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  • Series: The Johns Hopkins University series on Entrepreneurship x
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Maritza I. Espina, Phillip H. Phan and Gideon D. Markman

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Duane Windsor

Two general scenarios dominate narratives about the future: environmental dystopia due to global catastrophe – the pessimistic scenario (here labeled “1984”); and sustainable development utopia due to successful solutions avoiding global catastrophe – the optimistic scenario (here labeled “Brave New World”). Considerable scientific skepticism is being expressed concerning whether the climate change goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement can be achieved – without considerably more drastic approaches being undertaken. What drastic approaches can, and should, be remain ill-explored. This chapter discusses the content of the pessimistic and optimistic scenarios in terms of five key dimensions: businesses, consumers, institutions – subdivided into governmental policies, domestic and international, and other (nongovernmental) social institutions – and technologies. The Paris Agreement is a global intergovernmental arrangement under which each participating country agrees to work toward certain climate change control targets. Participating countries agree to implement national policies accordingly. Technology solutions may be desirable and being explored by governments and entrepreneurs, but technology solutions are uncertain. It is also unclear whether – and if so how and when – businesses, consumers, and social institutions (other than governments) can and will adopt pro-sustainability orientations. Whether the future is an environmental dystopia or a sustainable development utopia depends vitally on how these five key dimensions will function. Empirical outcomes – global, regional, national, and local – might lie scattered everywhere in between those two extreme outcomes. A sustainable development utopia seems unlikely on present evidence.

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Michael Zhang

Certain groups of entrepreneurs from transition or emerging economies regard institutional voids as market opportunities and they explore and exploit these opportunities to start new ventures and compete with more powerful incumbents. Sustainability-oriented opportunities offer the same market opportunities for those entrepreneurs to discover and create opportunities. In this chapter I take the issue of sustainable mobility as an example to contribute to the research on sustainability and entrepreneurship. Sustainable mobility emerges from complex systems with no clear revelation of causality. I will use Geely and its founder entrepreneur Li Shufu as a case in an attempt to shed light on our discussion of the research nexus of sustainability and entrepreneurship.

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Kristiina Joensuu, Marileena Mäkelä and Tiina Onkila

Sustainability reporting has recently faced increasing criticism. In particular, the legitimacy and accountability of the reports have been questioned. Despite these questions, there has been little further study on how stakeholders’ expectations are influenced by assumptions of a social contract. In this study we examine stakeholders’ views on sustainability reporting by applying nano-level social contract theory. Our research question is: how do stakeholder interpretations differ concerning sustainability reporting when it comes to meeting the requirements of the social contract? We interviewed representatives of internal and external stakeholders of two Finnish companies on the usability and challenges of sustainability reporting. The study constructs a typology of stakeholder expectations and the social norms influencing these expectations. The study contributes to the current literature by showing how the stakeholder expectations are contradictory, not only between different stakeholder groups, but also among individuals within those groups.

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Phillip Bruner, Richard Harrison and Dan Van der Horst

Sustainable entrepreneurs responding to climate change are presented with opportunities to earn profits in a market where political economic factors play a defining role. According to theories of sustainable entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs design businesses that can capitalize on sustainable market opportunities because of market failures or market disequilibrium. However, commercial and non-commercial actors intervene in the market for sustainable goods and services, using their political influence to shape the competitive landscape. When viewed through the lens of critical theory, where market intervention is expected and power dynamics emphasized, the practice of sustainable entrepreneurship takes on political economic dimensions. In addition to its explanatory power, viewing sustainable entrepreneurship through the lens of critical theory may afford certain advantages to entrepreneurs who may account for political economic factors when developing strategies to capture market share. At the same time, the practice of sustainable entrepreneurship may be seen as an effective method for addressing climate change by driving a global shift to a more sustainable, low carbon political economy.

