UTFacultiesBMSNewsOpportunities for sustainable business models in all sectors, eight years of research shows

Opportunities for sustainable business models in all sectors, eight years of research shows

 Shaping sustainable business models, in which companies create a positive impact on a social, ecological and economic level, is possible in all sectors. From agriculture to electrical consumer goods, from large to small and from start-ups to existing companies. Within the NWO research programme 'Sustainable Business Models', eight consortia of scientists and companies - including the University of Twente - conducted research into sustainable business models and their implementation. The research shows that there is a great deal of potential for sustainable business management and that the form of cooperation with other parties may be decisive. The optimal strategy for cooperation is highly dependent on the size and the specific value proposition of the company concerned. In a joint final publication, the researchers describe the results and insights from the research.

About the research programme

The research programme 'Sustainable business models' was initiated by NWO, MVO Nederland and Het Groene Brein and ran from 2013 to 2021. A total of eight research consortia received research funding. Participating knowledge institutions included Erasmus University, Utrecht University, Radboud University, University of Twente, TNO and the University of Amsterdam. All research projects involved cooperation between science and practice. Parties such as Greenwheels, Tendris, Province of Zeeland and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) participated in the consortia. In a joint final publication, the researchers describe the results and insights from the study. The publication gives ample attention to recommendations and action perspectives for companies that want to give shape to sustainable business models.

Different strategies for collaboration within an 'ecosystem of new business models'

The various parties that form the basis of new business models, as the publication shows, do not exist in isolation. They relate to each other in an 'ecosystem of sustainable business models'. In all the cases studied, the degree of cooperation within this ecosystem turns out to be essential. When do you cooperate with whom? Collaborating with other parties can give you legitimacy, but it can also mean that you have less control over your business model. The strategy for a small organisation with a unique or new value proposition is very different from that for a large one with an already known value proposition, but they are both badly needed for the transition to a sustainable economy. In order for your sustainable business model to succeed, it is essential to understand which strategy best suits your business and how you relate to other entrepreneurs.

Scaling up inclusive businesses

The University of Twente, together with Nyenrode Business University, The Next Organization, TNO, 2SCALE and Bop Inc. carried out one of the projects within the Sustainable Business Models programme. The aim of this project was to contribute to the upscaling of inclusive enterprises that operate in markets consisting of poor groups in a vulnerable environment. To this end, the consortium developed a five-step approach in which inclusive businesses develop a scaling-up strategy together with their partners.

The approach has been applied to a dozen inclusive businesses and their partners in different countries in Africa and Asia. In addition to the aforementioned final publication, the online platform https://inclusivebusinessmodels.com/ provides more insight into the five-step approach and the companies studied. The platform also offers inspiration and the opportunity to share experiences for inclusive businesses.

Read the final publication

The joint final publication of the research programme (in Dutch) offers insights into the different strategies of collaboration and is full of examples of companies using these four different strategies, from scaling up car-sharing to the introduction of the LED lamp. Useful tools and action perspectives are also included. In this way, this brochure provides many companies with tools to work on their own sustainable business model and to make it a success.

UT researchers in this PROJECT

dr. T. Oukes (Tamara)
Assistant Professor
dr. A.M. von Raesfeld Meijer (Ariane)
Assistant Professor
prof.dr.ir. P.C. de Weerd - Nederhof (Petra)
Full Professor Organisation Studies and Innovation