Navigating the process of sustainable business model innovation : a multiple case study of three large German firms
MetadataShow full item record
- Master Thesis 
Purpose – The main purpose of this study is to increase the understanding of the sustainable business model innovation (SBMI) process in large firms by holistically examining the process from “idea to launch.” Design/methodology/approach – To provide an answer to how large firms navigate the process of SBMI, an initial conceptual process framework based on insights from innovation management literature and a synthesis of 16 process models from sustainable and conventional business model innovation (BMI) literature was abductively developed into a final process model that integrates the empirical findings of a multiple case study of SBMI processes in three large German firms. Both in-case analysis and cross-case analysis were applied. Findings – This study proposes a process model for SBMI in large corporations. It comprises four process phases (diagnosis, discovery, design, and delivery) and provides insights into the process activities performed and actors involved in the aforesaid four phases as well as the overarching characteristics of the SBMI process as a whole. The study identifies ten process activities. The results indicate that both analytical and experimental activities are present in the SBMI process and while they show resemblance to conventional BMI, sustainability is strongly embedded in most process activities. In terms of process actors, the findings indicate that the process of SBMI is initiated either by the CEO or a small group of employees within a department that request cross-functional support inside the organization and integrate external stakeholders to a varying extent, depending on the process phase they are in. However, a uniform organizational anchoring of SBMI responsibilities tends to be missing. In terms of process characteristics, the findings suggest that the way that process actors navigate the process of SBMI can be guided by systematic schemes, yet its nature is characterized by non-linear iterations, in particular between the delivery and design phase as well as the discovery and diagnosis phase. Finally, the findings reveal the relevance of timing and intention in the process of SBMI, which emerged as additional patterns from the data. Research implications – The study addresses the dearth of knowledge on the process of SBMI and paucity of empirical research in the specific context of large firms. The study contributes to the relatively nascent state of the process-oriented, holistic stream of SBMI literature. Practical implications – The practical utility of the process model proposed lies in the provision of guidance to managers and cross-functional teams that wish to navigate the process of SBMI in the attempt to create a novel SBM or revise their current BM towards sustainability. As such, it gives practitioners a clearer understanding of how to approach the processual black box of SBMI, which constitutes a highly challenging and uncertain endeavor. Keywords – Business model, sustainable business model, business model innovation, sustainable business model innovation, process model, multiple case study, large firms.