Sustainable Business Models: Research & Practice

The 7 features of new business models and some best practices
Sustainable Business Models: Research & Practice Sustainable Business Models: Research & Practice
Publ. date 19 Apr 2013
Companies should operate according to a sustainable business model in order to maintain continuity. An explicit and widely shared vision, confirmed by prominent people like Tex Gunning, former member of the Board of management of AkzoNobel and by June 2013 CEO of TNT Express and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. They claim that our current model of economic development and growth will soon come to an end. For companies it should no longer be about financial results only. It is time for them to operate according to a changing economy. But how?

The 7 features of new business models

New business models, of which sustainability forms an integral part, often occur nowadays. Jan Jonker, professor in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, started researching new business models in 2012. In 2013, a follow-up of this research was conducted. He outlines: “A key characteristic of all these examined business models is that they focus beyond financial results. These models create shared value, which means that besides creating financial value for the company, they also create social and environmental value.”

The 2012 research revealed six other features of new business models: 

  • Cooperative teamwork: connecting is of a great social and economical value 
  • Money is not the only medium of exchange. Also time, energy or care can be used as a medium of exchange
  • The economy focuses on needs and consuming
  • It is no longer about the possession of products; it is about having access to products and services.  
  • Long-term commitment
  • New business models contribute to a circular economy

The full results of the 2012 research are available for download. On June 28th 2013, the results of the second study on New Business Models were presented during a conference at the Radboud University. 

For example...

Sustainable front runners like Unilever, DSM and Ecover are preparing themselves for a changing economy. They focus on business strategies that are based on sustainable agriculture, circular flows of raw materials and scarcity of material resources.

At Mud Jeans, a trendy fashion store, you can not only buy a pair of jeans, you can also lease them. If your jeans is damaged or you would like a different pair, you can exchange it. From the old textiles, a new pair of jeans will be produced. A similar example is TurnToo: a company that does not focus on the transaction of property, but on the transaction of values. It involves the use of products, instead of owning them. For example: people do not want a lamp, they want light. They do not want chairs, they want to sit. TurnToo ensures that this process works and mediates between the supplier and the user.

Another innovative example of a sustainable business model is InterfaceFlor. InterfaceFlor does not only make carpets which are fully recyclable, they also buy used up fishing nets of Filipino fishermen. As a result the fishermen receive a better income and the nets do not end up in the sea but are used as raw materials for carpets.

A glimpse at Torres

Torres is a family business from the 17th century and Spanish wine producer from Penedès, Catalonia. For over 30 years environmentally responsible viticulture methods have been developed and several local environmental protection programs were implemented which resulted in a high wine-quality and a good price/quality ratio. Curious? Take a look at Torres and please pay special attention to the attached presentation. 

Torres and GLOBE-US

This case shows you how GLOBE-US assists by integrating sustainability in Torres’ business model. Would you like to know more about GLOBE-US? Please contact Jan van der Kaaij, managing partner, via or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

About Jan van der Kaaij

Sustainability expert in strategy development, DJSI and sustainable innovation, with a hands-on approach and always committed to go for the max. | 

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