Entrepreneurial activities of individuals and organisations are of growing significance to creating solutions to existing social and environmental problems. Entrepreneurship is addressed increasingly often, both in literature and in corporate and societal practice, as an approach to achieving sustainability goals and to contributing to sustainable development. The phenomenon embraces small and large companies, start-ups and non-profit organisations alike. Yet, while some conceptual papers have dealt with the topic in sustainability management and entrepreneurial journals, the research remains sporadic. The role of individual actors is frequently mentioned but has thus far not been examined in depth. Only a few empirical studies have been conducted, mainly as single case studies, thus leaving ample research space for comparative case studies and large-scale empirical investigations.
The rationale for this special issue is that entrepreneurs in small and large companies and across NGOs and governmental organisations, entrepreneurship as a philosophy and approach to creating sustainability solutions can act as a catalyst for the sustainability transitions of markets and sustainable development of societies. This issue will explore approaches to sustainable entrepreneurship and its interaction with sustainability innovations, sustainability-oriented business models and business cases. Sustainable entrepreneurship and related concepts such as ecopreneurship (Schaltegger 2002) and social entrepreneurship (Dees 1998) have been characterised in different ways. This special issue intends to embrace the broad variety of research foci in this area including, for example, entrepreneurial approaches to reducing environmental degradation through entrepreneurial action (Dean & McMullen 2007), to preserving nature and communities in the pursuit of perceived opportunities of economic and non-economic gains (Sheppert & Patzelt 2011), to initiating entrepreneurial discovery (Kirzner 1997) of “worthy contributions” (Parrish 2010) and solutions to social and environmental problems, to searching for the most effective methods of serving social missions (Seelos & Mair 2007), to realising processes of creative destruction (Schumpeter 1939) of unsustainable products, services and organisations through sustainability innovations and the introduction of more convincing sustainable offers (Schaltegger & Wagner 2011), and to creating sustainability transformations of the mass market (Hockerts & Wüstenhagen 2010).
Sustainable entrepreneurship thus encompasses a broad range of mission-driven, profit- and non-profit-oriented, social, environmental and sustainability ventures including hybrid organisations, sustainability-oriented niche pioneers and companies creating sustainability transformations of mass markets. Sustainability innovations, furthermore, are necessary drivers of sustainable entrepreneurship which create variations to existing unsustainable products, services and organisations (Hansen et al. 2009; Schaltegger & Wagner 2011). This raises questions of what is different between sustainable and conventional (e.g. Austin et al. 2006), social, environmental and sustainable entrepreneurs (Thompson et al. 2011), or between sustainability pioneers in market niches, in mass markets or non-market societal contexts. Also, international and industry comparisons may serve for extended research papers. Conceptual and empirical papers specifying the existence or non-existence of differences are welcome.
As many sustainable entrepreneurs want to change their environment for the better, their sustainability innovations need to diffuse and/or scale up. In this upscaling and diffusion process, entrepreneurial success with sustainability innovations depends on reacting to strategies and activities of competitors as well as constant changes in the societal and regulatory environment. Sustainable entrepreneurs are challenged to create new solutions, bring them into the market and adopt them to market, competitor and societal reactions. Once innovative sustainability-oriented business models (Boons & Lüdeke-Freund 2013), products and organisations are developed and established in a market niche, the question arises of which of these survive market selection and remain to finally influence mass markets. We invite papers which examine sustainable entrepreneurship and/or its interaction with sustainability innovations, business models and business cases for sustainability as elements of entrepreneurship. Purely conceptual papers are as welcome as theory-driven empirical works applying qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods.
Austin, J. & Leonard, H. (2008). Can the virtuous mouse and the wealthy elephant live happily ever after? California Management Review, 51(1), 77-102.
Boons, F. A. A. & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2013). Business models for sustainable innovation: State-of-the-art and steps towards a research agenda. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 9-19.
Dean,T. J. & McMullen, J. S. (2007). Toward a theory of sustainable entrepreneurship. Reducing environmental degradation through entrepreneurial action, Journal of Business Venturing, 22, 50-76.
Dees, J. (1998). The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.
Hansen, E. G.; Große-Dunker, F. & Reichwald, R. (2009). Sustainability innovation cube. A framework to evaluate sustainability-oriented innovations. international Journal of Innovation Management, 13(4), 683-713.
Hockerts, K. & Wüstenhagen, R. (2010). Greening Goliaths versus emerging Davids. Theorizing about the role of incumbents and new entrants in sustainable entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 481-492.
Kirzner, I. (1997). Entrepreneurial Discovery and the Competitive Market Process: An Austrian Approach. Journal of Economic Literature, 35(1), 60-85.
Parrish, B. D. (2010). Sustainability-driven entrepreneurship. Principles of organization design. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 510-523.
Schaltegger, S. (2002): A Framework for Ecopreneurship. Leading Bioneers and Environmental Managers to Ecopreneurship, Greener Management International, Theme Issue on Environmental Entrepreneurship (Schaper, M., Ed.), Issue 38, 45-58.
Schaltegger, S. & Wagner, M. (2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business Strategy and the Environment, 20(4), 222-237.
Seelos, C. & Mair, J. (2005). Profitable Business Models and Market Creation in the Context of Deep Poverty. A Strategic View. Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(4), 49-63.
Sheppert, D. & Patzelt, H. (2011). The New Field of Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Studying Entrepreneurial Action Linking "What Is to Be Sustained" With "What Is to Be Developed. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(1), 137-163.
Thomason, N.; Kiefer, K. & York, J. (2011). Distinctions not Dichotomies. Exploring Social, Sustainable, and Environmental Entrepreneurship, In: Lumpkin, G. & Katz, J. (eds.): Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship. Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth, Vol. 13, Bingley (UK): Emerald, 201-229.
Suitable topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Processes, obstacles and opportunities of sustainable entrepreneurship
- Business models and entrepreneurship for sustainability
- Entrepreneurship and sustainability innovations
- Sustainability pioneers as entrepreneurs
- The interface between sustainability innovation and entrepreneurship
- Innovations in social entrepreneurship
- The role of mission or purpose in innovation and resource acquisition processes
- Opportunity identification by sustainable entrepreneurs
- Responsible innovation and entrepreneurship
- Sustainable entrepreneurship in the international context and in international comparison
- Financing sustainable entrepreneurship
- In-depth qualitative analyses of case studies and comparative case studies
- Motivations and psychological studies of entrepreneurs
- Empirical analyses of sustainability-oriented business models and business model development
- Transformation processes and effects in markets and society induced by new business models and entrepreneurship
- Further studies on the phenomena of sustainable entrepreneurship, sustainable business model development and sustainability innovations
Deadline for papers: 31 March, 2016