Sustainability and SMEs: Integrating sustainability in SMEs’ strategies and operations

#International Businsess and Management

5 ETCS | 150 hours


Language of instruction



Prof. Dr. Philipp Schorn

Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences

Fabian Dargel, M.Sc.

Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences

Matt Bromley

University of Derby


Students allowed to take modules at home institution


Mode of teaching


20 – 30

Implementation time

4 live session:
30 March (4 hour session):
20 April (2 hour session),
11 May (2 hour session);
25 May (4 hour session)


Thursday 10 AM – 2 PM (Webex, Digicampus)

Final Exam: 25 May 2023

Course information and Implementation information


More and more large companies are implementing sustainability actions and transforming their business models into sustainable ones due to stricter legal requirements and as a reaction to changing customers’ and investors’ demands. Small and medium-sized enterprises face less strict regulations but are slowly confronted with an indirect pressure to start considering the impact of their operations on society and environment as different stakeholder groups are increasingly demanding information about sustainability related aspects (e.g. banks, customers) from them.

Changing business environment and requirements of the society:

  • Climate change
  • Scarce resources
  • Geo-political crisis
  • Social tensions
  • Awareness of diversity, social equality and protection of environment

Companies need to react to those changes and consider the impact of their business actions on environmental and society as a whole. To cope with changing environments, companies have to adopt measures to foster sustainability activities and in the end, they need to convert their business models into sustainable ones.

Advantages of a sustainable business model is easier access to:

  • Global supply chains and markets
  • Stakeholders and partnerships
  • Public procurement
  • Qualified talents and development of competencies
  • Sustainable funding sources and better financing conditions
  • Funding for transition of the business model

Problem: How should companies develop and implement a sustainable business model?

After completing the course, students will be able to act as external consultants and develop a sustainability strategy for their clients. Overall, they improve their analytical skills, communication and negotiation skills as well as teamwork and social skills, which becoming more and more important in today’s business life.


    Upfront, students get informed about SME: What are typical characteristics of a SME? What are typical examples  of a SME? Furthermore, sustainability is defined as a concept that includes ecological, social and economic factors which have to be analyzed during this course. Afterwards, students will work in interdisciplinary and multicultural teams and have to select an SME as a case by themselves. They are not forced to contact the company and can just restrict themselves in using publicly available information.

    Students are expected to take on the role as a consultant for an SME and develop a strategy to convert the business model or adopt sustainability measures into the company activities.

    Teaching methods

    Virtual teaching and learning + Collaborative teaching and learning

    Course material (including recommended or required reading)

    Will be provided in live online sessions and via learning platform (moodle).


    • Moodle
    • Sciebo
    • Webex
    Assessment methods and criteria

    Individual students groups have to:

    • Hold a group presentation focusing on the following points:
      • What is sustainability (including ecological, social and economic view)?
      • How does sustainability benefit the analyzed SME in general?
      • Development of a conversion strategy either for the business model as a whole or selected process (e.g. HR, Finance, Marketing, etc.).
      • Expected impacts/benefits for the SME from the developed strategy.
      • Requirements for this strategy.
    • Write a professional business report about the developed strategy containing all relevant information and further details:

    The assignment is to make a design of a professional product that could help the organization in realizing its sustainability-policy. Different approaches are possible, depending on the need of the organization.


    Evaluation scale

    In total, students can achieve 100 points. The grading scale is as follows:

    95 – 100 points 1.3 (excellent)
    90 – 94 points 1.3 (excellent)
    85 – 89 points 1.7 (very good)
    80 – 84 points 1.7 (very good)
    75 – 79 points 2.3 (good)
    70 – 74 points 2.7 good
    65 – 69 points 3.0 (satisfactory)
    60 – 64 points 3.0 (satisfactory)
    55 – 59 points 3.7 (sufficient)
    50 – 54 points 4.0 (sufficient)
    < 49 points 5.0 (fail)

    Criteria for grading will be communicated to participants during the introduction.

    International Connections

    The course is offered within the Erasmus funded VERSATILE project. The course is open to second, third- and fourth-year students at the participating universities.

    • Tampere University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
    • University of Derby (UK)
    • Rhine Waal University of Applied Sciences (Germany)
    • Masaryk University (Czech Republic)

    Register for the Course Today!

    How to applyContact Admissions