Pernilla Andersson

Senior lecturer

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Works at Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education
Telephone 08-16 45 99
Visiting address Svante Arrhenius väg 20 A, plan 3,4,5
Room P 443
Postal address Institutionen för de humanistiska och samhällsvetenskapliga ämnenas didaktik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Pernilla Andersson is senior lecturer in social sciences education at HSD since january 2017. She has a background as teacher in social sciences, international economomics, environmental economics and history within upper secondary education in Sweden. She has also worked as lecturer, mentor/supervisor and project manager in the field of environment and sustainability education (nationally and internationally). After completing a master degree in educational sciences with specialisation in curriculum theory at Uppsala University she started her doctoral studies at Södertörn University 2011. She completed her doctoral studies (in environmental science with specialisation in educational sciences) and defended her doctoral thesis 'The Responsible Business Person - Studies of Business Education for Sustainability' in 2016. During 2016 she worked as project manager for SWEDESD at Uppsala University and as researcher for Örebro University before she came to HSD as postdoctoral researcher in social sciences education in january 2017. 

Sustainability issues and different (often interdisciplinary) ways to take on these often 'wicked' issues in the context of business, economics and social sciences education in general are central for her work, both when it comes to teaching and research interests. 


I have long experience of teaching at uppersecondary level in subjects such as social sciences, international economics, environmental economics and history. 

I have also long experience of working with pedagogical development as project manager, mentor or supervisor for teachers or others involved in the development of mostly global education, environment and sustainability education, and gender pedagogy (nationally and internationally). I have also participated in support materials for teachers within this field, also presented as a conference paper at WEEC in Durban 2007 (see separate link): 

Andersson, Pernilla, and Ulrika Lundquist. 2006. 'Gender didactics for sustainability - bridges between vision and reality'. Paper presented at World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC). Durban, 2007.

(for the original text see the Swedish version)


My research interest involves environment and sustainability education with specific focus on exploring education in economics (in a broad sense) and how education could be developed so that students could become better equipped to address sustainability issues. Issues that often are complex and uncertain. 


Doctoral Thesis

Andersson, P. (2016). The Responsible Business Person - Studies of Business Education for Sustainability. (Phd), Södertörn University, Huddinge.   (Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations 116)


Journal Articles (peer-reviewed)

Andersson, P. (2018). Business as un-usual through dislocatory moments – change for sustainability and scope for subjectivity in classroom practice. Environmental Education Research, 24(5), 648-662. doi:10.1080/13504622.2017.1320704

Andersson, P., & Öhman, J. (2016). Logics of business education for sustainability. Environmental Education Research, 22(4), 463-479. doi:

Andersson, P., Öhman, J., & Östman, L. (2011). A business to change the world. Utbildning & Demokrati, 20(1), 57-74. doi:


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2017. Pernilla Andersson. DEE 2017

    New teaching approaches to include ‘sustainable development’ in the business curriculum are currently being developed with the expectation that students will become better equipped to address sustainability issues as budding business people. At the same time education for sustainable development has been argued as being particularly challenging in the context of business education due to assumptions underpinning orthodox business theories. This article presents a study of the roles of a business person privileged by teachers in the classroom when the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is incorporated in the subject of business economics. The empirical material, consisting of video recorded observations in five teachers’ classrooms, was collected two years after the inclusion of the concept in the upper secondary school syllabus in Sweden. The results show how different rules and conditions for doing business are foregrounded in classroom practice, which have different implications for whether a responsible business person is expected to: a) adapt to self-interest (in narrow terms), b) respond to consumers’ increasing interest for sustainable products, or c) be sensitive to stakeholders’ diverging interests. Detailed empirical examples illuminating how different classroom practices open up for different (egoistic vs altruistic) roles are provided with the aim that they should be useful for teachers (and anyone involved in design of lessons and/or educational materials) to develop a professional vision to identify when and how in educational practice ‘homo economicus’ becomes a norm as well as when and how other norms might emerge.

  • 2017. Pernilla Andersson.

    Calls for the inclusion of ‘sustainable development’ in the business curriculum have increased in the wake of financial crisis and increased concern about climate change. As a result, new initiatives are emerging and new teaching approaches are being developed with the expectation that business students will be better equipped to address environmental and social challenges. However, in relation to the business curriculum, education for sustainable development has been argued as being particularly challenging (Springett 2005). The challenges relate to assumptions underpinning orthodox business theories (Hühn 2014) and that sustainability issues often are uncertain and complex. Uncertainty and complexity is particularly challenging for predominant responsibility regimes relying on science as a source of independent, objective and reliable knowledge.

