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BA 850 - Sustainability Driven Innovation

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


This course explores sustainability as a business opportunity for developing innovative products and services. It will focus on consumer needs related to sustainability, willingness to pay for these needs, and the innovative processes necessary to create sustainable solutions.


Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • understand and critically analyze current realities, opportunities, and structural issues in sustainability across a range of organizations;
  • manage and evaluate insight-driven research as a precursor to sustainability-driven innovation;
  • map sustainability-driven offerings in the market to evaluate the competitive landscape and find strategic opportunities;
  • design sustainability-centric product and service offerings around identified and tangible market needs;
  • create, iterate, and evaluate initial beta offerings to understand viability.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley, et al, 1st edition. (ISBN 9781118504246). It is an excellent, practical book with deep examples. An online version of this text is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. 




I expect well-honed arguments, salient points, and aggressive collaboration and discussion. No bystanders.

On average, most students spend eight to twelve hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your study habits and your engagement in the casework. What you receive from the course will to a great degree depend on how strongly you engage with the cases and peer discussions.

Major Assignments

This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

Weekly Cases (60% of the total course grade)

Each week, we will cover an open case designed to reinforce and extend the week's topic. These cases are approximately two pages, single-spaced, which is not a tremendous amount of space, as we want to focus on the most important discussion points and findings of the week. I have taken this approach for two reasons: 1) because "padded papers" benefit no one, and 2) because we should generally practice concise, compelling writing styles. These papers will then be uploaded to the class discussion forum.

Weekly Case Responses (20% of the total course grade)

After the cases are posted to the discussion forum, you will then reply/respond/refute/extend a post of one of your colleagues, with an approximately one-page, single-spaced Case Response. Take a stand, back it up, and most of all, have fun. This course is structured to push us all with a co-learning approach, and I expect a lot of effort to be placed into the thought itself.

Final Case (20% of the total course grade)

The Final Case is a ten-page application of all we have learned over the semester, applied to a single company/offering of your choosing. If you notice, it is 20% of your grade, which may be considered "underweighted." I have elected to keep the final case reasonable in scope and to place the emphasis on the Weekly Cases, as they allow a far more specific approach to the content.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
Week 0: 
  • Orientation
Post an Introduction Discussion Post
Week 1:
Realities of Sustainability - Planet
  • The 3Ps and Triple Bottom Line
  • The historical context of environmental issues
  • Resource scarcity
  • Greenhouse emissions and carbon taxes
  • Environmental standards and certifications
  • Regulatory and public influences
  • Corporate Sustainability Reports (CSRs)
  • "Planet" in the CSR
  • Sustainability innovation leaders - Planet
Case Assignment: Patagonia and REI
Week 2: 
Realities of Sustainability - People
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Workforce training and development
  • Working conditions
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Whistleblower anonymity and protection
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • "People" in the CSR
  • Sustainability innovation leaders - People
Case Assignment: Nike and Apple
Week 3: 
Realities of Sustainability - Profit
  • Materiality and sustainability imperatives
  • Profitability and added value
  • Compartmentalized v. Infused sustainability
  • Operational efficiency
  • Efficiency stagnation
  • Regulatory risk and the hidden cost of compliance
  • Sustainability innovation leaders - Profit
Case Assignment: IKEA
Week 4: 
Identifying Opportunities in Sustainability I
  • Critical analysis of public filings
  • The Clouds and Roots Model of Strategy
  • Mining GRI reports
  • Mining unstructured CSRs
  • Supplier scorecards and requirements
  • Non-sustainability sources
Case Assignment: Finding opportunity

Week 5:
Identifying Opportunities in Sustainability II
  • Value-based innovation and sustainability
  • Introduction to White, Gray, and Black space innovation
  • White space innovation
  • Gray space innovation
  • Black space innovation
  • Analysis of WGB spaces
Case Assignment: Sketching WGB spaces
Week 6: 
Insight-Driven Innovation I
  • Truths of research and innovation
  • Introduction to methodologies
  • Surveys
  • Message/Proposition Testing
  • Focus groups
  • Depth interviews and observation
Case Assignment: Structuring research
Week 7:
Insight-Driven Innovation II
  • Levels of Insight
  • Means End Chains and Laddering
  • Cognitive Mapping for Innovation
  • Strategic paths and Map ideation
  • The importance of messaging
Case Assignment: MEC and Cognitive Mapping
Week 8:
The Ten Types of Innovation
  • Profit Model Innovation
  • Network Innovation
  • Structure Innovation
  • Process Innovation
  • Product Performance Innovation
  • Product System Innovation
  • Service Innovation
  • Channel Innovation
  • Brand Innovation
  • Customer Engagement
Case Assignment: Identifying the Ten Types
Week 9:
Organizational Context
  • Competencies and Advantages
  • Identifying competencies
  • Considering resources
  • Core competencies v. innovation competencies
  • Competencies on the Map
Case Assignment: Five Contexts
Week 10: 
Testing the Offering I - Stated Preference Methods
  • Introduction
  • Expert judgments
  • Customer survey
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Van Westendorp meter
Final Case Prospectus
Week 11: 
Testing the Offering II - Revealed Preference Methods
  • The importance of live testing
  • Beta testing
  • Philosophies of Microtesting
  • Tactics of Microtesting
  • Microtesting tools
  • Microtesting analytics
Case Assignment: Microtesting the Offering
Week 12: 
Honing and Evaluating the Concept
  • The Conversion Funnel
  • Statistical Significance
  • Iteration
Continue work on Final Case
Final Case-Final Case