Environmental entrepreneurship: The sustainability challenge

John L. Thompson, Jonathan Scott

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    Objectives: The past decade has seen an upsurge in academic, practitioner and policy interest in environmental entrepreneurship (e.g. Kirkwood and Walton, 2010a, b; Walley et al, 2010), as well as a focus on ‘sustainable entrepreneurship’ in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) (e.g. Cohen & Wynn, 2004; Dean and McMullen, 2007; Hall et al, 2010; Pacheco et al, 2009; Parrish, 2005, 2007a, b; Parrish and Foxon, 2009; Rodgers, 2009; Tilley and Parrish, 2006, 2009). Because this nascent topic – which straddles entrepreneurship, sustainability, innovation and technological change – remains under-theorised with clear gaps in the literature, this paper develops conceptual understanding of the link between environmental entrepreneurship, sustainability, and innovation.Approach: We review critically the literature on environmental entrepreneurship, highlighting (as above) a lack of conceptual development, and relate it to debates within other related fields, such as innovation and technological change (e.g. Drucker, 1985a, b; Rothwell, 1994; Preece and Laurila, 2003; Bolton & Thompson, 2004) and strategic entrepreneurship (e.g. Covin & Miles, 1999; Thompson, 1999; Hitt et al, 2001). Subsequently, we present two testable conceptual models, which, with ongoing research we are applying to a diverse range of case studies.Results: Therefore, building on prior work by Bolton & Thompson (2004) – which identified a ‘social facet’ which can affect a person’s temperament and which manifests itself as a hierarchy of four stages – the authors develop two new conceptual frameworks. Both feature a Business/Environment Sustainability Index (e.g. a double or maybe even a triple bottom line assessment or sustainable value (see Figge & Hahn, 2005; Hahn et al 2007)). One framework separates opportunity driven businesses from those constrained by regulation; and the second distinguishes economics as a predominant motive force from cause-driven behaviour.Implications: At a global level, we are concerned about things that are happening in the world, generally things many perceive as ‘negative’ in the context of (environmental) sustainability. At a national level, wealthy and successful regions attract more money and value creators, while relatively unsuccessful regions enter into a spiral of decline, resulting in blighted landscapes and no-go areas – whilst their renewal might be a local issue it has wider connotations – the funding and energy required could go elsewhere. Locally, it can be tempting to believe any development is better than no development.Value: This paper provides novel conceptual models for an emerging topic within the fields of entrepreneurship and sustainability and considers whether it needs organisations to be ‘on message’ for successful environmental outcomes to be achieved. It is a work-in-progress that the authors are continuing and it can also be an opportunity for other researchers with an interest in environmental entrepreneurship.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010
    EventISBE 2010 - London
    Duration: 1 Nov 2010 → …


    ConferenceISBE 2010
    Period1/11/10 → …
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