    To facilitate an analysis of the applicability of different responsibility regimes for addressing complex and uncertain sustainability issues, Pellizzoni (2004) has developed a typology of responsibility regimes. Liability regimes are based on laws and regulations and can be likened to the ‘polluter-pays-principle’. Accountability regimes are characterised by ‘good governance’ or ‘the audit society’. Care regimes are based on normative beliefs, e.g. the idea that the welfare state should take care of its citizens or, from a business perspective, the ‘good master’ taking responsibility for the needs of his workers that he knows the best. Responsiveness regimes implies taking responsibility by anticipating the needs of others without being prompted or without the need for previously established principles. Different responsibility regimes have different implications for what a responsible business person needs to know and do. These include knowing and following laws and regulations in the juridical system (liability regime), formulating and following up on self-imposed principles (accountability regime), knowing and providing for the needs of one’s workers as the good master (care regime) and listening to what stakeholders want before deciding what to do (responsiveness regime).

    When acknowledging uncertainty and complexity as a permanent condition, a rupture occurs in the linear process from scientific knowledge to legislation that industry could rely on to operate ‘safely’. This implies a deficit with regard to liability regimes, because the system requires a state that knows what to ask for and how to apply control and sanctions. This deficit can be seen as a backdrop to the development of accountability regimes. Proponents of accountability regimes emphasise the benefits of the integration of environmental concern in corporate decision-making. However, in face of uncertainty and complexity, accountability regimes suffer from the same deficit as liability regimes, in that both regimes depend on predefined principles (expressed in law or in the form of voluntary regulations). In contrast to liability and accountability regimes, care or responsiveness regimes do not rely on pre-defined principles. Either one just knows, like a mother is assumed to know the needs of her child (care regime) or one makes a judgement by listening to others needs in a given situation (responsiveness regime). In the absence of principles, personal feelings are necessary ‘tools’ when listening to the needs of others and deciding what to do. Considering the deficits of liability and accountability regimes in the face of uncertainty and complexity, Pellizzoni argues (without discarding other regimes) for an increased attention to responsibility understood as responsiveness (Pellizzoni 2007).

    Against this background, it is important to contribute with knowledge about how education for sustainable development can enhance responsible business practices. The purpose of this article is thus to contribute knowledge about the roles of a business person that are articulated in business education when the concept of sustainable development is included in the curriculum, and how these roles can make students, as future business people equipped to address uncertain and complex sustainability issues.

    Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources UsedThat sustainability issues often are characterised by uncertainty and complexity (Pellizzoni 2004), which has specific implications for how sustainability issues can or ought to be approached, is here taken as a theoretical emanating point. The study also draws on anti-essentialist and poststructuralist discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe 1985/2001, Laclau 1990, Glynos and Howarth 2007). Anti-essentialist implies that there is nothing ‘natural’ about the role of business, or what sustainable development is. The role of a business person is in other words considered as a social construction.  The concept of sustainable development and the role of business are both open to different interpretations, which makes ‘the roles of a responsible business person’ as articulated in educational practice important objects for investigation. In short, the analysis involved synthesising results from four empirical studies of ‘the roles of a business person articulated in business education’ at upper secondary education in Sweden, which then was analysed using Pellizzoni’s typology of responsibility. The four empirical studies were about the roles of a business person: as privileged in textbooks when sustainability issues is included (Andersson, Öhman, and Östman 2011), as articulated in teachers’ expected learning outcomes (Andersson and Öhman 2015), as coming into play through teachers’ actions in classroom practice when sustainable development was incorporated in the lesson content (Andersson, manuscript), and as taken up by students, in classroom practice (Andersson, accepted 2017). In total the empirical material consisted of six textbooks in international economics (published 1994-2008), eight interviews with teachers (conducted 2012-13), and video recordings of 20 lessons with 5 teachers (conducted 2013-14). For a more elaborated account of the theoretical framework and a detailed of the empirical material including ethical considerations when collecting the material see also Andersson (2016). Although different empirical materials required different analytical procedures (accounted for in detail in each study), the results from the four studies all involved expectations of what a business person taking responsibility for sustainability ought to do. This facilitated a comprehensive synthesis of the results from all four studies by comparing ‘the expectations’. By analysing the 13 roles focusing on similarities and differences three categories of roles were identified. These categories of roles were then analysed drawing on Pellizzoni’s typology of responsibility and argument that responsiveness is an important prerequisite for addressing uncertain and complex sustainability issues.Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or FindingsThree broad categories of the role of a responsible business person were identified. These categories imply that a business person is expected to either adapt to, add or create ethical values. Adapting to ethical values implies that a business person is expected to maximise profit while following the law. Adding ethical values implies responding to external demands to take responsibility for environment and society and take steps beyond what is required according to the law. Creating ethical values implies using business as a tool for change and being responsive to the diverging interests of different stakeholders when making business decisions. Both the adapting role and the adding role corresponds to the role of a business person within an accountability regime while the creating role corresponds to the role of a business person within a responsiveness regime. Drawing on Pellizzoni’s reasoning regarding what qualities are important to address uncertain and complex sustainability issues it is concluded that students could become unequipped (adapting role), ill-equipped (adding role) or better equipped (creating role) to address such issues, depending on how the concept sustainable development is incorporated in business education. Although the empirical material is limited to upper secondary education in Sweden the results has international relevance in that economics education worldwide to a large extent is based on the same literature and theoretical underpinnings. The three roles for a business person identified in this study could therefore be useful for any teacher or curriculum developer when reflecting on how education better can equip students as future business people to address uncertain and complex sustainability issues. This is relevant for all environment and sustainability educators since the social construction of a business person happens anywhere ‘business’ is articulated.ReferencesAndersson, Pernilla. Teaching business education for sustainability.Andersson, Pernilla. 2016. "The Responsible Business Person - Studies of Business Education for Sustainability." Phd, Södertörn University (Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations 116).Andersson, Pernilla. accepted. "Business as un-usual through dislocatory moments."  Environmental Education Research.Andersson, Pernilla, and Johan Öhman. 2015. "Logics of business education for sustainability."  Environmental Education Research:1-17. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2015.1015493.Andersson, Pernilla, Johan Öhman, and Leif Östman. 2011. "A business to change the world."  Utbildning & Demokrati 20 (1):57-74.Fergus, A. H. T., and J. I. A. Rowney. 2005. "Sustainable Development: Lost Meaning and Opportunity?"  Journal of Business Ethics 60 (1):17-27. doi: 10.2307/25075243.Glynos, Jason, and David Howarth. 2007. Logics of critical explanation in social and political theory, Routledge innovations in political theory ; 26. London: Routledge.Gross, Matthias. 2007. "The Unknown in Process Dynamic Connections of Ignorance, Non-Knowledge and Related Concepts."  Current Sociology 55 (5):742-759.Hühn, MatthiasPhilip. 2014. "You Reap What You Sow: How MBA Programs Undermine Ethics." Journal of Business Ethics no. 121 (4):527-541. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1733-z.Laclau, Ernesto. 1990. New reflections on the revolution of our time, Phronesis (London), 99-1834809-7. London: Verso.Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 1985/2001. Hegemony and socialist strategy : towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso.Pellizzoni, Luigi. 2004. "Responsibility and Environmental Governance."  Environmental Politics 13 (3):541-565. doi: 10.1080/0964401042000229034.Springett, Delyse. 2005. "‘Education for sustainability’ in the business studies curriculum: a call for a critical agenda." Business Strategy and the Environment no. 14 (3):146-159. doi: 10.1002/bse.447.

  • 2017. Pernilla Andersson.

    Paper presented at 2nd ARTEM Organizational Creativity and Sustainability International Conference, 14th-16th September 2017, Nancy, France


    Teaching business economics for sustainability with different interests in focus

    Author: Pernilla Andersson

    (for full abstract (including textboxes and table 1) see attachment)


    Calls for the inclusion of ‘sustainable development’ in the business curriculum has increased significantly in the wake of financial crisis and increased concern about climate change. New teaching approaches are being developed with the expectation that students will be better equipped to address environmental and social challenges.  However, there is also a concern that the concept of ‘sustainable development’ has lost the potential to address environmental and social challenges. It has been described as having become a wolf in sheep’s clothing that merely provides superficial solutions and supports the status quo, thereby taking the wind out of the sails of ‘the real’ environmentalists (Blühdorn, 2007; Fergus & Rowney, 2005). In relation to the business curriculum, education for sustainable development has been argued as being particularly challenging (Springett, 2005). The challenge is in part related to assumptions underpinning orthodox business theories. In short, the argument is that the assumption that all humans are driven by self-interest has a detrimental effect for societies by creating the assumed selfish behaviour. Research show that economists and students in economics indeed act more egoistically (Cohn, Fehr, & Marechal, 2014), although there is a disagreement regarding the effect of education, mainly because of the potential selection effect (Etzioni, 2015). I here seek to make a contribution to this field, not by adding an answer to this particular debate but by a study of educational practice in situ.  Several studies show different kinds of socialisation effects (Wang, Malhotra, & Murnighan, 2011). However, there is a lack of empirical research focusing the particular aspects of economics education that could have these socialisation effects. In this paper, I will therefore illuminate situations in educational practice where certain perceptions of appropriate actions emerge, are reproduced or challenged. Considering the current development of new teaching approaches to include sustainability in the business curriculum and the potentially detrimental effect of the homo economicus assumption, it is relevant to pay attention to the roles of a business person that are privileged when ‘sustainable development’ is integrated in business education. The purpose of this paper is therefore to contribute with knowledge about the roles of a business person that are privileged in business education when the concept sustainable development is integrated in classroom practice, and how different parts of the subject matter and/or particular classroom practices open up for different roles.


