17 The role of innovation in
Magdalena M. Stuss
The issue of sustainable development, as indicated by numerous scientic studies
(see: previous chapters) have become important for the stakeholders of organisa-
tions, also in areas of the economy where the need for innovation is indicated
as a key determinant (Damanpour & Schneider, 2006; Varadarajan, 2017; Al-
Baghdadi et al., 2021). So far, only some previous studies on sustainability have
looked at the relevant relationship between sustainability and innovation (Qi
et al., 2010; Boons & Lüdeke-Freund, 2013). Sustainability factors such as
reducing the carbon footprint, poverty alleviation, fair distribution, waste re-
duction and transparency and related business strategies – understood as
clean technology, vision of sustainability, pollution prevention and product
management – can accelerate the creation of sustainable value for companies by
implementing innovations (Evans et al., 2017).
A historical contribution to the building of the concept of innovativeness was
made by J. Schumpeter, whose work was devoted to clarifying and emphasising
the role of innovation and entrepreneurship. J. Schumpeter pointed to ve cases
of innovation as follows (Schumpeter, 1960):
• The implementation of new products that consumers had not been familiar
with prior to this, or a new type of product.
• The introduction of a new production method, which has not yet been practi-
cally tested in a given industry.
• The opening of a new market, i.e. a market where a certain type of industry in
a given country had not previously entered, regardless of whether this market
existed before or not.
• The acquisition of a new source of raw materials or semi-nished products,
regardless of whether the source already existed or whether it had to be
• Conducting a new organisation of some industry, e.g., creating or breaking a
236 Magdalena M. Stuss
Innovation, according to J. Schumpeter, signies the implementation of new so-
lutions into practice, while the subject of his considerations was primarily tech-
nical innovations, as well as their impact on the economy. Any dissemination of
innovations constitutes a separate type of change, referred to imitation (Makieła &
Stuss, 2018, p. 29).
In the contemporary perception of the notion of “innovativeness”, there is the
ability to implement new solutions (new products, new types of activities, new
technologies, new entities and institutions, new forms of organisation and man-
agement) in all spheres of social and economic life. Innovation is the process
of transforming existing capabilities into new ideas and introducing them into
practical application (Makieła & Stuss, 2018, pp. 28–32). A different approach
to the problematic issue of innovations was presented in the Oslo Manual, in
which innovation is assumed to be the implementation of a new or signicantly
improved product (goods or services) or a process, a new marketing method, or a
new organisational method in economic practice, workplace organisation or re-
lations with the environment. Such a general denition of innovations is justied
by the fact that it covers a wide range of possible innovations (Podręcznik Oslo.
Zasady Gromadzenia i Interpretacji Danych Dotyczących Innowacji, 2008). It
should be mentioned that the scope of the notion of “innovation” changes in
subsequent editions of the manual and the current assumption is that the mini-
mum requirement for the existence of innovation is for the product, process,
marketing method or organisational method is new (or signicantly improved)
for the company. This includes products, processes and methods which a par-
ticular company was the rst to create, and also those that were adopted from
other companies or entities (Oslo Manual 2018, 2018). S.D. Anthony describes
the evolution of innovation as a transition of the subject of innovation from
the individual innovator to enterprises, and the transition of the object of in-
novation from technological innovation to an innovative business model (BM)
(Anthony, 2012). The common feature of innovations is the fact that they were
implemented and launched to the market. New processes, marketing methods,
or organisational methods are implemented when their actual use in the com-
pany’s operations begins. This signies that innovative activity is the entirety of
scientic, technical, organisational, nancial and commercial activities that lead
to the implementation of innovations. Innovative activity also includes research
and development (R&D) activities, which are not directly associated with the
creation of a specic innovation (Makieła & Stuss, 2018, p. 32).
Innovativeness in BMs may be found in a new business activity, a new com-
bination of activities (structure), or a change in the entity conducting a given
activity. Novelty as a measure of the innovativeness of a system of activities may
be expressed by means of the new transaction structure, transaction content, or
new participants or customer constraints and the creation of exit barriers related
to a change of supplier (loyalty program, dominant design, trust, customisation),
The role of innovation in sustainable development 237
as well as network externalities, complementary goods that increase the value of
the product and the dependency between components, particularly the effect of
synergy and the economies of scale (Loučanová et al., 2022).
The ability to innovate in the eld of sustainable development represents a
necessary business acumen, regardless of whether it is associated with small
and incremental steps, or radical innovations (Evans et al., 2017). Innovation is
emerging as a potential mechanism for integrating sustainability into business
(Schaltegger et al., 2012; Schaltegger & Wagner, 2011). However, there is a
lack of clarity, conceptual consensus and consistency in the use of these terms:
BM, BM Innovation (BMI) and Sustainable BM (SBM) (Magretta, 2002; Oster-
walder & Pigneur, 2010; Boons & Lüdeke-Freund, 2013). This chapter aims to
organise the aforementioned concepts and attempt to characterise, classify and
dene their boundaries.
