Business in Society Research Group


  • about business in society

Who we are

We conduct interdisciplinary, high-quality research on the dynamic and complex relations, interactions and interdependencies between business and society. The role of business in society has fundamentally changed over the past decades, as corporate stakeholders place increasing demands on modern organisations. These demands have redirected corporate attention from economic responsibilities towards social, environmental and political responsibilities. These demands have also intensified with the growing need for urgent global action and increased international collaboration, promoting common understandings and frameworks such as those most recently seen in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Therefore, to act sustainably not only includes environmental obligations but affects all organisational processes, relationships and practices – and is a highly prioritised necessity. However, what do these issues mean for businesses, non-profit organisations, and civil actors? How do they affect each other, as well as their role, reputation and legitimacy in society? How can the different actors take actions on such urgencies? How are corporate strategies prioritised, developed and communicated? How are stakeholders included in such strategies, and how do they respond to corporate efforts? How are relationships among businesses, non-profit organisations and stakeholders affected by (and affect) societal macro-structures, institutions and cultural values?

Many questions are still left unresolved for modern companies to act sustainably. Accordingly, we are currently witnessing a huge political, civil and corporate interest in sustainable practices. However, at the same time companies search for best practices for unpacking the opportunities, challenges and concrete processes of corporate sustainability.

What we do


Our research seeks to advance our understanding of social, environmental and political issues and their relation to business, thereby also addressing the challenges articulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, we focus on the role and responsibilities of businesses in relation to consumers, employees, the news media, the public sector, government, and society at large. Our ongoing and past research covers the following areas: 

  • The political and social role of business (e.g. corporate and brand activism, corporate volunteering) 
  • The interplay between organisations and their stakeholders (e.g. cross-sector social partnerships, news media agenda)
  • Business ethics (e.g. modern slavery, whistleblowing)
  • CSR strategy and communication (e.g. employee engagement, CSR reporting)
  • Stakeholder dialogue and collaboration in sustainable strategy development (e.g. co-creating CSR, CSR value creation)

Our research has appeared in journals such as Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Business Research, Business Strategy and the Environment, Journal of Public Affairs, Society and Business Review, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, Business & Society and Marketing Theory.

We present our work at conferences such as the Academy of Management, International Association for Business and Society, Corporate Responsibility Research Conference, and CSR Communication Conference.

External funding
Danish Council for Independent Research: "Discursive Power over Financial News” (2017-2020)


The Business in Society faculty members contribute to the following educational programmes:

  • BA Marketing and Management Communication (until 2021)
  • BSc Economics and Business Administration
  • MA Corporate Communication (until 2021)
  • MA Strategic Communication (from 2020)
  • MSc IT, Communication and Organisation
  • MSc Business Administration
  • MA Experience Economy
  • PhD programme in Management
  • + MBA courses  

For further information please contact (the heads of the research group): Anne Ellerup Nielsen & Irene Pollach

Research Network SustAct

The Business in Society Research group hosts the Nordic research network Sustainability Goals in Action (SustAct), which includes researchers from Lund University, University of Oslo, Aalto University, Aalborg University, Copenhagen Business School, the Danish School of Media and Journalism, and Aarhus University. The network rests upon a fundamental vision of inclusion and democratisation of sustainable processes, thereby challenging the conventional demarcations between organisations and society in rearticulating the corporate-centric focus on shared value creation by inviting all relevant actors to take an active part in the value co-creating processes. Therefore, our research agenda not only focuses on economic and social outputs, but also on the specific processes and practices of sustainability, and the role of business in society.