Sustainopreneurship - Business with a Cause : Conceptualizing Entrepreneurship for Sustainability

University essay from Växjö universitet/Ekonomihögskolan, EHV


This thesis presents a tentative definition of the concept of sustainopreneurship - in the most simplified form described as entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainability - “Business with a Cause”. The concept takes its departure from generic entrepreneurship theory development, its extensions and further contextualization into the domains of sustainability, primarily through recent research. A literature review provides core references related to the conceptualization of sustainability entrepreneurship. A claim is made that there is a need for further conceptual development, especially viewed in contrast to the empirical material and experience, when digesting the literature that deals with concepts preceding sustainopreneurship. These concepts are eco-preneurship and social entrepreneurship, as well as current descriptions of sustainability entrepreneurship, including some sources where the word sustainopreneurship in itself is introduced for the first time. The methodological approach used when conducting the literature review is an analytical stance. Additional analysis, integrating and extending the reviewed sources, leads us to a performative definition of sustainopreneurship. This tentative definition is presented as an imagined prospective wordbook entry in a “future history” format. One of the key distinctions in between entrepreneurship in general and sustainopreneurship, is that sustainopreneurship is mission- and cause oriented - business activity is used as a means to solve sustainability-related problems. In short, to turn business activity from being a part of the problem to be a part of the solution.

This world of ideas is set in contrast to the practical enaction of On a Mission Sweden – Inc. Ass, and the seven brands developed from this business platform – Club PuLS™, DJ Anders, SEEDS Sustainability Investment Fund, SEEDS Magazine, Ignition®, SLICE Services and Publishing™ and S'E'N'S'A. Three of these only reached conceptual stage for future potential launch. Four got established, and of these; one idle, two spun off in their own ventures, and one intended to spin off during 2007. Entrepreneurship as a concept to describe the nature of these ventures was experienced as insufficient, until 2003, when the concept of “sustainopreneurship” was found by serendipity. The conceptual dissatisfaction with “entrepreneurship-as-usual”, together with finding this new concept, made me instantly embrace this concept in the moment when stumbled upon. Another major driver for this work is a strong aspiration to take the abstract, general words and statements from world summits and conferences to the practical, hands on, down to earth, grass-root, local level with real world interaction to make possibilities of the problems related to the sustainability agenda. The ventures created from a time span of over seven years, forms a vast, deep, dense, intense and extremely rich “gross” empirical base from where the study collects its selective “net” material relevant for this study. The methodological approach to make sense and use of these serial and parallel self-initiated and self-experienced venturing processes is enactive research. The enactive research provides an opportunity to test the suggested formulation of sustainopreneurship – from the abstract idea to the concrete interaction. A special form of ethnography is used named self-ethnography. The ventures who have proven to perpetually evolve, develop and sustain are focused; On a Mission Sweden – Inc. Ass. and Ignition®. These ventures have provided the most significant change in both idea development, practice, and effect - both regards my inner world of insight breakthroughs and personal development, and the findings on a more abstract, conceptual, theoretical level. In order to highlight the three key dimensions of the concept, some key courses of events have been selected where they are considered to hold illustrative power: Firstly, the central events before the formalized venturing. Secondly, the milestones singled out during the venturing. Thirdly, some post-venture reflections around the process as such. The ethnographic style of the tales of the field is predominantly realist, with some degree impressionist.

The final chapter summarizes and presents an intermediary conclusion whether the concept has met the test and also discusses the meaning of the exercise as a whole. My own function is examined and evaluated briefly. The promise of the conceptual introduction is contrasted towards the approaches-as-usual regards the sustainability agenda that introduced the thesis, and some key points are delivered. Venturing in the name of sustainability allows agents to “act outside the box” related to the institutional framework that governs the structures that is set to solve the problems today, equipped with an upgraded mindset, operating with an agility made possible by the flexibility offered by creative business organizing. The quest to make (business) opportunities from the agenda set by sustainability, and organizing upon them in itself creates a sustaining meaning internally within the team to be able to ride through the storms – the same force traditionally driving NGO’s “not-for profit”, now coupled with a good business sense operating “for-profit”, with profit as a means, not as an end in itself - in a new in-between-land named “for prosperity”. When properly understood from knowledge increasing among other stakeholders than the sustainopreneurial teams and their closest supporters and early adopters, the welcoming of sustainopreneurial ventures are destined to increase. Proliferation and diffusion of sustainopreneurship in idea, applied interaction and reflective practice beyond this point can turn sustainability to be the main driver for business activity, internalizing the external sustainability demands as the primary purpose of the business creation and idea, forming its strategic intent, and integrated in its “organizational DNA”. Sustainopreneurship holds the power to give even more leverage to forces emerging from the business world that contributes to sustainability. Throughout the process, a question has been emerging to serve as a new opening for further interaction, where the claim is that sustainopreneurship delivers a good part of the answer;

How can we innovate and interact in order to reach a critical mass of people and energies to create a sustainable world?

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