Business model innovation
Sustainable innovativeness has for some time been acknowledged to be a key de-
terminant of business and societal change, as well as the answer to the increasing
complexity of the environment in which businesses operate. Despite considerable
interest in the drivers of sustainable innovation at the level of enterprises, there is
little knowledge about the role of sustainable activities in the innovative models
and the performance of innovation-focused enterprises (Al-Baghdadi et al., 2021).
A. Osterwalder and Y. Pigneur described the BM as the fundamental principle
of creating, maintaining and exchanging value – the BM should be dynamic due
to the constantly changing environment (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010). BMI
was initially dened as the process of discovering fundamentally new BMs in an
existing business (Markides, 2006), thereby modifying or modernising the exist-
ing business logic of how value is created and captured (Foss & Saebi, 2017).
Nevertheless, the most frequently quoted denition of the BMI by N. Bocken
et al., states that “changes in the way the organisation and its value-network
create, deliver value and capture value /…/ or change their value propositions”.
Such a statement moves value towards the focal point of interest as the crucial
element, which not only constitutes the innovativeness of a BM but will also
determine a company’s performance and prot (Mielcarek & Piekarczyk, 2022).
BMI deals with a new way to do business aimed at prosperity in a dynamic
environment through the reconceptualisation of the underlying logic behind the
value creation, capture and delivery (Richardson, 2008; Teece, 2010).
The phenomenon of BMI, due to the development and utilisation of new tech-
nology, is more relevant and complex than ever before (Mielcarek & Piekarczyk,
2022). Firms increasingly need to innovate by modifying their BM by initiat-
ing changes, improvements and replacements in various organisational elements
(Mitchell & Coles, 2003).
238 Magdalena M. Stuss
Furthermore, scholars have used BMI as a strategic tool or unit of analysis
to study how rms can overcome the competitive threat of a specic industry,
such as the creative and cultural industry (i.e., Lantano, Petruzzelli, & Panniello,
2022) or the tourism and hospitality industry (Presenza et al., 2019).
BMI should be the result of modernising the BM (in which the current BM is
progressively improved) or the result of generating and designing a BM (where
no BM previously existed) (Berends et al., 2016). Although each path is very
different in terms of its challenges, both paths require entrepreneurs to under-
stand and decide how the organisation’s current system of operations needs to
be changed and how this contributes to the creation and acquisition of value
(Amit & Zott, 2020). According to C. Christensen, companies can achieve BMI
by adopting a technology push and incorporating a technological breakthrough
which, in effect, would make them the rst movers in the industry (Christensen,
1997). However, some research projects show that BMI is not always benecial
(Halecker et al., 2014).
It is relevant to understand these elements to facilitate the analysis of organi-
sational processes and planning of transformation from one BM to another and
to increase the rm’s resilience and the probability of success (Geissdoerfer
et al., 2018). Sosna et al. identify two generic phases organisations go through
to innovate their BMs: exploration and exploitation. In the exploration phase,
the organisation aims to understand what BM design would address the stra-
tegic challenges (such as changing customer demands, increased competition,
or emergent technologies) through a trial-and-error process. In the exploitation
phase, the BM is implemented, its performance is measured, and if proven to be
valuable, it is scaled (Sosna et al., 2010).
Frankenberger et al. propose a ner-grained iterative BMI process with four
phases (Frankenberger et al., 2013):
• initiation – which involves analysing and understanding the ecosystem’s
needs and identifying important stakeholders,
• ideation – which concerns generating potential new (draft) BM designs,
• integration – which aims to establish a viable and complete BM design, con-
cretising its structure, business logic, and resources needed,
• implementation – which ensures that the selected BM design can be put into
practice and is supported through its organisational processes.
However, the most famous one is the classication provided by M. Geiss-
doerfer et al. which identies four types of BMI – start-up, transformation,
diversication and acquisition (Geissdoerfer et al., 2018), and also by S. Caval-
cante, P. Kesting and J. Ulhøi which describes creation, extension, revision and
termination (Cavalcante et al., 2011).
An important issue as regards the use of resources in BMI is the scope of new
technologies. BMI requires time, partly due to the fact that the preparation of a
The role of innovation in sustainable development 239
BM is more dependent on the context rather than the management of technology
(Teece, 2010). The adaptation of new technologies offers an opportunity for BM
renewal, but a profound change in the BM also disrupts previous congurations
of resources and can diminish a company’s performance (Sosna et al., 2010;
Mielcarek & Piekarczyk, 2022).
