Edited by Léo-Paul Dana
Sustainable entrepreneurship describes the nexus between sustainable development and entrepreneurship. Sustainable development has become a central concept for policy, society and business since the 1990s. It is most commonly defined as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987: 8). This definition highlights the concept of needs, particularly the essential needs of the world’s poor to which overriding priority should be given, and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. Sustainable development thus has to maintain intra-generational equity and develop inter-generational equity, while recognizing the interdependence of the natural environment, societal welfare and economic performance. In its current state, business activity places an overly strong emphasis on meeting current needs while it disregards the limitations, the planetary boundaries, for sustainable development on Earth. In response to the urgency of the situation, in 2015, governments of 175 countries agreed to keep the rise in temperature to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. This requires zeroing greenhouse gas emissions until 2060, reflecting a need for radical transformation in all sectors of civil society, particularly changes in consumption and production patterns (World Resources Institute, 2005). Sustainable entrepreneurship aspires to create viable market solutions and to act as change agents who realize and exploit opportunities for sustainable development. To achieve such ambitious sustainable development gains, sustainability entrepreneurship offers market-orientated solutions to counteract environmental degradation and rectify social injustice and inequality (Belz and Binder, 2017; Binder, 2017; Farny, 2016). It reflects a recent change in management and organization research to take a more holistic perspective on the role of business in current society. In 1994, Elkington coined the term ‘triple bottom line’, referring to the combination of economic, social and ecological benefits as a win–win–win situation for business, society and the environment. Similarly, Hart and Milstein (1999: 25) referred to the concept of creative destruction as a precondition and the central force for the transition to a sustainable society, emphasizing that ‘innovators and entrepreneurs will view sustainable development as one of the biggest business opportunities in the history of commerce’. Yet, integrating sustainability into a company’s activities is marked by high complexity and uncertainty owing to the different and often competing demands and objectives, which require organizations to achieve simultaneously economic, social and environmental value (Farny et al., 2019; Muñoz and Cohen, 2018).
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