Business Models for Sustainability

Business Models for Sustainability

Peter E. Wells

With increasing awareness that innovative technology alone is insufficient to make sustainable lifestyles a reality, this book brings into sharp focus the need to create radical new business models. This insightful book provides a theoretically grounded but also realistic account of how the design of business models can be a critical component in the overall transition to sustainability, and one that transcends the usual focus on innovative technology.

Chapter 1: Business models and sustainability

Peter E. Wells

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, strategic management


This book is based on a simple premise: that technological imagination alone is unlikely to deliver sustainability. We also need enormous innovation in all aspects of our lifestyles, our ways of consuming and producing, our values, and the myriad social structures that we create to orchestrate our lives. One book cannot address the totality of this revolution: It is an ongoing and collective endeavour for billions of people around the world. In the world of business, although there is a strong ‘green growth’ policy agenda (OECD, 2009; 2011), there is also a growing realisation that technological innovation alone is unlikely to resolve all of our sustainability challenges. Something more fundamental, more enduring, and more dramatically different is needed in a manner that rewrites the production–consumption nexus and, in so doing, creates and even demands new business models as part of a broader shift towards social equity (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010). Put simply, creating more eco- efficient technology will help little when the benefits are overwhelmed by increases in production and consumption. Global resources may be spread a little further, and there may be a little more time in which to begin to resolve the dilemmas humanity as a whole faces, but these are just palliatives. If patterns of production and consumption define the character and scale of sustainability challenges, then businesses embody the critical interface between the two. Yet the challenge of understanding how business can contribute to the solutions rather than to the problems that are all too readily observable remains vast.

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