The role of entrepreneurship has changed to include issues beyond economic growth. This has turned attention toward the drivers of entrepreneurial intentions across entrepreneurship types, particularly in sustainable entrepreneurship. The purpose of this paper is to examine the drivers of entrepreneurial intentions in sustainable entrepreneurship. In particular, the paper aims to extend the existing intention models to include work values and attitudes toward sustainability, thereby bringing the model into the context of sustainable entrepreneurship.
Using a quantitative research design, data were collected in three European countries through anonymous questionnaires. The data consist of responses from 393 university students.
The results show that attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability enhance sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Moreover, adding sustainability into the regression equation adds explanation power, hence suggesting that the theory of planned behavior needs to be adapted when applied to sustainable entrepreneurship. Attitudes toward sustainability are positively impacted by altruism, while perceived entrepreneurial desirability is driven by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
The study focuses on one particular type of entrepreneurship and one particular age group.
The paper contributes to the entrepreneurship literature by applying the entrepreneurial intention model to sustainable entrepreneurship. The results imply that it may be the time to consider the variance in entrepreneurial opportunities in intention models as well as the need to address the conflict between work values. The results show that sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions are driven by attitudes toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability. These two attitudes are driven by altruism and extrinsic rewards, and, especially, extrinsic reward plays an opposite role in both drivers of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
Vuorio, A., Puumalainen, K. and Fellnhofer, K. (2018), "Drivers of entrepreneurial intentions in sustainable entrepreneurship", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 359-381. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-03-2016-0097Download as .RIS
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Entrepreneurship has an important role in economic growth and employment at the societal level (Schumpeter, 1934; Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). However, recently entrepreneurship has been proposed to also have a central role in solving societal and environmental issues, such as poverty, hunger and global warming (e.g. Dean and McMullen, 2007; Porter and Kramer, 2011). Social (Mair and Marti, 2006), sustainable (e.g. Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007) and environmental entrepreneurship (e.g. Koegh and Polonsky, 1998) are among the various forms of entrepreneurship that have appeared to resolve these issues. As a result, academic interest has arisen in underlying motivations and the intention to become an entrepreneur. Specifically, entrepreneurial intentions are a key to understanding entrepreneurship, since the desire to start or own a business is described through these (Krueger et al., 2000). Despite the interest in entrepreneurial intentions, there is still only limited evidence about entrepreneurial intentions in different entrepreneurship contexts. Today’s young adults (“millennials” or “Generation Y”) have been seen as more entrepreneurial and environmentally conscious and also more socially aware than previous generations (Hewlett et al., 2009). This raises a question regarding the drivers of entrepreneurial intentions in sustainable entrepreneurship.
Sustainable and social entrepreneurship differ from conventional entrepreneurship in terms of value creation. While entrepreneurs have previously been thought to focus primarily on economic value creation, in these new entrepreneurship forms, economic value creation is seen as a means to an end or to blend different values (Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007; Fayolle et al., 2014; Seelos and Mair, 2005; Zahra et al., 2009). Social entrepreneurship focuses on social value creation (Seelos and Mair, 2005; Zahra et al., 2009), while environmental entrepreneurship is about environmental value creation (Koegh and Polonsky, 1998). Sustainable entrepreneurship has been claimed to combine economic, social and environmental value creation (Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007, Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011), and it has been seen to include both social and environmental entrepreneurship (Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010; Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011). However, it should be noted that some forms of social entrepreneurship do not fit under the “umbrella concept” of sustainable entrepreneurship, since they do not pursue economic gain (Dean and McMullen, 2007).
Underlying all entrepreneurship types are entrepreneurial opportunities. Hence, due to the variation in entrepreneurial opportunities, individuals perceive some types of entrepreneurship to be more attractive than others (Baron, 2006) due to value preferences (Schwartz, 1992). The literature has shown that entrepreneurial intentions in social entrepreneurship are positively associated with altruistic values and empathy (Dees, 2012; Hockerts, 2015; Mair and Noboa, 2006; Smith and Woodworth, 2012). Similarly, sustainable entrepreneurship has been proposed to be connected to these softer values, although economic gain and innovativeness are also deemed important (Gibbs, 2009; Linnanen, 2002). As a result, some individuals are more inclined than others toward these new forms of entrepreneurship. Despite the transition in the field of entrepreneurship, there is only limited evidence on how the roles of different values and motivations vary across entrepreneurship types (Carsrud and Brännback, 2011; Fayolle et al., 2014; Lumpkin et al., 2013). Moreover, an interest in entrepreneurial intentions that are specific to a particular type of entrepreneurship has been expressed (Liñan and Fayolle, 2015), but still there is only limited evidence about intention formation in the field of social entrepreneurship (e.g. Hockerts, 2015; Mair and Noboa, 2006; Nga and Shamuganathan, 2010; Urban and Kujinga, 2017) and even less in sustainable entrepreneurship (e.g. Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010; Muñoz and Dimov, 2015). Furthermore, the most commonly used entrepreneurial intention models, the theory of planned behavior (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991) and the theory of the entrepreneurial event (Krueger, 1993; Shapero and Sokol, 1982), have not explicitly included the role of entrepreneurial opportunities in intention formation (Brännback et al., 2007; Jarvis, 2016). Hence, the existing intention models seem unable to answer the call for entrepreneurship type-specific research.
The purpose of this study is to examine the drivers of entrepreneurial intentions in sustainable entrepreneurship. In particular, the aim is to extend and adapt the existing intention models to include work values and attitudes toward sustainability, thereby bringing the model into the context of sustainable entrepreneurship. Within this framework, two focal areas need to be considered. First, the research focuses on the impact of work values and self-efficacy on the antecedents of entrepreneurial intentions – namely, perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility as well as attitudes toward sustainability. Second, the research examines the role of the latter three in the formation of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. The paper proceeds with a discussion about entrepreneurial intention models and hypothesizes about the sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intention model. Next, the results are presented, followed by a discussion of the main results. Lastly, the paper acknowledges the research limitations and proposes areas for future research.
Since the development of the most widely used entrepreneurial intention models, the TPB and the theory of entrepreneurial event, a growing number of articles have appeared in scientific journals. The entrepreneurial intention literature has focused on five main themes: the core entrepreneurial intention models, the entrepreneurial intention-behavior link, the factors influencing entrepreneurial intentions, including individual-level, regional, cultural and institutional variables, entrepreneurship education, and social and sustainable entrepreneurship (Liñan and Fayolle, 2015). According to these scholars, the last theme about the entrepreneurial intention literature focusing on social and sustainable entrepreneurship has emerged more recently. Furthermore, of these two types of entrepreneurship, less attention has been paid to entrepreneurial intentions in the context of sustainable entrepreneurship.
The research thus far has found a positive connection between sustainability orientation and entrepreneurial intentions among science and engineering students but no connection among business students or science and engineering alumni (Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010). Similarly, sustainability orientation has been positively associated with business ideas inclined toward sustainable development but negatively with entrepreneurial intentions (Wagner, 2012). Social entrepreneurial intentions have been examined mainly with regard to education. Engagement in social entrepreneurship or innovation has been found to be positively associated with self-efficacy and shared identity, while these latter two can be influenced through education by allowing mastery experiences and active engagement in a social entrepreneurial project (Smith and Woodworth, 2012). Moreover, social entrepreneurial intentions have been shown to be driven by empathy, self-efficacy and perceived social support (Hockerts, 2015; Mair and Noboa, 2006).
The research regarding entrepreneurial intentions in the context of sustainable entrepreneurship has tended to focus on one or two aspects of value creation (e.g. Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007; Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010; Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011; Shepherd and Patzelt, 2011; Zahra et al., 2009). Variables for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions and attitude toward sustainability are added to the intention model used in this study to extend the existing models into sustainable entrepreneurship. These variables explicitly include social and environmental value creation, while economic value creation is reflected implicitly through perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility. Following the existing research, perceived behavioral control, feasibility and self-efficacy have been proposed to describe essentially the same issue – perception of the ability to perform a given task (Krueger and Brazeal, 1994; Liñan et al., 2011) – and hence are treated as equal. Similarly, attitude-toward-the-act and subjective norms have been suggested to correspond to perceived entrepreneurial desirability (Krueger et al., 2000). Hence following TPB, it is proposed that attitude-toward-the-act in this study has two parts: attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability (see Figure 1). Moreover, perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility together with attitude toward sustainability are proposed to be the drivers of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. These drivers, in turn, are suggested to be influenced by work values and general self-efficacy.
