WWF to better manage environmental resources; a self-regulatory role by adopting voluntary standards, like certifying timber products with the Forest Stewardship Council; or any other number of efforts.  Indeed, we have entered a new era for business.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer results and several academic studies also point to instrumental benefits for business who engage in societal issues.  Employees at companies engaged in societal issues report much higher levels of motivation, commitment and confidence in the company, and have lower turnover.  When supply chains are closely managed, reputational and operational risks go down, like the ones we saw with the horrific 2013 garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.  And, if that’s not enough, research has shown that socially responsible companies perform better financially in competitive markets than do irresponsible ones.


Trust is shifting and expectations of business are changing as the public’s confidence in governments and politics dwindles.  The time is ripe for business to step up to the plate to take a swing at their new role.  In addition to societal benefits, business can expect to see positive impacts to its performance, too.

Erin Leitheiser is a PhD Fellow in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Copenhagen Business School.  Her research interests revolve around the changing role and expectations of business in society.  Prior to pursuing her PhD she worked as a CSR manager in a U.S. Fortune-50 company, as well as a public policy consultant with a focus on convening and facilitating of multi-stakeholder initiatives.  She is supported by the Velux Foundation and is on Twitter.  

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The Global Compact – Building Bridges, or Barriers?

By Marianne Prytz and Margrete Eilertsen.

One of the main purposes of the UN Global Compact (GC) is to include the private sector in the development agenda. However, is the initiative truly inclusive, or is it yet another contributing factor dividing the North and the South?

Being stronger together – leveraging local network effects

From its official launch in 2000, the UN Global Compact (GC) has developed to become the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, currently comprising of more than 12,000 signatories. Local Networks (LN’s) are clusters of GC participants who voluntarily form country- or region- based groups, with the aim of advancing the GC and its principles in a specific geographic context. Due to the possible positive effects LNs can have on promoting sustainable business practices on a local level, especially in developing countries, we wanted to explore the topic further. In our Master’s thesis, we investigated possible enabling and restricting factors affecting a Local Network’s (LN) operational capacity, using the Uganda LN as our case study.

Based on our research, we found the most important enabling factors for the Uganda LN to be:

  • A strong hosting organization;
  • An effective governance system;
  • Indications that personal trust has developed within the Uganda LN over time.

Sufficient funding is crucial for a local network to develop

Regardless of the enabling factors supporting the Uganda LN, we found that the network is currently struggling. The main reason for these problems was the low level of financial resources within the LN. This severely restricts the operational capacity of the LN in the following ways:

  • Lack of Human Resources;
  • Few events and activities;
  • Lack of LN Uganda webpage;
  • High reliance on the focal point organization, the Federation of Uganda Employers.

These factors limit the networks opportunities to operate effectively and make a lasting impact on the Uganda Business Society.

As of today, each GCLN is supposed to be self-sufficient in terms of financial resources, and mainly source these resources locally. Thus, the LNs do not receive any direct funding from the GC Office or Foundation in New York. This in itself is not a problem. However, where both governments and MNCs in developed countries have been more willing to fund their LNs, companies and governments in developing countries have not been able to support their LNs to the same extent. This is what we are witnessing in the Uganda LN.

Is the Global Compact’s bottom-up strategy only working in theory?

Based on the GC’s 2014 Africa Strategy report called“ Partners in Change”, we found that several of the African LNs are struggling with similar issues as we experienced in Uganda. If it is so that LNs from developing countries in general have less financial resources compared to their Western counterparts, this might arguably increase the existing financial divide between Northern and Southern countries.

The GC emphasizes that their approach is bottom up, and builds on locally adopted strategies, which in theory is a refreshing and original approach in comparison to traditional development and sustainability practices. However, what we have noticed exemplified in the case of the Uganda LN, is that unless the status quo is challenged, the GC might develop into a new forum for separating developed and developing countries.

As we believe the GC has an important role to play in today’s globalized society, we hope the initiative chooses to focus on evening out this divide, in order to fully reach its potential in developing countries.

