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Exploring the Nexus of Product-Service Systems, Business Models and Sustainability - a need for strategic and practical approaches
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. (Sustainability-driven Innovation)
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. (Sustainability-driven Innovation)
Arizona State University, USA.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. (Sustainability-driven Innovation)
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2017 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Product-Service Systems (PSS) have been identified as potentially important for addressing sustainability challenges. However, progress has been relatively slow as regards realizing this potential, and a lack of practical approaches to the design of business models capable of supporting implementation of such PSS has been proposed as a partial reason. The aim of this study is to explore connections and the potential functional nexus between the three fields of PSS, Business Models and Sustainability, in pursuit of possible key enablers to further realization of the potential for sustainability-promoting PSS. A systematic review and analysis of the academic literature is performed. The review shows that, although a relatively new and unexplored endeavor, there is growing effort at the interface of the three fields. The review indicates that the main deficit so far is that the PSS and business model fields lack concrete guidelines and practical tools for how to embrace the sustainability dimension in a strategic way. Especially the strategic dimension emerges as a general finding from diverse sources as a potential key enabler for mutual benefits across the three fields. The study thus points to the need for research aiming at developing such guidelines and tools, and also at exploring case-based applications to create experiential knowledge, to fill the gaps in current theory and practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2017.
Keyword [en]
sustainability, strategy, sustainable product-service systems, sustainable business model, systematic literature review, strategic sustainable development.
National Category
Natural Sciences Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-13673OAI: diva2:1060774
Available from: 2016-12-29 Created: 2016-12-29 Last updated: 2016-12-30Bibliographically 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.
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 01
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
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)
Available from: 2016-12-30 Created: 2016-12-29 Last updated: 2017-01-05Bibliographically approved

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