The purpose of this paper is to examine the venture development processes (or “entrepreneurial processes”) of “sustainable” entrepreneurs, i.e. entrepreneurs who create and build profitable companies that also pursue environmental or social causes. The paper aims to find how these mission‐oriented entrepreneurs achieve their business objectives while serving their social and environmental causes.
The paper identifies 21 successful sustainable entrepreneurial companies in various industries ranging from apparel to biotechnology that were exemplary in their pursuit for sustainability. The paper examined their key decisions and activities in their “entrepreneurial process”, collecting most of the relevant information from published or self‐developed case studies.
The paper finds that most of sustainable entrepreneurs are an unusual breed with limited business backgrounds. Most obtain financing from non‐conventional sources and employ unorthodox, yet sound human resource management practices. They are shrewd in their marketing strategies and effective in running efficient, environmentally sound operations. Also, they find innovative methods for balancing their financial goals against their objectives of making a difference in their environment and society.
The paper's findings help demystify and provide some insights into how values‐oriented entrepreneurs and their companies can simultaneously meet economic, social and/or environmental objectives.
This paper is one of the few studies that examine the business practices of for‐profit, sustainability‐oriented entrepreneurs. It is also one of the few formal studies that identify commonalities among a relatively large and diverse sample of companies. Most important, this research suggests practical guidelines for aspiring entrepreneurs to follow as they build their sustainable business ventures.
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