Chapter 4: The principles and components of business models for sustainability
Academia is subject to the whims of fashion and fancy as much as any other aspect of life. Theories become suddenly prominent and then fade away again, just as topics or subjects of research and learning do. With the rapid emergence of Internet connectivity and the possibilities the associated technologies offered, so new and rather different forms of business also emerged and proliferated in the so-called dot.com era of the 1990s. In seeking to understand the significance, or otherwise, of the ‘clicks not bricks’ approach to business, so the language of the business model became increasingly prevalent – as was discussed in Chapter 2. The vast majority of the burgeoning literature on business models since then has neglected the issue of sustainability, albeit with some exceptions such as Stubbs and Cocklin (2008). In this respect, the work undertaken on business models for sustainability is a very much smaller subset of the much larger literature on the topic as a whole. The review in Chapter 2 identified some significant potential extensions of business models and their conceptualisation into a deeper consideration of their ecological performance, and into a wider consideration of the socio-governmental context that frames markets and corporate opportunities. There has been even less thought given over to the question of whether innovation in the business model might be one of the most important aspects of creating sustainable business generally. In part this neglect may due to the inherent turbulence in business generally: few businesses remain intact after 100 years, and most are in a state of almost constant change.
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