Global Challenges in Business

This specialization prepares students for the global challenges that businesses face in the 21st century. The global marketplace now and in the future spans emerging markets, a world connected by social media, and rapid technological advancements, hand in hand with huge challenges relating to environment and poverty. This specialization covers how business strategy is formulated and implemented in the global arena in all its complexities. It also covers the role of ethics and corporate responsibility in a connected world as well as the role of business in addressing global challenges such as poverty and the environment. The specialization enables understanding of global business and how to pursue opportunities and confront challenges in this arena responsibly.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand how businesses function in the global marketplace
  • Make ethical decisions to run a responsible business in the global marketplace
  • Understand the role of business in addressing global challenges such as poverty and the environment
  • Understand how business can pursue opportunities and confront challenges in the complex global marketplace


The two components for this course are:

Sustainable Innovation for Subsistence Marketplaces

This course focuses on understanding subsistence marketplaces and designing business solutions for the billions of people living in poverty in the global marketplace. To develop understanding of subsistence marketplaces, we use exercises to enable participants to view the world from the eyes of subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs, facilitate bottom‐up understanding generated by participants, and provide insights from extensive research. More broadly, the course uses the context of extreme resource constrained contexts to learn about the bottom-up approach pioneered through the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, and apply it in any context. The course will involve virtual immersion in subsistence contexts, emersion of unique insights, bottom-up design, innovation and enterprise. A parallel project will focus on understanding a specific need in a subsistence marketplace, and designing a solution and an enterprise plan.

Upon successful completion of this portion of the course you will be able to:

  1. Develop an understanding of subsistence marketplaces
  2. Design solutions for subsistence marketplaces
  3. Develop enterprise plans to implement solutions for subsistence marketplaces
  4. Apply the bottom-up approach for subsistence marketplaces as well as other contexts

Sustainable Business Enterprises

This course will explore current challenges and opportunities facing firms in the area of environmental sustainability. It will begin with an introduction to sustainability, with a particular focus on how environmental sustainability is relevant to business. Topics such as unsustainable consumption/consumer behavior, market research sustainable product design, sustainable value chains and communications will be covered. The bottom-up approach in terms of immersion, emersion, and design as applied to sustainable business enterprise will be covered.  The course concludes with a summary of insights on global challenges in business, with particular focus on poverty and the environment, and on the unique approach employed here in terms of bottom-up immersion, emersion, design, innovation, and enterprise.

Upon successful completion of this portion of the course you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of sustainabilityfor business
  • Learnabout specific topics consumer behavior, market research, product design, value chains and communications using the sustainability lens in business
  • Design solutionsand develop enterprise plans for sustainable business initiatives
  • Apply the bottom-up approach forsustainable business initiatives in any context

The two components for this course are:

Global Strategy I: How the global economy works

Starting in the late 1990s, “globalization” became a buzzword to describe the apparent integration of markets in the world economy. Many authors and pundits claimed that the world was converging towards a market-friendly democratic place, while gurus and consulting firms were not short of formulae and advice on how to make profits out of the global economy. Decades later, new realities show that globalization does not mean political, cultural, and economic convergence and that forces against it are strong.

This course seeks to help you understand the forces of globalization and how cross-cultural management and the relationship of a multinational organization to various host countries is becoming more and more critical in today’s global economy. This course begins with the discussion of these issues and global relationships and delves into a deeper understanding of business strategy in today’s global business marketplace.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand how we got here and why it matters
  • Understand the complexities of the current globalization (not all countries are the same)
  • Evaluate the effects of international trade regulations on international business
  • Evaluate when and why should we operate as multinationals

Global Strategy II: Doing business in the global economy

Starting in the late 1990s, “globalization” became a buzzword to describe the apparent integration of markets in the world economy. Many authors and pundits claimed that the world was converging towards a market-friendly democratic place, while gurus and consulting firms were not short of formulae and advice on how to make profits out of the global economy. Decades later, new realities show that globalization does not mean political, cultural, and economic convergence and that forces against it are strong.

This course seeks to understand how firms adapt to, react towards, and shape the global economy.  Students should be able to evaluate markets and the best strategies firms should follow when operating globally.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Understand the different options multinationals have when deciding to operate abroad
  • Determine when to go global small, big, fast, or slow
  • Understand the effects of politics on the strategy of firms operating globally
  • Determine under what circumstances a multinational should partner with a domestic actor or not

The two components for this course are:

Cultural Psychology of Globalization

Globalization has brought dramatic changes to the marketplace. A proliferation of global brands brings diverse cultures to a consumer population that is also growing culturally diverse. This course enables students to understand how globalization changes consumers at a psychological level, and provides tools for imbuing brands with cultural meanings—creating iconic brands—that can resonate with global consumers. The focus is on understanding that culture exists in the mind (e.g., values and beliefs) as well as in the environment (e.g., objects, brands, and institutions), and that globalization creates multi-cultural spaces in contemporary societies. Consumers can use the cultural meaning of a brand to build their identities (i.e., assimilate the brand cultural symbolism) or reject the brand’s cultural meaning(s) (i.e., exclusionary reactions). The course will help students identify when assimilation vs. exclusionary reactions are more likely to occur, as well as devise strategies for imbuing brands with cultural meanings that can elevate them to the status of cultural icons.  

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand how globalization impacts the psychological responses of consumers in global markets
  • Understand what culture is and how it manifests itself
  • Understand how brands acquire cultural meanings
  • Predict consumers’ responses to the cultural meanings in brands
  • Identify strategies to win-over multi-cultural consumers in globalized markets
  • Learn how to build an iconic brand

The Ethical Process

This course is to train the student to use well-reasoned processes by which to arrive at ethically defensible decisions rather than to teach the student what are “correct” or “ethical” decisions or solutions. What is important in ethical decision making is not reaching the answer that everyone else would have reached had they been faced with a similar dilemma, but arriving at a defensible answer through utilization of an ethical process. The course will examine the means by which one makes a decision, not what that decision should be.

This course will examine the ethical bases of corporate decision making and other business activities, using critical ethical analysis and educate the student regarding ethical issues in business, to create sensitivity to the normative dimensions and consequences of one’s decisions, as well as to train the student in critical thinking and moral/ethical analysis. Critical thinking is the ability to address issues from both sides, to evaluate the best arguments of each side, and to arrive at a conclusion based upon a systematic analysis of these arguments. Critical thinking requires students to discover bias, viewpoints and perspectives that affect the accuracy and persuasiveness of oral or written arguments, and to uncover reasoning errors or logical fallacies. Critical thinkers are therefore better able to defend viewpoints, to evaluate issues, to analyze new information, and to reach ethical conclusions.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Become morally sensitive to ethical dilemmas in global commerce
  • Identify ethical issues in global business
  • Master stakeholder analysis
  • Address issues from more than one point of view
  • Use a well-reasoned process by which to arrive at ethically-defensible decisions
  • Evaluate good and weak arguments
  • Defend your conclusions

The capstone for the specialization will provide a learning experience that integrates across all the courses within that specialization. It will involve analysis of a situation concerning an actual business with a view to work toward a global stakeholder engagement business plan for introduction of a new product. Students will analyze a situation taking the vantage point of a global company and develop a global stakeholder engagement plan for a specific geography (chosen by students’ region or country of residence, or other consideration).

The global stakeholder engagement business plans will be peer reviewed in a crowd-sourcing format as part of a poster session, with participation by one or more focal companies. The deliverable will be designed to create value from the perspective of potential employers while achieving pedagogical and experiential goals for learners. Learner assessment for the capstone will include quizzes as well as peer reviews of capstone projects.


Marcelo Bucheli obtained his PhD from Stanford University and has a B.Sc and MA in Economics from Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia).  He was the 2004-2005 Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Business History at Harvard Business School where he taught at the MBA program. In 2013 he was a visiting professor at the École Polytechnique (Paris, France) and between 2014 and 2015 he was the John H. Dunning Fellow in International Business at Henley Business School, University of Reading (United Kingdom).   Marcelo teaches international business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he won a teaching award for his 2014 MBA course. He has also taught courses on globalization at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and at Universidad de los Andes. Marcelo’s research focuses on the political strategies of multinational corporations, from which he has published more than thirty articles and essays including several award-winning ones, a book (Bananas and Business, New York University Press, 2005), an edited collection (Organizations in Time, Oxford University Press, 2015) and articles for practitioners in Harvard Business Review and Latin Trade. Marcelo is currently a senior consultant at the Winthrop Group (New York), was previously an associate at Shelley Taylor and Associates (Palo Alto, California), and has been hired as a consultant and expert witness for cases of political conflicts between oil and agricultural multinationals in developing countries.

Carlos Torelli is a Professor of Marketing in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on cross-cultural consumer psychology. Specifically, in his research he tries to identify the key cultural factors that drive consumers’ reactions in a globalized economy. Professor Torelli’s research specialties include global branding, the social psychology of power, cross-cultural consumer behavior, and persuasion.

Patricia H. Werhane is Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Ruffin Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia, and Wicklander Chair Emerita at DePaul University. She has written or edited 30 books and over a hundred articles and book chapters, including Adam Smith and his Legacy for Modern Capitalism and Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making, both at Oxford University Press.

Werhane is the founder and former editor-in-chief of Business Ethics Quarterly, the leading journal of business ethics, and was a founding member and past president of the Society for Business Ethics. Before joining the Darden faculty in 1993, Werhane served on the faculty of Loyola University Chicago, was a Rockefeller Fellow at Dartmouth College, and a visiting scholar at Cambridge University.

Her latest book is Obstacles to Ethical Decision-Making with L. Hartman, C. Arher, E. Englehardt, and M. Pritchard, published by Cambridge University Press. She is currently an Executive Producer of Emmy Award Winning documentary television series on global poverty alleviation: Big Questions