    Methodological approach

    In order to allow empirical openness regarding the role of business privileged in educational practice I draw on antiessentialist and poststructuralist discourse theory (Glynos & Howarth, 2007; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985/2001), which implies regarding the role of a responsible business person as a social construct. From this theoretical perspective, the places and processes (for instance classroom practice) in which the meaning of ‘the role of a responsible business person’ is made are important study objects. This poststructuralist approach to educational research is also inspired by the work of Cherryholmes (1988) who argue that educational researchers should facilitate teachers’ and students’ critical reflection by making discourses, and the rules, presuppositions and assumptions on which they rest, visible. In the context of this study, this is considered important for teachers or anyone involved in the design of educational activities and/or materials to identify, handle or avoid the kind of situations where ‘homo economicus’ ceases to be a theoretical assumption, is talked about as a fact and thereby (risks) ‘becoming real’. The analytical concept of a logic (Glynos & Howarth, 2007) is used to analyse the roles of a responsible business person privileged by teachers in classroom practice. Thus, analysing the logic that is articulated in a classroom is a way of capturing the social construction of the role of business in a specific situation.


    The empirical material

    The empirical material was collected in five teachers’ classrooms, two years after a curriculum reform that included integrating the concept of sustainable development into the business economics syllabus at upper secondary level. The empirical material consisted of field notes, 20 video and audio-recorded lessons (transcribed in detail), images of the teachers’ notes and written instructions on the whiteboard and the texts used in the lessons. The process of collecting the empirical material, including the kind of ethical considerations that were made is in part previously published (Andersson, 2016) and is further elaborated in the full paper. The different aspects of the subject matter involved an analysis of a business annual report/financial performance indicators, marketing/eco-labelling, branding, running a business and the social responsibilities of a business. The teaching methods included lecturing, leading group discussions and value exercises, supervising individual assignments and leading discussions after watching documentaries about the consequences of unsustainable business practices.




    Analytical procedure

    As a first step I identified and described all the teachers’ actions that involved a depiction of what could be regarded as unsustainable, a description of other actors in relation to a business, a description of the conditions of doing business, or indications of what a business can or should do. Repeated actions, such as when a teacher asked a different student a similar question, were excluded in order to provide dense lists of teachers’ actions for each set of lessons. The teachers’ actions were listed in chronological order to facilitate an analysis of each action in the context of the lessons’ dramaturgy.

    Second, in order to identify the logic or logics that emerged, the teachers’ actions were analysed in terms of how they, explicitly and implicitly, presented the rules and conditions of doing business and the role of a business person in the context of talking about sustainable development. As a result, I identified three logics of doing business sustainably, each positioning the role of a business person differently. 


    The roles of a responsible business person in classroom practice

    In this section, three different roles of a business person that were privileged by teachers in classroom practice are presented. The full paper also includes detailed examples from classroom practice and general descriptions of the lessons in which the specific logic was identified to contextualise the examples. In this short paper the titles of textboxes 1-11 are provided to indicate where more detailed examples will be added, and one detailed example is provided under the presentation of the first role (adapt to self-interest) as a demonstration of the level of detail provided in the full paper. A comparison of the logics is provided in Table 1.


    Adapt to self-interest (in narrow terms)

    The first role of a business person can in short be described as one who should have control of the business from a ‘sustainability’ point of view, but who at the same time must be prepared to put personal feelings about sustainability aside when financial performance indicators ‘say so’. This role is positioned by the ‘logic of self-interest’ that was identified in three lessons devoted to analysing a business annual report, which also included sustainability reporting.


