Repository logo

Sustainable business model innovation: Process, challenges and implementation



Change log


Geissdoerfer, Martin 


The capability to rapidly and successfully move into new business models is an important source of sustainable competitive advantage and a key leverage to improve the sustainability performance of organisations. However, research suggests that many business model innovations fail. Despite the importance of the topic, the reasons for failure are relatively unexplored, and there is no comprehensive description of the sustainable business model innovation process in the literature. This research addresses this gap by sequentially employing four research methods. First, a literature review is conducted to synthesise a conceptual model as a framework for an empirical investigation. This investigation used two focus groups with ten participants, interviews with 61 senior managers of 24 organisations, and active participatory research, in which the researcher joined the teams of two different business model innovation projects for several months. The research provides the most comprehensive literature review on the definition and process of sustainable business model innovation to date. It identifies five different process steps of sustainable business model innovation as well as a comprehensive list of key activities and challenges associated with each step of the process. It also discusses how the resulting process framework could be translated into a management tool and outlines some insights on the organisational setup of the process and success factors. These findings can serve as hypotheses to guide further research on sustainable business model innovation and adjacent phenomena. It also provides direction for practitioners engaged in sustainable business model innovation in similar context as the ones investigated. As a result, the research can help organisations to structure their activities better, anticipate key challenges, and build up sustainable business model innovation capabilities.





Evans, Steve


business model innovation, sustainable business, large corporations, process, challenges, sustainable business models, business model innovation department, digital transformation office, digital transformation, digitalisation, corporate venturing


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge