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The evolution of sustainable innovation: from the past to the future

Giovanna Afeltra (LIUC Carlo Cattaneo University, Castellanza, Italy)
Sayed Alireza Alerasoul (LIUC Carlo Cattaneo University, Castellanza, Italy)
Fernanda Strozzi (LIUC Carlo Cattaneo University, Castellanza, Italy)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 13 September 2021

Issue publication date: 8 March 2023




Over the last few decades, more emphasis has been placed on those innovations that can reconcile economic, social and environmental goals in order to achieve a “win-win-win” situation. This paper aims to systematise the scientific literature on Sustainable Innovation as a broad field in order to identify the most relevant scholars and their significant contributions as well as existing lines of research. Finally, future research directions are suggested.


A novel methodology, the Systematic Literature Network Analysis, has been applied. By using a dynamic approach to the traditional Systematic Literature Review, the present review investigates the creation, transfer, and development of knowledge throughout the epistemic community of Sustainable Innovation.


Starting from a sample of 1,108 articles, the critical assessment of the results detected five main themes: (1) “the role of Regulation, Market and Technology”; (2) “Eco-Innovation determinants and firm specific factors and the debate between corporate environmental performance and corporate financial performance”; (3) “Green innovation and internal and external drivers”; (4) “The strategic determinants of green (non-green) innovation”; (5) “The interplay between policy, regulations and the green innovation”.

Practical implications

From a practitioner's perspective, this study provides an objective view on the current internal, external drivers and strategic determinants of sustainability-oriented innovations and relevant studies that can guide managers in their decision-making processes and enhance sustainable innovation performance.


This study is a first attempt to unveil the evolution of knowledge in the field of sustainable innovation by utilizing bibliometric tools.



The authors thank Professor Frank Boons (University of Manchester), Professor Valentina De Marchi (University of Padua) and Professor Alessandro Creazza (LIUC University) for the valuable comments on the improvement of the paper in the initial and final stage of the study. The authors also thank the participants of the conference “Competitive Renaissance through Digital Transformation” organized by the University of Pavia, which provided other meaningful suggestions for the last improvement of the manuscript.


Afeltra, G., Alerasoul, S.A. and Strozzi, F. (2023), "The evolution of sustainable innovation: from the past to the future", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 386-421.



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