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FU-BEST 33: Green Business: German and European Sustainable Entrepreneurship

InstructorJana Gebauer (Spring only), , Linda Bergset (Fall only)
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


This course provides an introduction to recent developments in Germany and the EU with regard to a green and sustainable economy. It offers theoretical as well as practical insights based on conceptual discussions, case studies, a field-trip, and group work to develop a green business case.

The acute awareness of environmental challenges has permeated German and European society, politics, and business for decades. The relationship between business and environmental issues has, however, changed drastically over the years and has continuously been impacted by the interaction between the German and European Union political levels. Historically, business’ environmental impact has been viewed more negatively as “market failure”. This view is increasingly becoming more differentiated. Nowadays, positive environmental impacts, which might be achievable through sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainable core business activities, are increasingly being acknowledged.

This course begins by exploring key concepts for a green and sustainable economy in the German and European policy contexts and then looks at the development that has taken place both at the political level and in the economy in recent time. We then focus on the micro-level, i.e., the businesses themselves: What are the motivating forces behind entrepreneurs’ and businesses’ decision to make a strategic commitment to environmental sustainability? What are the roles and strategies of different types of companies? Why and how do incumbents and start-ups engage in environmental protection in different ways? We will also look at the strong connection between politics and business in the European context and the inclination of many sustainable entrepreneurs to engage in policy making in a manner that also turns them into “institutional” entrepreneurs, acting at a meso-level. Finally, in this more theoretical part of the course, we will look at how sustainable entrepreneurs may encounter market and regulatory barriers related to environmental externalities, path dependencies, and lobbying activities by incumbent companies. We will also look at (partial) solutions to such barriers provided by e.g. incubators, business competitions, universities, investors, and public funding programmes.

In the more practical part of the course, we will engage with good practice examples hearing directly from the entrepreneurs themselves (guest speakers) and by going on a field-trip. As Berlin has a special reputation for hosting a vibrant start-up scene, we will visit the Green Garage on the Euref campus in Schöneberg, where we will learn more about the acceleration and incubation processes of the EU initiative “Climate KIC”, and meet the start-ups based there. The students will also be encouraged to creatively develop their own business ideas and plan the initial steps using the Sustainable Business Canvas. Their business concept/model will then be presented and discussed in the group, providing tips for future improvement and possible realisation of the ideas.

The goal of the course is to provide students with a theoretical foundation in the development of green and sustainable solutions within the economic context of Germany and Europe and to develop an understanding of how sustainable entrepreneurship is unfolding creative potential and opportunities for environmental improvements using core business activities. The course also aims at equipping students with more practical tools and processes for developing their own business ideas for the green economy.