How Important is Sustainability for Start-ups? : An Investigation on the Sustainability Transition within Stockholm Ventures

University essay from KTH/Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM); KTH/Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM)

Abstract: This thesis seeks to explore the importance of sustainability within start-up organisations and investigate the sustainability transition within selected ventures. The research conducted applies a multiple case study design, combined with a literature review to answer the research question: ‘How Important is Sustainability for Start-ups?’. Six case studies are conducted from various industries, in order to obtain a purposive sample. The sample comprises start-ups that are technology focused, of a size below ten people and located in Stockholm, Sweden. Within this investigation, the concept of sustainability is defined through the triple bottom line approach; social, environmental, and economic, and supported by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations. Further concepts of Social Economy are applied, while the basis of the research questionnaire is the Social Economy Canvas. Moreover, the Multi-Level Perspective theoretical framework is applied to provide structure and support to the developed theories, placing sustainability within a broader perspective. As a result of the data collection and analysis, the following findings are presented. Firstly, digital start-ups struggle to have an impact on environmental sustainability when not working directly within this area. Secondly, in the ideation stages, start-ups have the intention of becoming sustainable according to the triple bottom line. However, when start-ups evolve, their sustainability goals may come into conflict with other factors that add layers of complexity in decision making. Thirdly, it is evidenced that a sustainability transition occurs in the observed case studies, as start-ups adopt more sustainable business practices and entrepreneurs are inspired to pursue new businesses or sustainability-oriented business models. Lastly, Sweden proves itself as a sustainability enabler, offering significant sustainability advantages to organisations based in Sweden.

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