Sustainable business model innovation
In recent years, a new form of BMI has emerged by incorporating the sustain-
ability concept into the rm’s goals and processes. We dene sustainable busi-
ness model innovation (SBMI) as a change in how a rm operates to create a
positive impact or reduce the negative consequences for the environment and
society (Ferlito & Faraci, 2022). The evolution of the approach to SBMI is pre-
sented in Figure 17.1.
SBMI builds on the traditional BMI but applies it to a more expanded context.
The basic idea is rst to test the company’s current BM for sustainability against
a broader temporal, societal, and spatial context so that its vulnerability to ex-
ternalities, its sustainability limits, and its potential to create new environmental
and societal value all become apparent. Secondly, it explores BMIs by apply-
ing a combination of modular “transformations” to address limits and leverage
potentials. Subsequently, it connects BMIs back to the core drivers of business
advantage and nancial performance to assess how they can deliver both value
and sustainability. New models are piloted and tuned to seize an advantage in the
market, and also with investors and stakeholders, as well as to understand what
changes are needed in the business ecosystem or at the industry level to create
the right context for success (Young & Reeves, 2020).
Business Model Business Model
to achieve compliance
Reactive changes for
wise business model
changes to meet
market and investor
changes to meet
market and investor
of business models
and ecosystem to co-
optimize for business
Figure 17.1 The evolution of the approach to SBMI
Source: Own analysis based on literature research included in the references
240 Magdalena M. Stuss
SBMI involves changes in how a company does business to address societal
and environmental challenges and has gained increasing attention in the last
two decades as a means of sustainable development. To reach its sustainability
potential, SBMI necessitates engagement with external stakeholders to develop
multi-stakeholder value propositions and value capture mechanisms, making
these external stakeholders fundamentally part of a (future) functioning BM.
SBMI therefore structurally transcends the organisational boundaries of the rm
and requires a redesign and re-alignment of the organisational boundaries of the
respective organisations involved (Velter et al., 2021).
On the other hand, N. Bocken et al. dene SBMI as “innovations that create
signicant positive and/or signicantly reduce negative impact on the environ-
ment and/or society, through changes in the way the organisation and its value
network creates, delivers and captures value (i.e. create economic value), or
change their value proposition” (Bocken et al., 2014). They propose a categorisa-
tion of SBM archetypes, according to the main type of BMI: technological, social
and organisation-oriented innovation, according to the nature of the dominant in-
novation. Firms can select one or more archetypes in developing their SBMs, and
at the same time also combine different archetypes (Tiscini et al., 2020).
The SBMI considers the value creation in the activities carried out and their
delivery as eco-social benets balanced among all the players. In other words,
it may include changing energy inputs in the industry using renewable energies,
such as the sun and the wind, or modifying the way products reach the market
in terms of transportation (Ferlito & Faraci, 2022). SBMI is characterised by the
following (Young & Reeves, 2020):
• the incorporation of sustainable principles or goals into the existing value
• the extension of the value creation concept from economic value to shared
value (Porter & Kramer, 2011),
• the consideration of non-nancial interests in the decision-making process,
• managers who act as sustainability leaders to promote a new mindset within
the whole organisation (Stubbs & Cocklin, 2008).
As opposed to M. Velter et al., SBMI frames boundary work as the activity of
exploring, negotiating, and re-aligning organisational boundaries around new
value propositions (Velter et al., 2021).
Type of SBMI
Model of R. Ferlito and R. Faraci
Based on the new framework for an SBMI process, they proposed a multidimen-
sional vision of SBMI. The framework suggests starting the analysis from the
value proposition section that is made up not only by describing new sustainable
The role of innovation in sustainable development 241
value, such as existing tools but also by explaining the governance. This is fol-
lowed by the value creation and delivery system related to resources, assets,
processes and position in the value network relative to customers, competitors,
collaborators and all stakeholders.
Following the framework’s logic, we must consider how the value is cre-
ated and distributed. The nal area of our framework focuses mainly on the
rm’s results and their measurement. The second step concerns transparency,
which is often associated with the amount of information an organisation is
willing to disclose. Transparency cannot exist without ethical action such as
the presence of an ethical code and an ethical audit. The last element neces-
sary to consider is governance since leading the transformation to a more
SBM must be a constant topic on the Board of Directors’ agenda (Ferlito &
Model of D. Young and M. Gerard
The core practice for SBMI is an iterative innovation cycle. With each round, the
company gains scale, experience, and market presence for its initiative; these re-
inforce both the business advantage and the environmental and societal benets
generated (Young & Gerard, 2021):
• Step 1. Expand the Business Canvas – develop a rich understanding of
the broader stakeholder ecosystem in which the company operates and of
the environmental and societal issues and trends that might affect this ecosys-
tem. As part of this diagnosis, it is necessary to explore the potential impact
of ecosystem dynamics and other issues on the BM. This will facilitate the
identication of a range of business vulnerabilities and opportunities tied to
environmental and societal issues.
