Sustainable business models - characteristics, criteria, innovations

Justyna Szumniak-Samolej


The previous approaches to the implementation of sustainable development are insufficient to create truly revolutionary transformations of organizations, markets and societies. As a result, humanity is on the verge of an ecological catastrophe which will have extremely serious socio-economic consequences. In the face of contemporary challenges of sustainable development, there is a need for a rapid and radical change in the approach of business to people and the natural environment. In this context, the concept of sustainable business models deserves attention, as it extends the existing understanding of the role of business in solving social and environmental problems.

The aim of the article is to analyze the current state of knowledge and present the basic concepts, assumptions and definitions of sustainable business models. This is a review paper. The adopted research method is an analysis and synthesis of English-language literature sources. At the beginning, the article indicates the place of research on sustainable business models in contemporary scientific works. Next, attention is paid to the concept of value as an element combining the logic of a business model and a sustainable business model. In the main part, various approaches and attempts to define sustainable business models and criteria for this type of projects are analyzed and presented. The role and types of innovation in sustainable business models are also presented. Finally, the evolution of the approaches to sustainable business models is considered, as well as the ways in which this concept might develop in the future.

Keywords: sustainable business models, sustainable business model, impact startups, sustainable development, impact, sustainable innovation, hybrid business models, social business


  • Aluchna, M. i Rok, B. (2018). Sustainable business models: The case of the collaborative economy. W L. Moratis, F. Melissen i S. O. Idowu (red.), Sustainable business models. Principles, promise, and practice (s. 41-62). Springer.
  • Antwerp Management School i ING Belgium. (2017). Challenging business as usual. Conceiving and creating sustainability value through hybrid business models. Antwerp Management School.
  • Baden-Fuller, C. i Morgan, M. (2010). Business models as models. Long Range Planning, 43(2-3), 156-171.
  • Bocken, N., Short, S., Padmakshi, R. i Evans, S. (2013). A value mapping tool for sustainable business modelling. Corporate Governance, 13(5), 482-497.
  • Bocken, N., Short, S., Rana, P. i Evans, S. (2014). A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 65, 42-56.
  • Boons, F. i Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2013). Business models for sustainable innovation: State of the art and steps towards a research agenda. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 9-19.
  • Breuer, H., Fichter, K., Lüdeke-Freund, F. i Tiemann, I. (2018). Sustainability-oriented business model development: principles, criteria and tools. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, 10(2), 256-286.
  • Carrillo-Hermosilla, J., del Río, P. i Könnölä, T. (2010). Diversity of eco-innovations: re?ections from selected case studies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18, 1073-1083.
  • Charter, M. i Clark, T. (2007). Sustainable Innovation: Key conclusions from Sustainable Innovation Conferences 2003-2006 organised by The Centre for Sustainable Design. The Centre for Sustainable Design University College for the Creative Arts.
  • Chesbrough, H. i Rosenbloom, R. S. (2002). The role of the business model in capturing value from innovation: Evidence from Xerox Corporation's technology spin-off companies. Industrial and Corporate Change, 11(3), 529-555.
  • Chesbrough, H. (2007). Business model innovation: it's not just about technology anymore. Strategy & Leadership, 35(6), 12-17.
  • Dentchev, N., Baumgartner, R., Dieleman, H., Jóhannsdóttir, L., Jonker, J., Nyberg, T., Rauter, R., Rosano, M., Snihur, Y., Tang, X. i van Hoof, B. (2016). Embracing the variety of sustainable business models: social entrepreneurship, corporate intrapreneurship, creativity, innovation, and other approaches to sustainability challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, 113, 1-4.
