Excerpt from course description

Sustainable People Management


Majority of organizations in the public and private sectors recognize the importance of the three pillars of sustainability (economy, environment, and social/people). In practice, however, the emphasis on these pillars vary greatly. Traditionally, financial sustainability has been the prime concern for organizations. Growing awareness of organization environmental footprints has resulted in an increasing integration of environmental consciousness in strategic decisions (e.g., investing in waste sorting and recycling systems, energy-saving solutions, and more environment friendly supply chains). Far less attention, however, has been devoted to social sustainability – in particulate, to the social impact resulting from people management decisions.

This can be attributed to two underlying reasons. The first is the lack of knowledge of what social sustainability implies and how it can be operationalized. Unlike environmental footprints, defining social footprints is more contested. Additionally, estimating monetary value (gains or losses) for social impact is still uncommon (albeit not impossible). The second is the inherent tension between efficiency and sustainability. This tension has been acknowledged in research on corporate sustainability and been studied through the paradox lens. According to this perspective, by explicitly acknowledging tensions between different desirable, yet interdependent and conflicting sustainability objectives, decision-makers in organizations are able to achieve competing sustainability goals simultaneously.

This course responds to the need for social sustainability integration in organizational life. As such, it focuses on people management in organizations from a sustainability perspective and discusses the role of managers and leaders in designing and maintaining sustainable work systems that contribute to corporate sustainability and societal sustainable development. More specifically, the course aims to develop participants’ critical thinking and understanding of sustainable people management, improve their reflective ability regarding common managerial and leadership practices, and equip them with the knowledge required to attain social sustainability.

The various learning activities are based on recent scientific research in the field. The course, additionally, addresses some of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the practical complexity of concurrently attending to the competing demands of sustainability.

This course is relevant for managers and leaders in public and private organizations and across sectors. By attending this course, the participants will develop knowledge and skills needed to practically work with social sustainability. This is not a prescriptive course – rather, it is a course that aims to broaden participants’ knowledge and critical thinking on how social sustainability can be part of corporate sustainability.

In addition to case studies, the course uses literature from the fields of sustainable HRM, strategic human resource management, organizational behavior, corporate sustainability (CS), and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Course content

Part 1: Sustainable people management

  1. Key concepts and approaches
  2. Challenges and tensions
  3. The paradox perspective
  4. Innovation and social sustainability

Part 2: Developing strategies, policies and practices for sustainable people management

  1. Strategies, policies and practices – the whats and whys
  2. People management and society (e.g., diversity and inclusion, aging workforce)
  3. People management and the environment (e.g., green HRM practices)

Part 3: Assessing and communicating sustainable people management

  1. Why to assess and communicate
  2. What to assess and how (e.g., measures, narratives)
  3. Sustainable people management and Sustainability Reporting
  4. The (in)visible consequences of not assessing


This is an excerpt from the complete course description for the course. If you are an active student at BI, you can find the complete course descriptions with information on eg. learning goals, learning process, curriculum and exam at portal.bi.no. We reserve the right to make changes to this description.