Now almost five years down the line we have organised NBM @ Graz (2017), NBM @ Sofia (2018) and NBM @ Berlin (2019). Each of the NBM conferences followed a specific theme related to new business models. The second edition of the conference took place at the University of Graz, Austria, in June 2017. This conference’s focus was on the development of new business models especially emphasising the creation of multiple forms of value. In 2018, our community was welcomed in Sofia at the University of National and World Economy. The impact of a new generation of business models on society from both a local, regional, national, and international perspective has been the focus. Our visit to Berlin at ESCP Europe in 2019 incorporated change into the discussion. We focused on the contribution of developing new business models to reach the Sustainable Development Goals through sustainable entrepreneurship, innovation and transitions to future fit societies.
Society faces a broad range of urgent sustainability challenges (environmental, social, cultural etc.), which are described by the United Nations’ “Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs call governments, business, and civil society to transform the world into a more sustainable place (United Nations, 2015). For businesses, it is no longer a question whether they should aim for more than just financial value creation, but how they can integrate multiple value creation with respect to, for example, ecological or social value (Boons & Lüdeke-Freund, 2013; Dentchev et al., 2018).
This shift in meaning and focus of value creation brings forth not only possible alterations in current existing business models, but also the conception of “new business models” (Jonker, 2016), which are at the centre of this international conference. New business models that contribute to ecological, social, and economic value creation are of particular interest: so called “business models for sustainability” (Schaltegger et al., 2016). Such business models help “…describing, analysing, managing, and communicating (i) a company’s sustainable value proposition to its customers, and all other stakeholders, (ii) how it creates and delivers this value, (iii) and how it captures economic value while maintaining or regenerating natural, social, and economic capital beyond its organizational boundaries” (ibid., p. 268).
It is very much clear that the development and implementation of such business models require entrepreneurship and innovation to foster transitions to future-fit societies that build on values such as respect and justice and that no longer destroy the ecological foundations on which they depend.
The quest for business models for sustainability benefits from inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinary research. The domains of entrepreneurship, innovation, and transition studies – and particularly their intersections – hold huge potential to contribute to this quest. Even though business models for sustainability and their various operational, strategic, and normative implications challenge our current understanding of how businesses and other types of organisations function, they hold the promise to offer new approaches to tackle ecological and socio-economic challenges. Values-based entrepreneurs and innovations are required to stimulate transitions to sustainable development on various scales (from local to global), in various industries (from education to the heavy metal industry), and in various forms of collaboration (from peer-to-peer to cross-sectoral) (Breuer & Lüdeke-Freund, 2017).
NBM @ Berlin 2019 is meant to contribute to this search for new business models for sustainability.
Boons, F. & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2013): Business Models for Sustainable Innovation: State of the Art and Steps Towards a Research Agenda, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 45, 9-19, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.07.007.
Breuer, H. & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2017): Values-Based Network and Business Model Innovation, International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, 1-35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S1363919617500281.
Dentchev, N.; Rauter, R.; Jóhannsdóttir, L.; Snihur, Y.; Rosano, M.; Baumgartner, R.; Nyberg, T.; Tangh, X.; van Hoof, B. & Jonker, J. (2018): Embracing the Variety of Sustainable Business Models: A Prolific Field of Research and a Future Research Agenda, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 194, No. 1, 695-703, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.05.156.
Jonker, J. (2016): New Business Models, Creating Value Together. Doetinchem (NL): Our Common Future Foundation, https://www.newbusinessmodels.info/.
United Nations (2015): Transforming our World. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. United Nations, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld/publication.
Schaltegger, S.; Lüdeke-Freund, F. & Hansen, E. (2016): Business Models for Sustainability: A Co-Evolutionary Analysis of Sustainable Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Transformation, Organization & Environment, Vol. 29, No. 3, 264-289, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1086026616633272.