A framework to explore the functioning and sustainability of business models

Peter Bradley, Glenn Parry, Nicholas O'Regan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a framework to enable case study analysis of sustainable development from business models innovation. Increasing economic development can give rise to trade-offs between economic growth and environmental degradation. Business model innovation can help address such trade-offs by refocusing value creation and capture towards less environmentally damaging activities. Business models therefore provide a critical tool in the move towards sustainable development. In this paper a literature review of existing business model frameworks is conducted and gaps found in the definition and conceptualisation of value, alignment with sustainable development, and assessment of social and environmental impacts and goals. More generally, there is a lack of in depth case studies in the sustainable business model literature. A framework is developed to address these gaps and to allow in depth analysis and understanding of the functioning of business models for sustainable development. Development and piloting of the framework made use of literature and co-operative enquiry. The framework of the paper is applied in depth with a unique energy company case study. Application shows economies of scope to be critical to the delivery of sustainable development. The business model framework addresses equity and distributional issues that are key to sustainable development, but missed by current frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-77
Number of pages21
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Early online date4 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Business model
  • Corporate sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Organisational development
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable management
  • Transformation
  • Value maximising
  • Value proposition


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