Theme 3

“Organisational impact”

Theme coordinator: Florian Lüdeke-Freund

The heart of any business model is its value creation logic (Laasch, 2018). New business models aiming at contributions to sustainable development build on the principle of multiple value creation, taking the shape of various business model patterns (Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2018). The underlying idea is that such business models are developed not just to improve organisations’ own operations, but also to render positive ecological and social impacts outside beyond organisational boundaries (Schaltegger et al., 2016). The extent to which these impacts are realised when adopting new business models is often unclear. The aim of theme three is to better understand how business models with positive impacts can be developed and how their impacts can be estimated or even measured.

Tracks in this theme are:
1. Sustainable business model patterns as a means to create impactful businesses (Track 10)
Track chairs: Florian Lüdeke-Freund and Tobias Froese

The purpose of this track is to explore the status quo and future avenues for research on business model pattern typologies, taxonomies, and languages. This involves consolidating the currently available knowledge about business model patterns with the potential to contribute to solving diverse ecological, social, and economic problems, but also case studies on ‘patterns in action’, i.e. how and under what conditions business model patterns can serve as effective tools for organisational design. Submissions to this track should have an explicit link to sustainability issues. Topics within this track include, but are not limited to, the following (cf. Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2018, 2019):
– How to consolidate the available knowledge on sustainable business model (SBM) patterns, and how to convert it into ‘knowledge for action’?
– What kinds of pattern template are well-suited to describe and archive SBM patterns?
– How to identify and systematise the various connections between different SBM patterns to create an overarching structure, or ‘pattern language’?
– How to define normative guiding criteria for the application of patterns to increase the likelihood of effective contributions to sustainable organisational design?
– Which methods are best suited to develop SBM classifications, both typologies and taxonomies, or even whole ‘Alexandrian’ languages?
– How to test the effectiveness of SBM patterns as an additional element of business model innovation tools?

2. Sustainability accounting and impact measurement of new business models (Track 11)
Track chairs: Koos Wagensveld and Egbert Willekes

Whether and how new business models effectively support sustainable development and societal wellbeing is not just a matter of business model design, but also of the measurability and manageability of the impacts of organisations’ business models. While the interrelations between organisations’ sustainability performance and their business models is discussed in an increasing number of academic and practice publications, the effectiveness of the different accounting and impact measurement approaches for the deliberate assessment and management of business models and their expected contributions to a sustainable development of the natural environment and human society are currently debated (Brown & Dillard, 2014; Flower, 2015; Tweedie & Martinov-Bennie, 2015; Haji & Hossain, 2016; Humphrey et al., 2017; Chaidali & Jones, 2017). Therefore, this track is to further build on this debate to enhance the development of an effective and practical framework for integrated- thinking and reporting. Guiding questions, building on current research (e.g. Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2017), could include:
– Which frameworks, e.g. from sustainability accounting or integrated reporting, can be applied to effectively assess and manage the impacts of business models?
– How to account for different sustainable business model designs, e.g. considering different business model patterns and/or different stages of the life cycle of a sustainable business model?
– How can be avoided that sustainability accounting or integrated reporting is being (primarily) used for greenwashing?
– How to use sustainability accounting and/or impact assessments to test hypotheses about the ‘sustainability’ of business models?
– Which best practices, in terms of organisations, business model patterns, and management accounting tools, do we currently see in practice?

Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2014). Integrated reporting: On the need for broadening out and opening up. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27(7), 1120–1156.
Chaidali, P., & Jones, M. J. (2017). It’s a matter of trust: Exploring the perceptions of Integrated Reporting preparers. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 48, 1-20.
Flower, J. (2015). The International Integrated Reporting Council: A story of failure. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 27, 1–17.
Haji, A. A., & Hossain, D. M. (2016). Exploring the implications of integrated reporting on organizational reporting practice: Evidence from highly regarded integrated reporters. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 13(4), 415-444.
Humphrey, C., O’Dwyer, B., & Unerman, J. (2017), Re-theorizing the configuration of organizational fields: The IIRC and the pursuit of ‘Enlightened’ corporate reporting. Accounting and Business Research, 47(1), 30–63.
Lüdeke-Freund, F.; Freudenreich, B.; Saviuc, I.; Schaltegger, S. & Stock, M. (2017): Sustainability-Oriented Business Model Assessment – A Conceptual Foundation, in: Edgeman, R.; Carayannis, E. & Sindakis, S. (Eds.): Analytics, Innovation and Excellence-Driven Enterprise Sustainability. Houndmills: Palgrave, 169-206.
Tweedie, D., & Martinov-Bennie, N. (2015). Entitlements and time: Integrated reporting’s double-edged agenda. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 35(1), 49-61.

