Foundations of Sustainability Entrepreneurship

This module aims to provide students with a strong foundation in sustainability entrepreneurship by exploring the origins of sustainability ideas and facilitating critical discussions about the challenges faced in the current world.

Module Overview

This module aims to provide students with a strong foundation in sustainability entrepreneurship by exploring the origins of sustainability ideas and facilitating critical discussions about the challenges faced in the current world. Students will develop a deep understanding of the historical context of sustainability concepts and engage in critical analysis to evaluate the complex sustainability challenges we face today.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the origins and historical context of sustainability ideas.
  • Analyse and critically discuss the challenges faced in the current world from a sustainability perspective.
  • Apply critical thinking to evaluate complex sustainability issues.
  • Recognize ethical considerations and values in sustainability entrepreneurship.
  • Identify opportunities for entrepreneurial action to address sustainability challenges.


  • Unit 1: Introduction to Sustainability Entrepreneurship 
  • Unit 2: Circular Economy
  • Unit 3: Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Unit 4: Sustainable Business Models
  • Unit 5: Innovation and Sustainable Product Development


What is sustainability entrepreneurship?

  • Sustainability entrepreneurship (SE) became a central concept for policy, society, and business since the 1990s
  • It refers to the practice of establishing and managing businesses that prioritize and integrate environmental, social, and economic sustainability principles.
  • It involves creating and operating ventures that not only generate profits but also address pressing societal and environmental challenges.

What it highlights?

  • SE highlights the concept of needs (the essential needs of the population) and the idea of limitations (imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs). 
  • Therefore, SE must maintain intra- and inter-generational equity, and recognize the link between of the natural environment, societal welfare, and economic performance.

Importance of sustainability entrepreneurship in addressing global challenges.

Importance of sustainability entrepreneurship in addressing global challenges.

  • Climate change is having a significant impact on societies across the world, including an increased incidence of extreme weather conditions, health effects, poverty, social and economic issues. 
  • It was also mentioned that global temperatures are increasing at a rate of nearly 0.2°C per decade, and these temperatures will increase over time.
  • To avoid the most severe effects from climate change, climate experts warn that the temperature rise should be limited to 1.5°C.

How to improve climate change using green entrepreneurship?

Mainly though reducing greenhouse gas emissions. but how?

  • By developing creative green solutions, entrepreneurs may play a vital role in efforts to reduce GHG emissions such as renewable energy solutions. 
  • Advocating public policies to promote green entrepreneurship
  • Raising awareness
  • Embracing circular economy principles
  • Facilitating carbon offsetting

The Triple Bottom Line: Overview (1)

The Triple Bottom Line: Overview (2)

The triple bottom line is a framework that encompasses the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit. Sustainable entrepreneurship applies this framework to business practices, focusing on creating value not only in terms of financial returns but also in social and environmental dimensions.

The Triple Bottom Line: Overview (3)

  • People: considers all stakeholders (versus solely shareholders) including employees, communities within which an organization operates, individuals throughout the supply chain, future generations, and customers — just to name a few.
  • Planet: considers the relationship between an organization or business and the natural environment and its ecological systems.
  • Profit: considers the economic indicators over which an organization or business has influence — for example, paying livable wages, ethical sourcing, and workplace health and safety.

Practical Activity (1 hour)

  • Write down an environmental challenge and try to think how to solve this challenge by generating your own sustainable entrepreneurship idea.
  • Let's now split into groups of 3.
  • Select 1 representative from each group to present the environmental challenge you want to solve and your sustainable entrepreneurship idea


The circular economy is an alternative economic model that aims to move away from the traditional linear economy, which follows a "take-make-dispose" pattern. In a linear economy, resources are extracted to produce goods, used by consumers, and then discarded as waste. This linear approach leads to depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, and a significant amount of waste.

Circular Economy Principles

  1. Designing out Waste and Pollution: This principle emphasizes the importance of designing products with a focus on durability, repairability, and recyclability. By creating products that are easy to disassemble and repair, waste generation can be reduced.
  2. Keeping Products and Materials in Use: The circular economy seeks to extend the life of products and materials by promoting reuse, sharing, and refurbishment. This reduces the need for new production and minimizes waste.
  3. Regenerating Natural Systems: This principle involves supporting and enhancing natural ecosystems. It emphasizes using renewable resources and implementing sustainable practices that allow ecosystems to regenerate and thrive

Contrast to the Traditional Linear Economy

Circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. It seeks to decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources, promoting the responsible use of resources and minimizing waste. The circular economy aims to close the loop by keeping products, materials, and resources in use for as long as possible through strategies such as recycling, reusing, refurbishing, and remanufacturing.

