Shinji Hasegawa (Waseda University)


Course description
This course aims to examine the global business activities of multinational companies (MNCs) through the lens of sustainability. It delves into key sustainability challenges such as addressing poverty in developing countries, restructuring global supply chains, promoting equity in human resources management, and enhancing global environmental protection, and seeks to understand how MNC management strategies can effectively tackle these challenges.

The course is structured around three main components:

1. Historical Evolution of MNCs' Sustainability Efforts:
The course begins by examining the historical trajectory of MNCs' engagement with sustainable management. Over the past two centuries, MNCs have often prioritized profit over sustainability, resulting in environmental degradation, labor exploitation, and other negative impacts, particularly in developing countries. However, in response to growing social criticism and changing global dynamics, MNCs have increasingly embraced corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable business practices. The course explores this transition and the evolving relationship between MNCs and sustainability.

2. Mechanisms of MNC Business Models for Sustainability:
Traditionally, sustainability initiatives were viewed as a cost to companies, posing a trade-off between profitability and social/environmental responsibility. This course reframes MNC sustainability management as a form of business model innovation aimed at reconciling these seemingly competing objectives. It examines the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainability and explores how MNCs can integrate sustainability into their business strategies. Topics include carbon neutrality, technology transfer, social inclusion, gender diversity, and poverty alleviation.

3. Integration of Sustainability Challenges in MNC Business:
This segment delves into how MNCs can incorporate various sustainability challenges into their core business activities. It examines initiatives such as Base of the Pyramid (BoP) business models, initially pursued for sales opportunities but evolving to include stakeholders such as the poorest individuals and women in their supply chain. This illustrates how economic sustainability initiatives can also drive social sustainability efforts, fostering synergies between the two. On the other hand, some sustainability challenges may have mutual trade-offs. An analysis will be presented that attempts to capture the interrelationships between challenges using quantitative data produced by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
Additionally, the course discusses emerging concepts like SDG management and Creating Shared Value (CSV) as frameworks for aligning business objectives with societal needs. It also explores how MNCs can navigate contemporary sustainability issues, including the aftermath of COVID-19 and geopolitical tensions.

Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on understanding the interconnectedness of sustainability challenges and the diverse stakeholders involved in MNC operations. Case studies and real-world examples are utilized to illustrate various SDG management initiatives by MNCs, fostering interactive discussions among participants.

Note: The course content and structure may be subject to adjustments at the discretion of the instructor to better meet the learning needs of the students.

Learning outcomes of the course
This course aims to redefine the global business activities of multinational corporations (MNCs) from a sustainability perspective. Sustainability covers a wide range of goals identified by the SDGs, including environment, climate, poverty and hunger, health, human rights, gender, and peace. It is essential to leverage companies' resources, capabilities, and initiatives to make our societies sustainable. In particular, the capacity of MNCs can be the most powerful tool in the pursuit of global sustainability, but it could also be a hindrance. In this sense, understanding the relationship between MNCs and sustainability will provide students with an extremely powerful weapon, whether they will be policymakers, management practitioners, employees, investors, consumers, or other stakeholders in the future.


Teaching and evaluation methods

Teaching methods:
Each class will consist of a 50-minute lecture and a 40-minute group discussion. In the second half of the course, students will be asked to give individual presentations related to lecture topics.

Evaluation methods:
Participation in each class (20%),
Group presentations and Individual Presentation (50%),
final report (30%)

Caneque, F.C., and Hart, S. (eds.), Base of Pyramid 3.0, Routledge, 2017.
Porter, M., and Kramer, M., “Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent capitalism - and unleash a wave of innovation and growth,” Harvard Business Review, 2011.
Teutsch, B., 100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women, She Writes Press, 2015.
Urata, S., Akao, K., and Washizu, A. (eds.), Sustainable Development Disciplines for Society, Springer, 2022. (e-Book)



Last updated: June 14, 2024


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