  • Dentchev, N., Rauter, R., Jóhannsdóttir, L., Snihur, Y., Rosano, M., Baumgartner, R., Nyberg, T., Tang, X., van Hoof, B. i Jonker, J. (2018). Embracing the variety of sustainable business models: A prolific field of research and a future research agenda. Journal of Cleaner Production, 194, 695-703.
  • Geissdoerfer, M., Vladimirova, D. i Evans, S. (2018). Sustainable business model innovation. A review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 198, 401-416.
  • Hansen, E., Grosse-Dunker, F. i Reichwald, R. (2009). Sustainability Innovation Cube - A framework to evaluate sustainability-oriented innovations. International Journal of Innovation Management, 13(4), 683-713.
  • Honeyman, R. (2014). The B Corp Handbook. How to use business as a force for good. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Joyce, A. i Paquin, R. (2016). The triple layered business model canvas: a tool to design more sustainable business models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, 1474-1486.
  • Luqmani, A., Leach, M. i Jesson, D. (2017). Factors behind sustainable business innovation: The case of a global carpet manufacturing company. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 24, 94-105.
  • Lüdeke-Freund, F., Carroux, S., Joyce, A., Massa, L. i Breuer, H. (2018). The sustainable business model pattern taxonomy-45 patterns to support sustainability-oriented business model innovation. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 15, 145-162.
  • Lüdeke-Freund, F. i Dembek, K. (2017). Sustainable business model research and practice: Emerging ?eld or passing fancy? Journal of Cleaner Production, 168, 1668-1678.
  • Magretta, J. (2002). Why business models matter. Harvard Business Review, 80(5), 86-92.
  • Melissen, F. i Moratis, L. (2016). A call for fourth generation sustainable business models. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 63, 8-16.
  • Moratis, L., Melissen, F. i Idowu, S. O. (2018). Introduction: From corporate social responsibility to sustainable business models. W L. Moratis, F. Melissen i S. O. Idowu (red.), Sustainable business models. Principles, promise, and practice (s. 1-15). Springer.
  • Morżoł, I. (2019). UNESCO a Dekada Edukacji dla Zrównoważonego Rozwoju. UNESCO.
  • Osterwalder, A. i Pigneur, Y. (2012). Tworzenie modeli biznesowych. Podręcznik wizjonera. Wydawnictwo Helion.
  • Patala, S., Jalkala, A., Keränen J., Väisänen, S., Tuominen, V. i Soukka, R. (2016). Sustainable value propositions: A framework and implications for industrial technology suppliers. Industrial Marketing Management, 59, 144-156.
  • Richardson, J. (2008). The business model: an integrative framework for strategy execution. Strategic Change, 17(5-6), 133-144.
  • Rok, B. (2021). Pozytywny wpływ coraz bardziej potrzebny. W B. Rok (red.), Raport startupy pozytywnego wpływu. Radykalna innowacja społeczna (s. 14-17). Koźmiński Business Hub.
  • Sabeti, H. (2009). The emerging Fourth Sector. Executive summary.
  • Sabeti, H. (2012). Przedsiębiorstwo nastawione na korzyści niematerialne. Harvard Business Review Polska, 111, 67-74.
  • Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E. i Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2016). Business models for sustainability: origins, present research, and future avenues. Organization & Environment, 29(1), 3-10.
  • Schaltegger, S., Lüdeke-Freund, F. i Hansen, E. (2012). Business cases for sustainability: the role of business model innovation for corporate sustainability. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 6(2), 95-119.
  • Sneader, K. i Singhal, S. (2021, 4 stycznia). The next normal arrives: Trends that will define 2021-and beyond. McKinsey & Company.
  • Startupy pozytywnego wpływu. Radykalna innowacja społeczna. (2021). Koźmiński Business Hub.
  • Stubbs, W. i Cocklin, C. (2008). Conceptualizing a "Sustainability Business Model". Organization & Environment, 21(2), 103-127.
  • Teece, D. (2010). Business models, business strategy and innovation. Long Range Planning, 43, 172-194.
  • WCED. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. World Commission on Environment and Development.

Justyna Szumniak-Samolej

About the article


The article is in the printed version on pages 37-45.

pdf read the article (Polish)

How to cite

Szumniak-Samolej, J. (2022). Zrównoważone modele biznesowe - charakterystyka, kryteria, innowacje. e-mentor, 1(93), 37-45.