Examples of Circular Economy Companies

  • Patagonia: promote the repair and reuse of their products by offering free repairs, encouraging customers to return used clothing, and recycling old garments to create new ones
  • Interface: Interface focuses on using recycled materials and designing products that can be easily recycle.
  • Mud Jeans: Mud Jeans is a sustainable denim brand that operates on a leasing model. 
  • Ecover: Ecover is a company that produces environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

Circular Economy Impact on Sustainability

  • Businesses that adopt circular economy <  carbon footprint by using fewer virgin resources and energy in production. 

Other benefits: 

  • creation of green jobs
  • improved resource efficiency
  • increased resilience to resource scarcity and price volatility. 

Practical Activity (45 minutes)

  • Split into groups of 3
  • See the 3 photos above and brainstorm and produce innovative ideas on how to transform the given product/material into a valuable resource within a circular economy framework. Encourage creativity and feasibility!!


Is a company's commitment to conducting its business ethically and responsibly, while actively addressing societal and environmental challenges. It involves integrating social and environmental concerns into the company's core strategies and operations to create positive impacts on society and the planet.

Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

  1. Building Trust and Reputation
  2. Competitive Advantage
  3. Risk Mitigation
  4. Innovation and Resilience
  5. Attracting Talent
  6. Positive Impact
  7. Long-Term Viability

Corporate Social Responsibility Standards Examples

ISO 26000: Global CSR guidance standard covering organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, environment, fair practices, consumer issues, and community involvement.

Global Reporting Initiative: Sustainability reporting framework for disclosing economic, environmental, and social impacts in a standardized manner.

UN Global Impact: NGC is a voluntary initiative encouraging businesses to align their strategies and operations with ten universal principles related to human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption

Role of Corporate Social Responsibility 

  • It enhances a company's reputation by showcasing ethical practices and social consciousness, leading to increased trust and loyalty. 
  • It fosters stakeholder engagement through meaningful interactions with communities and other partners, strengthening relationships. 
  • CSR also contributes to long-term sustainability by addressing social and environmental issues, ensuring a positive impact on society and the planet. 

*This sustainable approach attracts customers, investors, and top talent, promoting the company's overall success

Practical Activity (45 minutes)

  • Individually think the benefits of CSR and why it is important to implement CSR strategies? 
  • Write down in bullet 200-300 words 
  • Each student must present CSR benefits and the importance of implementing CSR strategies.


Sustainable Business Models (SBM)

  • SBMs in general are company plans for making a profit sustainably, i.e. protecting people and the environment
  • SBMs use the triple bottom line (people, profit, and planet) to measure the performance of companies, in addition to promoting environmental management in a systemic way, significantly impacting business growth prospects.

Different SBMs

  1. B Corporations (B Corps): B Corps are for-profit companies committed to social and environmental performance, transparency, and stakeholder consideration.
  2. Social Enterprises: Social enterprises prioritize social or environmental impact at the core of their business model, reinvesting profits for their mission.
  3. Impact-Driven Ventures: Impact-driven ventures focus on creating measurable positive social or environmental change while operating as for-profit businesses.

*These models showcase how businesses can align profit-making with sustainability and social responsibility.

SBMs Value (1)

  • Sustainable business models can create both financial and social/environmental value by integrating profitability with positive societal and environmental outcomes. 
  • Financial Value: Drive financial value by increasing efficiency, reducing waste and resource consumption, and fostering innovation. They attract environmentally and socially conscious consumers and investors, leading to enhanced brand reputation and customer loyalty.

SBMs Value (2)

Social/Environmental Value: Prioritize societal and environmental impact. By addressing pressing challenges, such as poverty, climate change, and resource depletion, they contribute positively to communities and the planet. They create job opportunities, empower marginalized groups, support local economies, and promote eco-friendly practices.

Benefits of adopting SBMs

  1. Enhanced Brand Reputation
  2. Cost Savings
  3. Access to New Markets
  4. Attracting Top Talen
  5. Long-term Resilience
  6. Investor Attraction

Challenges of adopting SBMs

  1. Higher Initial Costs
  2. Limited Market Awareness
  3. Regulatory Compliance
  4. Supply Chain Complexity

Practical Activity (50 Minutes)

Group Debate !!

  • Split into 2 groups 
  • 1 group will debate for adopting SBMs and 1 group for NOT adopting SBMs
  • 10 minutes for groups to organize their arguments and 20 minutes for the debate.


