Practices of business sustainability : models and cases

Svensson, Göran and Sosa-Varela, Juan Carlos and Høgevold, Nils and Padin, Carmen and Ferro, Carlos and Wagner, Beverly and Petzer, Daniel and Klopper, H. B. (2016) Practices of business sustainability : models and cases. In: Let’s Get Engaged! Crossing the Threshold of Marketing’s Engagement Era. Springer, USA, pp. 19-21. ISBN 9783319118154

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Abstract

The objective of this study is to describe: (i) corporate reasons (i.e. the rationality of organizational efforts to plan, implement and evaluate sustainable business models) and organizational challenges (i.e. difficulties associated with the planning, implementation and evaluation of sustainable business models in the marketplace and society); and (ii) the evolution of economic effects, social boundaries and environmental actions in sustainable business practices (i.e. the effectiveness of applications over time). This study is based on insights gained from eight Norwegian companies in different industries. Purposeful sampling was employed to ensure that the companies had sustainable business models beyond the level of mere compliance, of sustainable business practices in the marketplace and society. A deductive approach to data collection ensured that the companies had sufficient understanding to relate their sustainable business practices to interviewers. The interviews were subsequently transcribed and analyzed systematically by the research team. The empirical findings indicate evolutionary changes as companies move on a continuum from superficial to embedded sustainable business models and the application of sustainable business practices. The planning, implementation and evaluation of sustainable business models evolves over time within companies and their supply chains, as well as in the marketplace and society. A limitation of this study is that it is exclusively undertaken in Norwegian companies, although the companies are from different industries with different characteristics. Future research is clearly necessary and will be conducted in other countries in similar industries, so as to explore the empirical findings from this study in other contexts. In addition, the interfaces between environmental actions, economic effects and social boundaries need to be investigated further. The study contributes to a growing body of knowledge on corporate reasons for and organizational challenges of sustainable business models, as well as environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable business practices. This study only sheds initial light on these aspects, and more work is required to confirm and extend the present findings. Specifically, further research is required into underlying corporate reasons and organizational challenges – as well as economic effects, social boundaries and environmental actions. Additionally, only Norwegian companies have been considered and this limits the generality of the study. However, such shortcomings regarding qualitative studies also provide opportunities for further research. The Norwegian companies were carefully selected for having achieved domestic and international acknowledgement in terms of their sustainable business models and the application of sustainable business practices. The authors believe that the empirical findings provide useful and relevant insights applicable to both research and practice in this important and evolving element of contemporary business.