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Sustainability Self-Assessment and Business Model Design
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. BTH. (Sustainability-driven Innovation)
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the 17th Sustainable Innovation Conference, 2012, 89-100 p.Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The business case of sustainability has been argued for by many authors (Willard, 2005; McNall et al., 2011). There is a large degree of consensus regarding the potential business impact of sustainability. However, most companies either are not acting or are falling short on execution (MIT Sloan, 2009). Relatively few companies consider innovation for sustainability substantially rewarding. Suggested solution for this includes better access to frameworks for understanding sustainability and value creation and the business cases thereof (MIT Sloan, 2009). Furthermore, it is well-known that support for generation and selection of ideas and for formulating goals and strategies is especially essential to have during the early phases of the innovation process (Roozenburg & Eekels, 1995).

 

The usual absence of an operational definition of sustainability is still a major barrier to corporate strategic sustainable development (Holmberg & Robèrt, 2000). A sustainability definition that can guide assessment of the current situation and stimulate generation of ideas for upstream solutions and strategic guidelines that can aid prioritization of early smart actions are among the most promising leverage points. A framework including those features is being developed in an international consensus process since twenty years (see, e.g., Robèrt et al., 2012). Among other things, this framework for strategic sustainable development FSSD, clarifies the self-interest in sustainability work and thus supports more widespread and proactive sustainable innovation. 

In this study, the FSSD is used as the main basis for a new tool to be used in early phases of the innovation process for self-assessment of an organization’s current maturity and performance from an overall strategic sustainability point of view and for stimulating generation of ideas for business models design. We present a prototype version of such a tool and results from initial tests of this tool performed in four organizations. We study in particular whether the outlined tool is perceived by the organizations to be: (i) easy to comprehend, (ii) relevant, (iii) capable of differentiating the organizations in a comprehensive way, (iv) helpful for discovering insufficiencies that the organizations are not already aware of and (v) helpful for generation and selection of ideas for upstream solutions, business model innovation and for formulation of goals, and strategies. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. 89-100 p.
National Category
Natural Sciences Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-13596OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-13596DiVA: diva2:1055754
Conference
17th Sustainable Innovation Conference, Bonn
Available from: 2016-12-13 Created: 2016-12-13 Last updated: 2016-12-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Business Model Design for Strategic Sustainable Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Business Model Design for Strategic Sustainable Development
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Humanity confronts an existential threat without historic precedent. Environmental pressures have reached such intensity and pace of change that the earth system may be irreversibly tipped into a new and unpredictable state. The emerging global reality is, in turn, redefining overall conditions for business success. Addressing these challenges both demands and brings great opportunities for innovation. An important and sometimes neglected aspect of innovation is the design or redesign of business models, which has been identified as a greater source of lasting competitive advantage than new products and services per se. The business model has also been suggested as a new unit of analysis when discussing sustainability. However, this is still a relatively underexplored area. The aim of this work was therefore to develop an approach to business model design that supports strategic sustainable development, i.e., supports organizations to contribute to society’s transition towards sustainability in a way that strengthens the organization.    

 

To be able to design a business model that supports strategic sustainable development, it is necessary to know what sustainability is and how to develop sustainability-promoting, economically viable strategies. Therefore, the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, which includes, e.g., an operational definition of sustainability and strategic guidelines for how to approach it, was used as an overarching framework. Specific research methods and techniques included, e.g., literature reviews, questionnaires, interviews, work with focus groups, participatory action research with partner organizations, creative problem solving techniques, modeling, and simulation.

 

The literature reviews revealed potential sustainability benefits of developing business models in conjunction with product-service systems (PSS). However, a knowledge gap exists regarding how to effectively connect these fields. Arguably, PSS strategies can best contribute to sustainability when business models support their implementation and when both the business models and the PSS strategies are guided by an understanding of strategic sustainable development. Therefore, an integrated approach to Business Model Design for Strategic Sustainable Development was co-developed and tested in PSS innovation work with partners, e.g., companies within the energy and lighting sectors. The tests indicated that the new approach helped to clarify strengths and weaknesses of current business models from a strategic sustainability perspective; to transform an organization’s vision and strategy into a sustainability-framed vision and a sustainability-promoting strategy; and to communicate the new vision and strategy to the value network as a basis for engaging important stakeholders in the change. For example, the approach supported one of the partner companies in its transformation towards providing sustainable PSS solutions in the form of light as a service.

Examples of business benefits of the new approach include improved scalability and risk avoidance, which provide a foundation for better investment strategies. Benefits also include improved differentiability and a broadened view on, and a more solid foundation for, collaboration with stakeholders that are increasingly important to sustainable business success.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona, Sweden: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2017. 204 p.
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 01
Keyword
Business Model Innovation and Design, Strategic Sustainable Development, Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Product-Service Systems, Value Network.
National Category
Natural Sciences Social Sciences Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-13674 (URN)978-91-7295-334-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-01-27, J1650, Campus Gräsvik, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden, 09:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-12-30 Created: 2016-12-29 Last updated: 2017-03-07Bibliographically approved

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