• Step 2. Innovate for a Resilient BM – transform the BM, or imagine an en-
tirely new one, so that you can seize these opportunities. In this second step,
it is necessary to innovate and develop new aspects of that new BM. It should
ideate a new BM to integrate and reinforce both business advantage and en-
vironmental and societal benets.
• Step 3. Link to Drivers of Value and Competitive Advantage – test, iterate,
and rene the BM ideas or concepts (from the second step) to ensure that
they will yield the environmental and societal benets intended, and that the
benets will translate into value and advantage for the company. A business
with weak prot margins cannot invest in innovation to amplify and scale
environmental and societal benets.
• Step 4. Scale the Initiative – the full potential value of SBMI is achieved
only when the new BM is brought to scale: engaging people in the company,
across the supply chain, in the company’s networks, and in its ecosystems to
expand impact and advantage.
242 Magdalena M. Stuss
Model of D. Young and M. Reeves
Strategy and sustainability are jointly considered and become mutually reinforc-
ing, in which reporting gives way to action, and a company-centric approach
gives way to a multilevel approach and new models of competition and sustain-
able value creation. The idea builds on M. Porter’s concept of shared value, but it
unites sustainability and strategy efforts in a common methodology and process,
both at the enterprise level and at higher levels (Young & Reeves, 2020).
A model as a cycle which enables resilience, durability, and value creation
through changing business, societal, and investor contexts has the following
characteristics (Young & Reeves, 2020):
• It scales effectively without diminishing returns or increasing the risk of failure.
• It increases differentiation and competitiveness.
• It reduces the potential for commoditisation.
• It creates an environmental and societal surplus.
• It remains durable against emerging socio-environmental trends.
• It exhibits network effects that accumulate value and reshape value chains.
• It harnesses or reshapes business ecosystems for advantage and sustainability.
• It increases returns to shareholders and net positives to stakeholders in the
environmental and societal dimensions.
• It stimulates the purpose of the company in ways that propel engagement and
afnity for employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders.
Model of E. Al-Baghdadi et al.
BMI has a direct relationship with sustainable innovations orientation (SIO)
and management accounting control systems (MACS), as well as the fact that
MACS have a direct relationship with SIO.
In addition, company and industry-related factors were proposed as the sustain-
able innovation orientation drivers, while sustainable product and process innova-
tion and some measures of corporate performance were proposed as the outcomes
of a sustainable innovation orientation. The mediating role of MACS and SIO
in the relationship between BMI and sustainable innovation outcomes (corporate
performance) was also hypothesised and it was contended that the innovation of a
BM by manufacturing companies can lead to a sustainable outcome. The MACS
and sustainable innovation orientation were found to mediate the relationship be-
tween BM sustainability and environmental performance, and also the relationship
between BM sustainability and employee performance (Al-Baghdadi et al., 2021).
Summary – implementation
Like any type of innovation, BMI is a way of changing and expanding the ability
of businesses to operate more effectively and efciently. By focusing on propos-
ing and creating value, BMI has become a major tool for developing new and
The role of innovation in sustainable development 243
changing existing forms of organisational value creation. The emerging eld
of research and practice in the area of SBMs has adopted this approach to un-
derstand and develop new forms of value creation that offer novel value propo-
sitions to customers and all other stakeholders, and that enable companies to
maintain the value of expected nancial performance, while maintaining and
even regenerating social and natural capital.
The implementation process should start by thinking over the concept of S.
Anthony, who described the evolution of innovation as the transition of the en-
tity of innovation from the individual innovator to enterprises and the transition
of the object of innovation from technological innovation to BMI (Anthony,
2012). To further draw on the research of F. Lüdeke-Freund, they found the case
of an SBMI of 45 patterns with the potential to create ecological, social, and
economic value. These were arranged in 11 pattern groups (Lüdeke-Freund &
Froese, 2020): “Pricing & revenue”, “Financing”, “Eco-design”, “Closing-the-
loop”, “Supply chain”, “Giving”, “Access provision”, “Social mission”, “Ser-
vice & performance”, “Cooperative”, “Community platform”.
SBMI should be implemented by translating sustainability strategies into
practical action plans for value-creating enterprises. In doing so, SBMI im-
proves a company’s ability to create, maintain or recreate natural, social and
economic capital across organisational boundaries. This is realised by changing
the value for customers and all other stakeholders and/or how value is created,
delivered and extracted.
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