Marianne Prytz and Margrete Eilertsen have just graduated from the Department of Business, language and culture at CBS. They are now proud holders of the Degree Cand. merc. Int. in business and development studies. In their Master thesis on the UN Global Compact, they researched sustainable business practices.

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The Responsibility to Disrupt?

By Glen Whelan.

Project Breakthrough: A New Initiative from the United Nations Global Compact

Through its Global Compact, John Ruggie’s special representative work on human rights and multinational corporations, and a whole host of other initiatives, the United Nations (UN) has long been a leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability matters. With the relatively new Project Breakthrough, it appears that the Global Compact in particular, is looking to maintain the UN’s leading role, and leverage its prominent position, in business and society relations. A collaboration with the ‘market catalyst’ Volans – whose co-founder and Chief Pollinator (no kidding) is John Elkington (a champion of triple bottom line thinking in prior times) – Project Breakthrough seeks to translate the United Nation’s “new 2030 Sustainable Development Goals into business action” by challenging and stretching “prevailing business mindsets into new opportunity spaces”.

Project Breakthrough has three specific areas of focus.

  1. It seeks to foster “exponential mindsets” by asking: “what does the future look like and what can leaders in all spheres learn from the ‘anything-is-possible’ approach that is common among successful innovators?”
  2. It emphasizes the importance of “disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, by asking: how can they “transform what’s possible in terms of sustainable performance and longer-term system change?” and
  3. It looks towards “tomorrow’s business models” by asking: how “new disruptive technologies” can enable “more sustainable, collaborative and circular business models?

Project Breakthrough’s Techno-Utopian Context

For those who know of Google’s current Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil – and his sidekick Peter Diamandis, who, further to his very pronounced self-promotion skills, co-founded Singularity University with Kurzweil around 2007 – the basic ideas of Project Breakthrough will be familiar. They can also be readily lampooned, as Seth Rogen is reportedly soon to do. Whilst some might find such commentary cynical, the Global Compact’s willingness to embrace techno-utopian ideas that broadly align with those of “Trump delegate, Facebook board member, billionaire PayPal cofounder” and Singularity University supporter, Peter Thiel, does raise questions as to the role of trends and fashion in corporate responsibility and sustainability policy and practice.

The Risks of Disruption

Whilst none of the above mentioned parties are a priori wrong to think that technology and innovation can help address many of the world’s most pressing problems, Project Breakthough’s implicit suggestion that business has a responsibility to disrupt markets (and societies) is facile. Companies like Uber, for example, are clearly new and disruptive. As ongoing disputes with its partner and not employee drivers indicate, however, Uber’s emphasis on technological disruption and new business models seems far removed from both the concern to end poverty (2030 Sustainable Development Goal No. 1), and the UN Global Compact’s concern with labour rights.

In short, the current emphasis on exponential mindsets, disruptive technologies, and tomorrow’s business models, is not risk free. Indeed, without significant qualification, it is not clear how Project Breakthrough’s recent championing of disruptive change is to be rendered consistent with George Kell’s 2003 suggestion that the Global Compact “can only effectively serve as a learning platform that facilitates gradual, incremental change”. So perhaps the Global Compact should adopt a more precautionary approach to the disruptive possibilities of technology for society and the environment. Alternatively, it might further investigate how such ideas as the universal basic income much loved by Silicon Valley could hedge against them.

Glen Whelan is Marie Curie Research Fellow at Copenhagen Business School. He researches Business Ethics, Politics and Corporate Social Responsibility, Internet Studies and Organization Theory. He’s on Twitter.

Pic by: cnet

Stimulating subsidiaries’ learning processes: why one size-fits all approaches do not work

By Dr Gabriela Gutierrez-Huerter O.

Globalisation has intensified calls for multi-national corporations (MNCs) to engage in social initiatives ranging from community outreach and environmental protection, to ethical business practices. Alongside the rise of CSR there has been a demand for the accountability and the transparency on CSR issues.

