Investigating the Relationship between Sustainability and Business Model Innovation in the Context of the European Food Industry

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Organisations, and society at large, are nowadays facing enormous and unprecedented challenges in terms of sustainable development (United Nations General Assembly 2015). Therefore, there is an increasing necessity to prioritize sustainability concerns, and ensure the integration of sustainability into organisations’ business models. Such a prioritization and integration can in turn generate new opportunities to innovate and differentiate business models (Bocken et al. 2014), and, consequently, be decisive for organisations that want to sustain their competitiveness in the market (Teece 2010; Gambardella & McGahan 2010). Thus, on one hand, business model innovation can help to achieve significant improvements in terms of sustainability (Breuer and Lüdeke-Freund, 2017; Carayannis et al., 2015; Pedersen et al., 2016; Rauter et al., 2017; Schaltegger et al., 2012). On the other, sustainability has the potential to inspire and drive business model innovation (Bocken et al., 2014; Joyce and Paquin, 2016). As effectively explained by Ernesto Ciorra, Head of Innovation and Sustainability at Enel, “we are not sustainable unless we innovate, and in order to innovate, we have to be sustainable” (Global Reporting Initiative 2016). The current study aims to investigate the relationship between sustainability and business model innovation within the European food industry. Empirically, the analysis isbased on survey data from 469 companies of seven European countries, namely Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and United Kingdom.The overall results show that sustainability is slightly positively related to business model innovation. This seems to be particularly true for German companies, which show a high positive relationship. The result does not hold true for Danish companies, which show a slightly negative relationship. This slightly negative relationship. This study has implications for practitioners and scholars who work in the field of sustainability and business model innovation, especially in the context of the European food industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring a Changing View on Organizing Value Creation: Developing New Business Models : Contributions to the 2nd International Conference on New Business Models
EditorsRomana Rauter, Martina Zimek, Aisma Linda Kiesnere, Rupert J. Baumgartner
Number of pages2
Place of PublicationGraz
PublisherUniversity of Graz
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event2nd International Conference on New Business Models. NBM 2017 - Hotel Das Weitzer, Graz, Austria
Duration: 21 Jun 201722 Jun 2017
Conference number: 2


Conference2nd International Conference on New Business Models. NBM 2017
LocationHotel Das Weitzer
Internet address
SeriesInstitute of Systems Sciences, Innovation and Sustainability Reports


  • Sustainability
  • Business model innovation
  • Food industry
  • Europe

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