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 6: Conclusions

Peter E. Wells

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


This book has tried to come to terms with two rather nebulous concepts: sustainability and business models. While it is often possible to say that X is more sustainable than Y in some comparative sense it is rarely possible to say that X is sustainable, full stop. Even where X is indeed more sustainable than Y along some metrics (such as reduced water or energy consumption; use of renewable rather than finite resources; easier to recycle; fewer toxins returned to the environment, and so on) it is often the case that on some other metrics Y is more sustainable than X (longer life cycle for example; greater economic benefit to a community). In similar vein, business models are an abstraction of a more complex reality in which we are trying to understand the determining structure of a business as it mediates between the inputs of materials and other resources, and the outputs of value-added goods and services. As with the issue of sustainability, the comparisons tend to be relative rather than absolute. There may indeed be businesses that could be characterised as essentially rapacious, turning environmental value into economic value via a process of destruction. The most extreme of this type of business are largely illegal nowadays: The hunting of rhinoceros for its horn is doubtless a highly profitable business for some participants in the value chain, but it is outside any legitimate market. The first problem encountered in this book has therefore been one of classification.

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