Papers in Brief (XIII): Rauter, Baumgartner & Jonker (2017): Going one’s own way: Drivers in developing business models for sustainability

[Note: This is the 13th post in our “Papers in Brief” series. This series offers a special service as it explains the core ideas of chosen research papers in a nutshell.]

Papers in Brief (XIII) by Romana Rauter

Rauter, R.; Jonker, J. & Baumgartner, R. (2017): Going one’s own way: Drivers in developing business models for sustainability, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 140, pp. 144–154,

It is widely acknowledged that business models have received much attention in recent years due to their importance in the fundamental logic of every company. This logic mainly describes how a company creatives, delivers and captures value. And it is the definition of these values which determines whether sustainability issues are considered to lie entirely within a firm or not. The goal of this study was to increase understanding concerning the drivers in developing business models focussing on sustainability and throw light upon the way in which sustainability principles are integrated into such business models.

Based on a qualitative, empirical research study conducted in cooperation with 10 Austrian companies in 2014, we were able to show that business models incorporating aspects of sustainability do not differ substantially from traditional business models. However, they do require specific adaptations and extensions. Furthermore, they undergo constant change and company leaders play a significant role in organizing change processes so as to encompass sustainable business practices.

The following table shows some examples of sustainability aspects in various building blocks all of them coming from the 10 case study companies (source: Rauter et al., 2017, p. 149):


With regard to the identified drivers we differentiate between external and internal drivers. To give some examples: Interestingly, competition and customer preferences are not primary drivers whereby the findings, to a certain extent, indicate that motivating factors behind the pursuance of business models for sustainability are personal, and value-based. Hence, leadership plays a central role in defining the business model in general, and in initiating sustainability-related activities in particular. But then, it appears that employees and the interpersonal relationships are key factors in driving change towards sustainability.

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