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Published by:
Copenhagen Business School (CBS) (2015)
20 pages
Data source:
Field research


This case trains students in handling difficult CSR dilemmas that may arise when products are deployed in ways that unintended by the firm result in it potentially or actually being complicit in problems caused by other organisations. Pentobarbital, a product owned by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, was used in 2010 by US prisons to execute prisoners sentenced to death. The product was licensed for treatment of epilepsy and as an anaesthetic. Its use to induce intentional death was unauthorised and unintended by Lundbeck. The case evolves around this issue and takes students through a series of situations based on Lundbeck’s handling of the issue and the evolution of stakeholder reactions. Based on interviews with top management in the firm, the case offers learning from the perspective of the Vice President of Corporate Communication in Lundbeck. It invites students to look beyond the communication perspective to grasp how CSR issues and commitments challenge management decisions in relation to stakeholders, sustainability and the value chain. The case offers learning in treatment of CSR challenges as issue management that requires a firm to understand and relate to diverse stakeholder expectations as well as powerful interests outside its immediate control. The case evolves around company related human rights abuse, yet its core issue might as well emerge in relation to labour, environmental, climate change or other CSR issues in which social expectations of firms are increasingly informed by CSR standards and guidance, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights and the UN Global Compact’s ten principles. This case is part of the CBS free case collection (visit for more information on the collection).


Lundbeck; Denmark; Pharmaceutical; Pentobarbital; Human rights; International business; Issues management, Ethics; Corporate communication; Issues management; CSR; UN Global Compact; UN Guiding Principles
6,000+ employees
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