To report or not to report is no longer a question for MNCs

The latest KPMG corporate responsibility reporting survey shows that 92% of the largest world’s MNCs annually report information about their environmental and social impacts mainly through the publication of stand-alone CSR reports or as part of their annual reports following recognised reporting standards. The Global Reporting Initiative is widely regarded as the de factor standard of sustainability reporting for companies operating internationally. In order to prepare these accounts, MNCs’ head-offices transfer ‘technical’ knowledge (i.e. use of management information systems centralising the collection of data, calculation of KPIs) and ‘know-how’ knowledge (i.e. meaning of the data collected, the organisational implications of the data collected and how to respond to social and environmental issues) to their subsidiaries. As part of a collection of studies providing new perspectives on headquarters-subsidiary relationships in the context of the contemporary MNC, Jeremy Moon, Stefan Gold, Wendy Chapple and I investigate the mechanisms that enable the transfer social and environmental accountability and reporting (SEAR) knowledge across MNCs’ subsidiaries.

Quality over quantity and why sometimes it is the medium that matters

Similar to what one would expect in a classroom scenario, we argue that the benefit created from a knowledge flow does not reside on how much an organisational unit receives knowledge but rather on the means used to diffuse it that will trigger the capabilities to filter (i.e. exploratory learning), assimilate (i.e. transformative learning) and apply the transferred knowledge (exploitative learning). Some of the key findings of this research are:

  • Social mechanisms such as communications, visits, and corporate socialization practices are significant predictors of the capability to assimilate ‘know-how’ knowledge.
  • In the absence of face to face interaction and expatriate managers, experienced liaison personnel interpret the meaning of SEAR, enhance the credibility of the transfer and the potential to apply the transferred knowledge.
  • Integration mechanisms and visits from the head-office (contingent on the time of the visit) can trigger the three learning processes (exploratory, transformative and exploitative) and dissipate the ‘top-down’ and ‘distant’ perceptions of the transfer
  • The absence of financial incentives and lack of specification of performance criteria sends a signal to employees that SEAR was neither a ‘business priority’ nor ‘strategic’, contrary to the head-office’s intention to make SEAR a competitive advantage.
  • Budget controls inhibit the way in which subsidiaries apply SEAR knowledge since subsidiaries are dependent on resources from the HQ

One-size fits all? Not in the transfer of CSR-related knowledge

Our findings thus suggest that head-offices aiming at increasing the learning processes of subsidiaries need to manage their foreign subsidiaries so as to stimulate the development of capabilities of recognition, assimilation and application through a mix of control, social and integration mechanisms that complement their repository stocks of knowledge.

The case study exposes the risks of MNCs’ ‘one-size fits all’ approaches in the transfer of knowledge and on the paradoxical role of the head-office which considered social and environmental accountability knowledge as ‘strategic” for the development of local competitive advantages to solve social and environmental dilemmas, but used inappropriate mechanisms limiting and damaging subsidiaries capabilities to identify, assimilate and exploit knowledge. In light of the increased standardization of CSR processes across MNCs, our study thus raises the question on whether the diffusion of knowledge underpinning ‘best practices’ is in fact triggering substantive change towards sustainability at the local level.

Dr Gabriela Gutierrez-Huerter O is Fellow in Management (CSR) at King’s College, London. Her research interests center on the cross-national transfer of CSR practices within MNCs and the determinants of subsidiary adaptation in the context of international acquisitions. Additionally, she has a keen interest in comparative CSR particularly in the study of the influence of national institutions on CSR practices.


Bold Businesses wanted for transformative Deep Retrofit – The CBS Student and Innovation House

By Kristjan Jespersen and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen.

We live in times of change. Society is quickly evolving in every aspect, facing us with global ecological, economic, human and social challenges. To overcome these perils students must play a key role in formulating and developing the necessary solutions needed to curb these complex future challenges. Its is crucial that, during their studies, students are given the tools needed in a thriving, thought-provoking and ambitious framework in which they can question the status quo and develop world-class innovations with long lasting impact.

Why student engagement matters

The Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has a longstanding tradition of such student engagement. Students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are actively engaged in various ways (internships, community service learning, entrepreneurship, student organisations, research, etc.) with many communities outside the campus. While many activities are formally initiated through university associations, the vast majority of activities are initiated independently. Students build upon the lessons learned in the classroom with such real-world experiences.