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Katharina Kaesehage and Michael Leyshon

Scholars increasingly argue that Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and their entrepreneurs should play a central role in reducing the rate and magnitude of climate change. However, evidence suggests that whilst some entrepreneurs do recognize their crucial role in addressing climate change, most find taking action difficult. How some entrepreneurs nevertheless concern themselves with climate change has been the subject of a few recent studies. Some have tentatively argued that these entrepreneurs can do so because of bottom-up, community-led approaches and peer-to-peer relationships. However, little is known about these efforts. Such network interactions of entrepreneurs have not been empirically researched in the light of climate change and little is known about the reason for, and impact of, such informal relationships and efforts for entrepreneurs’ mitigation of climate change. Over a period of four years we examined how entrepreneurs use networks to mitigate climate change through a variety of qualitative research methods. We reveal that the entrepreneurs use Citizen Interactions through which they try to understand climate change, exploring their personal experiences and observations, and second, such relationships create a Shared Belief System that serves to sidestep the current external governance structures that do not support entrepreneurs’ endeavours to mitigate climate change. We suggest that change-related policies need to use community efforts to support and ease engagement with climate change efforts.

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Richard Thomas Herko, H. Drew Fountaine and Lee Kats

Management interest in sustainability issues continues to grow, as does the need for clearer understanding of the relationships between organizations on important sustainability topics such as the governance of water. This study aims to broaden our understanding of organizational competition and cooperation with regard to key resources. Taking the approach that everyone is a stakeholder in the natural environment, we attempt to discern the extent to which faultlines impact the decision-making processes. Our study combines resource competition theory, resource-dependent theory and institutional theory to provide new insights into faultlines research. This study is framed within the state of California and further suggests the dynamic nature of resource-constrained decision-making as our research started during the end of an extreme and historic drought and then ended during historic levels of snow/rain capture.

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Yusi W. Turell and Andrew G. Earle

In this chapter, we examine the processes of the ‘social innovation school’ of social entrepreneurs, who utilize their market-based and/or market-altering organization (i.e., social enterprise) as a mechanism to change organizational fields. We flip the traditional view of field-level change as a mechanism to organizational viability and growth, to consider organizations as a mechanism to field-level change. We explore and model: deliberate and emergent pathways to field-level change; field-level institutional assets that are generated through social enterprise business models; institutional thresholds; and unusual forms of coevolution between organizations and fields. Our research undergirds conceptions of social entrepreneurs as field-level institutional entrepreneurs and identifies a novel form of hybrid organization with both organization-serving and field-serving logics. Additionally, we integrate social enterprises’ ‘hard’ business models with ‘soft’ institutional processes to present a realistic view of multilevel institutional change.

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Renaud Defiebre-Muller, Federico Ignacio Viola, Pauline Fatien Diochon and Sebastian Duenas Ocampo

Traditional approaches to social innovation focus on products, services, and ideas that enable social problems to be solved. They also often view social innovation as resulting from a cross-fertilization between multiple stakeholders. We advocate for a process-based approach to social innovation internal to organizations, anchored in the concept of ethical love. While love, as a concept, has only received attention recently in academic management research, contrary to its common usage in psychology, we propose a philosophical and anthropological perspective on the call for love in organizations and distinguish – with the help of the philosopher Levinas – between “political love” and “ethical love.” We argue that, while organizations have mainly been used to inspire political love, especially in the field of social innovation, they need to discover ethical love as a source of innovation, drawing from beyond the organization and psychology.

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Matthias A. Tietz, Sondos Gamaleldin Sobhy Abdelgawad and Martina Pasquini

A growing number of new and established organizations are addressing social ills through innovative and profitable organization. In that regard, we seek to understand how a deeper understanding of social innovation can be achieved by a more sophisticated discussion of organizational form. In this chapter we ask, ‘Which organizational designs and practices can meet both financial and social objectives?’ and ‘How can organizations use those practices to profitably address social ills such as poverty, social inequity, climate change, and educational failure?’ This chapter draws on novel data, practitioners’ experiences, and dozens of interviews to highlight the organizational design and innovation behavior that further the profitable pursuit of social innovation. We focus on benefit corporations or B-corporations as an organizational design that simultaneously delivers business and social impact. We then identify and analyze behaviors within established companies that support social innovation. B-corporations currently exist in 50 countries. They are certified and have their social and environmental impact formally tracked and publicly reported by B-Lab. B-Lab is a non-profit organization that serves and inspires the global movement of ‘B-corporations’ with the aim of building a global community, promoting mission alignment, and helping social innovators ‘measure what matters in the business’. B-Lab’s main instrument is the B-Lab Impact Assessment, which determines the outcome of B-Lab certification. Legal benefit corporations (currently only in the US) may choose to be certified as ‘B-corporations’ as well, though there is no strict requirement to do so. Here, we report on stylized findings from the data.