Antecedents of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions
Positive views about entrepreneurship as a suitable employment option are formed through the evaluation of an entrepreneurial opportunity (McMullen and Shepherd, 2006). As a result, individuals need to assess the adequacy of their skills and abilities (feasibility) to succeed in the case of that particular opportunity as well as the desirability of self-employment over other possible career options (Douglas and Shepherd, 2002). Perceived entrepreneurial desirability describes the degree of attractiveness an individual perceives in becoming an entrepreneur, and perceived entrepreneurial feasibility is the degree of a person’s belief that he or she possesses the necessary skills and knowledge to become an entrepreneur (Krueger, 1993; Shapero and Sokol, 1982). The entrepreneurship literature has provided evidence of a positive relationship between perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility and entrepreneurial intentions (e.g. Krueger, 1993; Krueger et al., 2000; Liñan and Santos, 2007).
Sustainable entrepreneurship differs from commercial entrepreneurship as a result of focus on combining different types of value – namely, social, environmental and economic value (Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007; Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010; Shepherd and Patzelt, 2010). In their recent study, Muñoz and Dimov (2015) proposed two alternative paths to sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial action: that enabled by a supportive operational environment and that generated as a response to an unsupportive environment. The scholars’ results show that the first path involves being sustainability-oriented, having sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial ideas, focusing on value creation and perceiving business and social support. Alternatively, the second centers on a high level of entrepreneurial intention toward sustainability, not having sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial ideas and not perceiving social and contextual support. Consequently, in this study as well as in other studies, the entrepreneurial intention model in the context of sustainable entrepreneurship should include attitude toward sustainability, since attitudes, which are shaped by value priorities, shape intentions and the subsequent behavior (Fischer and Schwartz, 2011; Schwartz, 1992). Moreover, individuals who are more oriented toward sustainable development and preserving nature tend also to act according to their values (Bruyere and Rappe, 2007; Wagner, 2012). Although, it has been recognized that under high entrepreneurial self-efficacy and high industry resource-scarcity, individuals do not adhere to their pro-environmental values when evaluating environmental harm caused by seizing opportunities (Shepherd et al., 2013). Hence, preference for social and environmental value creation together with a positive view of entrepreneurship as a career option could be positively related to sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
Societal issues and problems are often considered to be very challenging, which implies that the odds of successfully solving them are perceived to be low or even non-existent (Seelos and Mair, 2005). Hence, perceived entrepreneurial feasibility has been proposed to be positively related to entrepreneurial intentions in the field of social entrepreneurship (Mair and Noboa, 2006; Smith and Woodworth, 2012). In light of the theoretical discussion and empirical evidence provided by prior entrepreneurship literature, it is proposed that perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility as well as attitude toward sustainability shape sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Hence, the following are hypothesized:
Perceived entrepreneurial desirability has a positive impact on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
Perceived entrepreneurial feasibility has a positive impact on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
Attitude toward sustainability has a positive impact on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
The role of work values and general self-efficacy
Values drive entrepreneurial behavior by acting as a booster and enabler of self-expression (Kirkley, 2016). The emergence of different types of entrepreneurship has turned attention toward differences in the values driving entrepreneurship. Priorities and behaviors are connected to personal values (Schwartz, 1992), which are reflected in the type of entrepreneurial opportunity pursued and attitude toward entrepreneurship. Work values represent outcomes that individuals aim at through their work (Frieze et al., 2006). Moreover, employment choices and work goals are shaped by work values that are particular personal values (Jahoda, 1981), and they are often divided into intrinsic and extrinsic rewards (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Extrinsic reward is associated with personal gain, and a person with extrinsic work values pursues work through which he or she can achieve monetary gains, power, prestige and status (Twenge et al., 2010). By contrast, intrinsic reward is connected to creativity, learning and problem solving. Individuals with intrinsic work values tend to be motivated by solving challenging tasks, opportunities to be creative and learning new skills (Ryan and Deci, 2000).
