The Green Transition: Leading and Communicating Sustainability


This course focuses on the role of leadership and communication in “the Green Transition” through using the lenses of theoretical models, empirical methods, and research design. We bring forward perspectives on how organizational leadership responds to external forces both in the market context and technological development that create a “creative destruction” (Schumpeter, 1934) of linear business models to produce circular economy organization systems (Nygaard, 2018). Communication theory as an analytical tool to understand leadership of green entrepreneurship is central. Theoretical insights of how leadership is affected by opportunism, incentives, information asymmetry and strategies that manipulate communication e.g., through “greenwashing”, are essential to understand in the context of green transition. Greenwashing of communication is a major threat to the green transformation of both technology and markets. This course includes research perspectives where Ph.D. candidates might find interesting and valuable research problems for further investigation on both effective and dysfunctional communication (Mohr and Nevin, 1990). 

We discuss leadership perspectives derived from implicit norms, values, and trust models. Furthermore, we examine explicit models, economic motivation, incentives and power and dependency theories (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978) for instance nudging (Sunstein and Thaler, 2008), transaction costs (Williamson, 1985), institutional economy (North, 1990), agency theories (Jensen and Meckling, 1976), and stakeholder theory (Freeman, 1984). 

We investigate how green change drives new agency problems like the “lemons” problem (Akerlof, 1970), eco-opportunism like “green-washing”, etc. and how disruptive technology (Christensen and Overdorf, 2000) might create new solutions through i.e., blockchain technology or nudging. 

Several agency problems affect leadership and communication that are related to a combination of globalization and sustainability. Eco-opportunism is a growing empirical problem and a serious threat that we need to study, and this course will investigate empirical problems related to different paths of action. Circular economy drives new organizational models, and we need to analyze how new forms of transaction costs affect new institutions and organizational forms like closed loops, interlocking directories etc. Sustainable change is an external shock based on disruptive changes in the external environment. Shift from linear use-and-throw systems to circular systems are driven by external disruptive technological and market change (Christensen and Overdorf, 2000). Network structures provide diffusion of ideas and sustainable entrepreneurship (Granovetter, 1983). 

We will explore the theoretical and empirical aspects of i.e., the following elements of sustainable corporative change: 

1. Business model innovation for sustainability: 

  • Leadership of disruptive green transformation to a circular economy from linear business models to circular economics, the stakeholder perspective. 
  • Circular business models, Competition, Sharing economics and circular economies. 
  • Sustainable leadership complexity and outsourcing of eco-opportunism, the leadership uncertainty of supply chains in grey, black, and authorized markets, blockchain technology, traceability, and irreversible data technology. 
  • Limits to “Green Growth” and resource dependency, “Blood metals” and scarce elements in transportation, wind-power and solar-power products. Geopolitics, social responsibility and the sourcing of “green elements”, Organizational entrepreneurial response and closed loops.

2. Sustainability communication and marketing: 

  • Protecting the communication (brands, intellectual property etc.) against eco-opportunism through communication technology and business ethics. 
  • Theoretical aspects of sustainability marketing and communication related to “green” pricing, product, distribution and communication strategy, the plastic and packaging problem, reversed logistics and recycling models as part of the product strategy. Effects and theoretical problems associated with information asymmetry related to communication strategy in supply chains. 
  • Green market communication, greenwashing, and demarketing (including transparency communication, communication of “green” brands). 
  • Green-Nudging, persuasion, and cognitive motivation. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, the candidate has achieved the following learning outcomes, defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence: 


The candidate … 

  • has a thorough insight of the role of leadership and communication in “the Green Transition” 
  • has deep insights about perspectives on how organizational leadership responds to external forces both in the market context and technological development. 
  • has knowledge of how to formulate, model, plan and explore different business problems related to sustainability. 
  • has expertise on how different perspectives may contribute to the development of business theory and empirical research. 
  • knows how to communicate research through the authorship of a research paper in the area of sustainability. 
  • understand how to build further knowledge based on cumulated theory and empirical research. 


The candidate … 

  • can apply received theory into a green development -approach. 
  • can design and plan a research project in the area of sustainable development. 
  • can develop a research problem into a research contribution in this area. 
  • knows how to position research related state of the art research and to review contributions in the area. 

General competence 

The candidate … 

  • can contribute to the development of new knowledge within the area of sustainability and entrepreneurship based on existing cumulated theories and empirical research. 
  • can use philosophy of science to review, criticize and suggest improvement of the research publication within the field. 
  • can present weak and strong qualities of research from a philosophy of science perspective. 


PhD in Communication and Leadership

Learning activities

The course is based on the following activities: 

  • Lectures 
  • Group sessions 
  • Presentations 
  • Guest lectures 
  • Discussions 

Teaching dates: May 2. – 3. and May 15. – 16. 2023 

Student work load

Total of 134 hours 

Lectures: 24 hours 

Tutoring: 20 hours 

Self-study: 70 hours 

Preparation for paper presentations: 10 hours 

Preparation for article presentations: 10 hours 


Access to course material and literature from the library, Google scholar, or 

Links to industry

Guest lectures concerning research in the area. 

Compulsory assignments

Coursework requirements: participation in the seminar, presentation of at least one article from the reading list and the individual research paper 

Individual qualification: G/IG (approved/not approved) 

Execution: individual 

Verifiable (right of appeal): no 

Coursework requirements are to be handed in or conducted in accordance with information given by the lecturer and carried out within the duration of the course, as well as registered as approved/not approved at least two weeks before the exam/exam period.

Approved coursework requirements grant students permission to take exams. Unapproved coursework requirements results in the student’s withdrawal from the exam.

Compulsory attendance (individual): this requires 80% participation on seminar days 

Individual qualification: G/IG (approved/not approved) 

Compulsory attendance is to be conducted in accordance with the Guidelines for Chapter 3 Studies – with supplementary provisions for compulsory activity and information given by the lecturer.

Compulsory attendance is to be carried out throughout the duration of the course and registered as approved/not approved at least two weeks prior to the exam/exam period.

Approved coursework requirements grant students permission to take exams. Unapproved coursework requirements result in the student’s withdrawal from the exam.


Exam: Individual written home examination 

Duration: Semester

Grading scale: The Norwegian grading system uses the graded scale pass or fail 

Weighting: 100 % of the overall grade 

Support materials: All support materials are allowed 

If graded fail, the candidate can resubmit the written home exam within 2 weeks from the grade is announced. The number of attempts for the exam is stated in the regulations.