Realising genuine sustainability: Dynamic capabilities of Born Sustainable Firms

Desirée Knoppen, Louise A Knight

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


New businesses help to drive sustainability transitions. Their commercial success and social and environmental impact are critically dependent on dynamic capabilities development. This paper explores the micro-foundations of dynamic capabilities of ‘born sustainable firms’ (BSF) – firms founded with an explicit strategic intent to operate in a sustainable manner. In doing so, we acknowledge the critical role of suppliers and customers, and onwards upstream and downstream players, in delivering these outcomes and therefore adopt a supply chain perspective in this two part study to address the central research question: ‘how do born sustainable firms achieve their sustainability goals?’. First, the literature review addresses the intersection of sustainability, supply chain management and entrepreneurship to identify how past research suggests BSF could deliver their goals through sensing, seizing and transforming meta-capabilities. This underpins the second, empirical phase, a comparative case analysis of BSF from a wide range of sectors and locations across Europe and America, based on qualitative data from interviews, websites, business news articles etc. Initial descriptive analysis of 10 cases reveals the micro-foundations of the sensing, seizing and transforming dynamic capabilities, themed around people, processes and structures. Founders’ values and past experience helped them identify key opportunities and define the BSF’s mission, but most still struggle to cope with regulatory barriers and slow change in customer attitudes to scale up their output. The study is being extended to include more cases and explanatory analysis, to build on the emerging rich picture of opportunities and barriers on different pathways followed towards becoming truly sustainable businesses.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019
EventEuropean Academy of Management Conference 2019 - ICST-IUL, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 26 Jun 201928 Jun 2019


ConferenceEuropean Academy of Management Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleEURAM


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