Innovation in sustainability entrepreneurship

Innovation in sustainability entrepreneurship is essential because it drives creative solutions to complex environmental and social challenges. It provides a competitive advantage, promotes resource efficiency, and fosters positive social impact. Moreover, sustainable innovation inspires others, enables adaptability to change, and contributes to a more sustainable and resilient future for businesses and the planet.

Strategies for Integrating Sustainability into Product Development and Design

  1. Implement Design for Sustainability (DfS) principles to consider environmental and social impacts from the start.
  2. Adopt a circular economy approach.
  3. Source sustainable materials from ethical suppliers with eco-friendly practices.
  4. Involve users in the design process to enhance user experience and sustainability.
  5. Incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy features into product design.
  6. Optimize packaging to minimize waste and use eco-friendly options.
  7. Educate teams and customers about the importance of sustainability.
  8. Collaborate with stakeholders and partners to enhance sustainability efforts.
  9. Embrace continuous improvement to further enhance sustainability in product development.

Design for Sustainability

Analysing Sustainable Product Life Cycles and Eco-Design Principles

Analysing sustainable product life cycles involves evaluating the environmental impact of a product from sourcing to disposal, aiming to identify areas for improvement. Eco-design principles integrate environmental considerations into product design, focusing on sustainable materials, energy efficiency, and recyclability. These practices enable businesses to create products that minimize their ecological footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Life Cycle Assessment

Practical Activity (1 hour)

  • Split into groups of 2!
  • Choose a sustainable product and write down all the stages of the life cycle assessment of your chosen product.
  • You can choose one of the 2 templates provided in the previous slide.


  • Unit 1: Introduction to Sustainability Entrepreneurship 
  • Laveren, E., Blackburn, R., Ben-Hafaïedh, C., Díaz-García, C., & González-Moreno, Á. (2020). 1. An introduction to Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Frontiers in European Entrepreneurship Research, 1.
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Unit 2: Circular Economy
  • European Parliament: Circular economy: definition, importance and benefits
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Unit 3: Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Lindgreen, A., & Swaen, V. (2010). Corporate social responsibility. International journal of management reviews, 12(1), 1-7.
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Unit 4: Sustainable Business Models
  • Nosratabadi, S., Mosavi, A., Shamshirband, S., Zavadskas, E. K., Rakotonirainy, A., & Chau, K. W. (2019). Sustainable business models: A review. Sustainability, 11(6), 1663.
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Unit 5: Innovation and Sustainable Product Development


  • Schaltegger, S., & Wagner, M. (2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business strategy and the environment, 20(4), 222-237.
  • Farny, S., & Binder, J. (2021). Sustainable entrepreneurship. World encyclopedia of entrepreneurship, 605-611.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021), Sixth Assessment Report.
  • Potluri, S., & Phani, B. V. (2020). Incentivizing green entrepreneurship: A proposed policy prescription (a study of entrepreneurial insights from an emerging economy perspective). Journal of Cleaner Production, 259, 120843.
  • Dellink, R., Lanzi, E., & Chateau, J. (2019). The sectoral and regional economic consequences of climate change to 2060. Environmental and resource economics, 72, 309-363.
  • Mostert, M. (2014). A quantitative method for selecting renewable energy projects in the mining industry based on sustainability. Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 114(11), 887-898.
  • Corvellec, H., Stowell, A. F., & Johansson, N. (2022). Critiques of the circular economy. Journal of industrial ecology, 26(2), 421-432.
  • Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N. M., & Hultink, E. J. (2017). The Circular Economy–A new sustainability paradigm?. Journal of cleaner production, 143, 757-768.
  • Lindgreen, A., & Swaen, V. (2010). Corporate social responsibility. International journal of management reviews, 12(1), 1-7.
  • Bocken, N.M.P. (2014); Short, S.W.; Rana, S.; Evans, S. A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. J. Clear, 65, 42–56.
  • Nosratabadi, S., Mosavi, A., Shamshirband, S., Zavadskas, E. K., Rakotonirainy, A., & Chau, K. W. (2019). Sustainable business models: A review. Sustainability, 11(6), 1663.
  • Schaltegger, S., & Wagner, M. (2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business strategy and the environment, 20(4), 222-237.
  • Hegab, H., Khanna, N., Monib, N., & Salem, A. (2023). Design for sustainable additive manufacturing: A review. Sustainable Materials and Technologies, e00576.
  • Brook, J. W., & Pagnanelli, F. (2014). Integrating sustainability into innovation project portfolio management–A strategic perspective. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 34, 46-62.

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Introduction to Sustainable Development and Education

Foundations of Sustainability Entrepreneurship

Foundations of Sustainability Entrepreneurship

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Green Campus and Living Labs

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