    In short, the logic comes into play when a teacher, a) challenges (3.1.2) a student’s response that a business should take responsibility for the entire supply chain and argues  that extra costs need to be taken into account and that the lack of demand for Swedish pork proves that consumers are not prepared to pay more for its control (3.1.3), b) describes the problem of acting in a competitive market (3.1.3), c) explains that shareholders will invest elsewhere if the profits are too low (3.1.4), d) explains that financial performance indicators are used when making business decisions in order to avoid a lack of profit and in their individual assignments instructs the students to use financial indicators to determine whether or not the business should prioritise sustainability work (3.1.4). Taken together, these actions depict consumers and owners as self-interested and as preventing sustainable business.


    Textbox 1 – Customers driven by self-interest

    Textbox 2 – Recycling organisations driven by self-interest

    Textbox 3 – Self-interest as an obstacle to doing business sustainably



    Respond to consumers’ increasing interest for sustainable products

    The second role of a business person can in short be described as one who should work for sustainability by responding to consumers’ interests for sustainable products.


    Textbox 4 – Addressing external demands for sustainability

    Textbox 5 – Sustainability sells

    Textbox 6: Organic farmers are successful


    Be sensitive to stakeholders’ diverging interests

    The third role of a business person can in short be described as one who should be sensitive to stakeholders’ diverging interests and when making business decisions and thereby work for sustainability.


    Textbox 7: Business owners with power to make changes for sustainability

    Textbox 8: Running a business more sustainably

    Textbox 9: Distributing profit

    Textbox 10: Act in accordance with your feelings relating to sustainability


    Table 1: Roles of a responsible business person


    In relation to the question whether the ‘homo economicus’-assumption has a ‘productive’ function by creating the assumed behaviour the results above show that when the logic of self-interest comes into play, the assumption (self-interest understood in a narrow sense) is ‘naturalised’ or taken for real, when the logic of conscious consumers comes into play the assumption is challenged by the foregrounding of consumers’ altruistic interests (or self-interest understood in its broadest sense) and, when the logic of stakeholders’ interests comes into play the assumption is pushed aside.



    The results presented in this paper shows how different aspects of subject matter and/or classroom practices when teaching ‘business education for sustainability’ opened up for different business roles with different interests in focus.  Accounts analysis opened up for adapting to self-interest, marketing and running a business opened up for responding to conscious consumers’ interests for sustainability, and branding and the stakeholder model opened up for being sensitive to stakeholders’ diverging interests.

    The detailed empirical examples from educational practice could be useful for lecturers and teachers to identify when and how in educational practice ‘homo economicus’ becomes a norm as well as when and how other norms might emerge. In this way, the results are regarded as analytically generalizable to other business education-contexts.

    In relation to the expectation that the integration of sustainability in the business curriculum should make the students better equipped to address these issues, the results illuminate how different assumptions of human behaviour here can hinder (self-interest), facilitate (conscious consumers’ interests) or suggest a route (stakeholders’ interests) for doing business sustainably. In this way, the examples could also be useful as a starting point for reflection of how education, by including a wide range of human motivations,  could expand rather than limit the ‘toolbox’ with which sustainability issues could be addressed.



    Andersson, P. 2016. The Responsible Business Person - Studies of Business Education for Sustainability. Södertörn University, Huddinge.

    Blühdorn, I. 2007. Sustaining the unsustainable: Symbolic politics and the politics of simulation. Environmental Politics, 16(2): 251-275.

    Cherryholmes, C. H. 1988. Power and criticism : poststructural investigations in education. New York: Teachers College P.

    Cohn, A., Fehr, E., & Marechal, M. A. 2014. Business culture and dishonesty in the banking industry. Nature, 516(7529): 86-89.

    Etzioni, A. 2015. The Moral Effects of Economic Teaching. Sociological Forum, 30(1): 228-233.

    Fergus, A. H. T., & Rowney, J. I. A. 2005. Sustainable Development: Lost Meaning and Opportunity? Journal of Business Ethics, 60(1): 17-27.

    Glynos, J., & Howarth, D. 2007. Logics of critical explanation in social and political theory. London: Routledge.

    Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. 1985/2001. Hegemony and socialist strategy : towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso.

    Springett, D. 2005. ‘Education for sustainability’ in the business studies curriculum: a call for a critical agenda. Business Strategy and the Environment, 14(3): 146-159.

    Wang, L., Malhotra, D., & Murnighan, J. K. 2011. Economics education and greed. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(4): 643-660.



Show all publications by Pernilla Andersson at Stockholm University

Last updated: April 23, 2018

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