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Business Model Innovation for Sustainability: Towards a Unified Perspective for Creation of Sustainable Business Models

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Business model innovation has seen a recent surge in academic research and business practice. Changes to business models are recognized as a fundamental approach to realize innovations for sustainability. However, little is known about the successful adoption of sustainable business models (SBMs). The purpose of this paper is to develop a unified theoretical perspective for understanding business model innovations that lead to better organizational economic, environmental and social performance. The paper examines bodies of literature on business model innovation, sustainability innovation, networks theory, stakeholder theory and product–service systems. We develop five propositions that support the creation of SBMs in a unified perspective, which lays a foundation to support organizations in investigating and experimenting with alternative new business models. This article contributes to the emerging field of SBMs, which embed economic, environmental and social flows of value that are created, delivered and captured in a value network. It highlights gaps for addressing the challenges of business model innovation for sustainability and suggests avenues for future research.



business models, business model innovation, sustainability innovation, sustainable business models, sustainable value creation, business model experimentation

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Business Strategy and the Environment

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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/L019914/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/I033351/1)
This study was supported by the EPSRC project ‘Business Models for Sustainable Industrial Systems’ (grant no EP/L019914/1) and the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability (grant no EP/I033351/1).