The quickly developing student initiative of creating the CBS Student and Innovation House (SIH) builds upon this already established momentum. Emerging from the vestiges of Frederiksberg’s old police station it wishes to solve the grand challenges of our time in a hitherto unseen collaboration between students, researchers, businesses and the public sector. It will challenge conventional thinking and give students the tools to translate their ideas into solutions while giving them the drive and courage needed to take responsibility for the positive transformation of the world we live in.
Central to the house is its engagement with sustainability as practices and outcomes. It aims to extend beyond narrow definitions and in the spirit of the house entail human and societal well being, as well as promoting sustainable practices in business, economics and society. It is intended to supplement existing activities with a set of specific programs to enable students to work with partners, to forge new initiatives and to inspire, support and promote sustainability activities both on and off campus.

The building

Names on the people in the picture are, from left to right, Anne Marie Larsen, Andreas Gjede, Jens Bonde, Christian Refshauge and Anne Katrine Vedstesen.
Names on the people in the picture are, from left to right, Anne Marie Larsen, Andreas Gjede, Jens Bonde, Christian Refshauge and Anne Katrine Vedstesen.

The foundation for the CBS Student and Innovation House is the 97 year old police station designed by the famous Danish architect Hack Kampmann’s, located in the heart of Copenhagen at Frederiksberg at Howitzvej 30. The building is a cultural and historical gem and forms part of an urban space with with a high architectural value. The building has more than 3,100 m2 plus an inward yard and large basement. The beautiful square with the water fountain and the  two colonnades in front of the house creates a peaceful space and ceremonial welcome. From the outside the building represents the students’ great grandparents’ traditional Danish resource: craftsmanship, while on the inside the building will be a testimony of today’s proud Danish resource: creative and smart minds, who dares to think innovatively and challenge conventional thinking.

Building this vessel will be no small feat. The students have to-date raised 52.5 million DKK and they have framed the project as a living laboratory for sustainability.

SIH – an interconnecting test bed for sustainability and innovation

SIH will treat this deep-retrofit project as an opportunity to implement, test, research, and teach sustainability, and in that way contribute directly to the significant transitions required to reach a sustainable future. The unique focus of the SIH’s approach would be its emphasis on the behavioural and business dimensions of the sustainability components and innovative approach to collaboration between private and public stakeholders and students.

To this end, the students propose a retrofit project that supports its sustainability objectives by:

  • Produces a world-renowned building project, that
  • Operates at the frontier of sustainability,
  • Is net positive in both human-well-being and environmental outcomes,
  • Produces a world-renowned building project, that operates at the frontier of sustainability,
  • Is net positive in both human-well-being and environmental outcomes,
  • Contributes directly to the health, productivity and subjective wellbeing of everyone in the buildings, and that
  • Directly supports and is reflected in the social innovation and community engagement activities that go on in the building and the campus community, including
  • An ongoing monitoring and social science research program, that offers the opportunity to implement, test, and teach sustainability,
  • A specific focus on the analysis of behaviour change,
  • The encouragement of innovation for societal benefit,
  • A strong focus on breaking down silos between students, faculty and society,
  • Partnerships with firms and organizations interested in sustainable building and neighbourhoods, that offer the capacity to build a regional scale living lab that focuses on the role of the business sector in the sustainability transition.
  • Exploring possible ways for integrating students drive and commitment in more informal learning ways, such as extracurricular projects, informal collaboration with researchers along with the possibility of internships and for-credit engagement with both on-campus and off-campus partners.

Invitation for collaboration

This project, however, cannot happen without the vision and mission of forward thinking companies, civil society organizations and municipalities desiring to push the limits of sustainability. The SIH calls on the builders, the technology providers, the municipalities, the consultants, the green building civil-society, the innovators and the start-ups to come together and devise the most innovative retrofit solutions for a project that will have lasting and scalable building opportunities. The students place a challenge at the feet of these stakeholders and invite them onboard this transformative task.

For more info, contact Anne Marie Larsen:

Kristjan Jespersen is Doctoral Fellow at the Dept. of Intercultural Communication and Management at CBS and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen is Co-Founder of the CBS Student and Innovation House.

Pic by Petra Kleis.