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A framework for understanding and designing business models for sustainable development


  • Peter Bradley

    (University of the West of England, Bristol)

  • Glenn Parry

    (University of the West of England, Bristol)

  • Nicholas O’Regan

    (University of the West of England, Bristol)


The paper presents and applies a novel framework for incorporating ethical concerns for the natural environment and wellbeing into business design. In this sense we are directly confronting sustainable development. Within the context of business ethics, sustainable development can be seen as the application of ethical concerns for the natural environment and wellbeing to societal provisioning (‘meeting needs’). A novel framework proposed in this work synthesises 3 previous business model frameworks and builds in new categories and social, environmental and economic considerations to make it ‘fit’ for the purpose of investigating business models for sustainable development. The contribution made by the novel framework is through its new categories, incorporation of environmental and social considerations, and the ‘torch light articulation’ which aids communication of the concepts. The framework is applied to a case study of an energy provider, allowing a rich and powerful understanding of how the energy company’s business model works in practice and providing new insight of the interaction between different types of value: social, environmental and economic and how context shapes such value.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Bradley & Glenn Parry & Nicholas O’Regan, 2016. "A framework for understanding and designing business models for sustainable development," Working Papers 20161606, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwe:wpaper:20161606

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. World Commission on Environment and Development,, 1987. "Our Common Future," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780192820808.
    2. Bertrand Moingeon & Muhammad yunus & Laurence Lehmann-Ortega, 2010. "Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience," Post-Print hal-00528385, HAL.
    3. Charles Baden-Fuller & Vincent Mangematin, 2013. "Business models: A challenging agenda," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00869707, HAL.
    4. Bradley, Peter & Leach, Matthew & Torriti, Jacopo, 2013. "A review of the costs and benefits of demand response for electricity in the UK," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 312-327.
    5. Allwood, Julian M. & Ashby, Michael F. & Gutowski, Timothy G. & Worrell, Ernst, 2011. "Material efficiency: A white paper," Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 362-381.
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    More about this item


    Business model; sustainability; servitization; sustainable business; sustainable development;
    All these keywords.

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