The literature has identified other work value types beyond extrinsic and intrinsic, including altruism and security. Individuals with altruistic values are motivated by the possibility to help others and the surrounding society as well as care for the environment (Lyons et al., 2010; Twenge et al., 2010). Alternatively, security as a work value reflects the emphasis a person puts on the stability of the work as well as on safety and harmony in the work place (Ros et al., 1999; Twenge et al., 2010). The present study focuses on these four work values (intrinsic reward, extrinsic reward, altruism and security), since these values are closely connected to different aspects of entrepreneurship and different types of value creation. Extrinsic reward and altruism are connected to economic, social and environmental value creation, while intrinsic reward and security are more generally connected to entrepreneurship. As a result, two work values – social relations and leisure (Lyons et al., 2010) – are excluded from the study.
The work values of an individual are connected to occupation choices through motivation and attitudes. More specifically, values and motivations guide an individual’s decision to become an entrepreneur. As a result of the personal nature of the decision to embark on self-employment, the decision to become self-employed is likely to vary and take different forms (Jaén and Liñan, 2013; Krueger, 2003). Since work values direct the evaluation of possible ways of action through desirable goals and behaviors, there seems to be a connection between perceived entrepreneurial desirability, describing the attractiveness of entrepreneurship as an occupation option, and work values (Krueger et al., 2000). The literature has connected intrinsic and extrinsic rewards with higher entrepreneurial intention level, while security tends to hinder it. The results of Douglas and Shepherd’s (2002) study suggest that individuals with higher entrepreneurial intentions tend to be less risk averse as well as value independence. Similarly, individuals preferring an entrepreneurial career tend to value security less and possess innovative and risk-taking qualities more than those aiming at employment in a company. Moreover, power and innovativeness are associated with higher entrepreneurial intentions and are hence connected to higher perceived entrepreneurial desirability (Brenner et al., 1991). Based on the empirical evidence and the values associated with entrepreneurship, innovativeness, power and wealth, the following relationships are proposed between work values and perceived entrepreneurial desirability:
Intrinsic reward has a positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial desirability.
Extrinsic reward has a positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial desirability.
Security has a negative impact on perceived entrepreneurial desirability.
The level of perceived competence across different contexts is described through general self-efficacy, a trait-like perception (Chen et al., 2001; Eden, 1988; Gardner and Pierce, 1998; Judge et al., 1998). In the context of entrepreneurship, a person’s level of general self-efficacy is connected to the decision to start a business (Shepherd et al., 2015). Moreover, the perceived odds of venture success are based on an entrepreneur’s perception of his/her level of knowledge and capabilities (Guth et al., 1991, in Ardichvili et al., 2003, p. 116). More specifically, general self-efficacy and perceived entrepreneurial feasibility are connected, since perceived entrepreneurial feasibility describes the degree to which an individual believes that he/she can succeed in becoming self-employed (Krueger, 1993; Shapero and Sokol, 1982). Additionally, general self-efficacy is about whether or not an individual is able to complete a present task successfully (Boyd and Vozikis, 1994; Judge et al., 1998).
Beyond a definitional connection, the entrepreneurship literature has thus far established a connection between perceived self-efficacy, opportunity recognition and optimism (Krueger and Brazeal, 1994; Krueger and Dickson, 1994). In terms of opportunity recognition, higher conceptions of one’s abilities to successfully complete tasks are connected to a greater number of opportunities than threats recognized (Neck and Manz, 1996). Similarly, individuals with higher self-efficacy tend to believe they are more able to reach the set goals (Boyd and Vozikis, 1994), and self-efficacy is positively connected to both propensity toward entrepreneurship and perceived likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur (Arrighetti et al., 2016). Hence, the level of general self-efficacy would appear to be associated with the level of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. This notion is of particular importance in the context of sustainable entrepreneurship and particularly of entrepreneurial intention formation (Mair and Noboa, 2006; Smith and Woodworth, 2012). Due to the complexity and the magnitude of the societal issues that are attempted to be solved, the odds of success are often seen as minimal (Seelos and Mair, 2005). Similarly, engagement in social entrepreneurship has been proposed to be shaped by self-efficacy (Smith and Woodworth, 2012). In light of the theoretical discussion above and the empirical evidence, in this study the following is proposed:
General self-efficacy has a positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial feasibility.