3.  Towards strategic impact management (Track 12)
Track chair: Karen Maas

Every organization, whether governed as a for-profit, a family business, a social enterprise, a cause-based start-up, a public organization, a non-profit or a partnership, has an impact on society (Emerson et al., 2006; Epstein and Yuthas, 2014; Porter and Kramer, 2011).
At an organizational level, managers find it useful and important to assess their social impact for two main reasons. If an organization’s social impact fails to meet the expectations of its diverse stakeholder audiences, it can lead to a loss of legitimacy, which can threaten funding, access to markets, and increased regulation, while also impairing their ability to grow and scale (Smith, Gonin, & Besharov, 2013). Second, organizations may find it useful to assess their social impact to monitor the achievement of their social goals, and thus to improve their business models (Dichter et al., 2016; Maas & Liket, 2011). While there is a long history of social impact measurement in the fields of international development and evaluation (Roche 1999; Liket et al., 2014), it is now garnering increasing attention among a wider range of investors and intergovernmental organizations (Maas and Grieco, 2017; Toxopeus et al., 2016).
Despite the challenges of valuing and evaluating social impact, recent literature has recognized a proliferation of alternative yet potentially complementary approaches and regimes for assessing social impact (Liket and Maas, 2015). The goal of the proposed sub-theme is to facilitate a conversation on social impact to: a) compare methods and approaches to social impact measurement, monitoring, and evaluation; b) analyze the socially constructed aspects of impact measurement and social worth, and its implications for organizational legitimacy; c) examine various levels of analysis relevant to social impact measurement such as a project, program, organization, institution, and society; d) address the research-practice gap between theories of social impact and real-world managerial problems.


Dichter, S., Adams, T., & Ebrahim, A. (2016). The Power of Lean Data. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter).
Emerson, J., Spitzer, J. and Mulhair, G. (2006). ‘Blended Value Investing: Capital opportunities for social and environmental impact’. World Economic Forum, university, city.
Epstein, M.J. and Yuthas, K. (2014). Measuring and improving social impacts a guide for nonprofits, companies, and impact investors. San Francisco: Berrett‐Koehler Publishers.
Liket, K.C. & Maas, K.E.H. (2015). Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness: Analysis of Best Practices. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 44 (2), 268-296.
Liket, K.C, Maas, K.E.H & Rey Garcia, M (2014). Why Aren’t Evaluations Working and What to Do About it: A Framework for Negotiating Meaningful Evaluation in Nonprofits. American Journal of Evaluation, 35 (2), 171-188.
Maas, K.E.H. & Grieco, C. (2017). Distinguishing game changers from boastful charlatans: Which social enterprises measure their impact? Journal of Spcial Entrepreneurship, Online-first, March 2017, 110-128
Maas, K.E.H & Liket, K.C. (2011). Social impact measurement: a classification of methods. In R. Burrit (Ed.), Environmental Management Accounting, Supply Chain Management and Corporate Responsibility Accounting (pp. 171-202). USA: Springer
Toxopeus, H.S., Maas, K.E.H & Liket, K.C. (2016). Innovating for Impact Investing: Financial Institutions and Beyond. In Veronica Vecchi, Luciano Balbo, Manuela Brusoni, Stefano Caselli (Ed.), Principles and Practice of Impact Investing, a Catalytic Revolution (pp. 174-186). London: Greenleaf Publishing Ltd.
Porter, M.E. and Kramer, M.R. (2011). ‘Creating Shared Value. How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth’. Harvard Business Review, 89, 62-77.
Roche, C. (1999). Impact Assessment for Development Agencies: Learning to Value Change. Oxford: Oxfam GB.
Smith, W. K., Gonin, M., & Besharov, M. L. (2013). Managing social-business tensions: A review and research agenda for social enterprise. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(3), 407-442.

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