An entrepreneurial career is associated with risk-taking, autonomy and innovativeness. As mentioned, the degree to which an individual believes he/she can succeed in becoming self-employed is described through perceived entrepreneurial desirability (Krueger, 1993; Shapero and Sokol, 1982), hence suggesting that preferring an occupation that allows an individual to act according to those values is associated with success in that particular occupation. The research results show that risk-taking, independence and innovativeness are connected with entrepreneurial careers (Brenner et al., 1991; Douglas and Shepherd, 2002). This implies that intrinsic reward and security are associated with perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. Since risk-taking is an inherent condition for entrepreneurship, valuing stability at work (security) seems to have a negative connection to perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. By contrast, innovativeness and autonomy are also closely connected to entrepreneurial careers, hence implying that individuals valuing intrinsic reward would perceive entrepreneurship to be more feasible than those not preferring intrinsic reward. As a result, the following is hypothesized:
Intrinsic reward has a positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial feasibility.
Security has a negative impact on perceived entrepreneurial feasibility.
Altruistic values play a role in different aspects of sustainable entrepreneurship: work values are connected to attitude toward sustainability, since they shape the emphasis put on social and environmental aspects in value creation and hence on the type of entrepreneurial opportunities recognized. The desire to create social value is essential in social entrepreneurship (Zahra et al., 2009), and, as a result, the role of altruistic values as drivers of behavior toward solving societal problems has been highlighted (Dees, 2012). Similarly, earlier research has suggested that different altruistic values (universalism, altruism and empathy) are associated with more positive environmental attitudes (Hockerts, 2015; Schultz and Zelezny, 1999), the likelihood of opportunity recognition in sustainable development (Patzelt and Shepherd, 2010) and entrepreneurial intentions through perceived desirability and the development of altruistic motivations in social entrepreneurship (Mair and Noboa, 2006; Smith et al., 2010).
Sustainable entrepreneurship is about combining three types of values: social, environmental and economic (Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007, Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011). Prosocial motivation, together with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, has been proposed to play a role in the recognition and evaluation process of entrepreneurial opportunities connected to societal and environmental issues (Shepherd, 2015). Sustainable entrepreneurship has been defined as “the discovery and exploitation of economic opportunities through the generation of market disequilibria that initiate the transformation of a sector towards an environmentally and socially more sustainable state” (Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010, p. 482). However, when combining social, environmental and economic value creation together, conflicts in underlying values and motivations influencing an individual’s value creation goals are likely to emerge. Despite triple value creation in sustainable entrepreneurship, there seems to be a need to balance between the types of value created. By contrast, to aim primarily at economic gain would be in conflict with aiming at social and environmental value creation. Hence, although extrinsic reward is an important driver of sustainable entrepreneurship, the findings of the prior literature have shown that environmental attitudes are negatively impacted by power and tradition (Schultz and Zelezny, 1999). Contrary to extrinsic reward, intrinsic reward is seen as a driver of attitude toward sustainability. As mentioned, societal and environmental issues are often complex, and traditional solutions do not seem to work (Hockerts, 2015). Moreover, innovation and innovativeness have been connected to social and environmental entrepreneurship as a result of this complexity and willingness to change the industry they are operating in (Austin et al., 2006; Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010; Short et al., 2009). Based on the discussion above regarding the connections between different work values and attitude toward sustainability, in this study the following is proposed:
Altruism has a positive impact on attitude toward sustainability.
Intrinsic reward has a positive impact on attitude toward sustainability.
Extrinsic reward has a negative impact on attitude toward sustainability.
Data collection and measures
The data were collected using anonymous questionnaires in two rounds in 2015: the first in March in Liechtenstein and Austria and the second in April-May in Finland. Minor changes to the appearance of the questionnaire (lines and color were added) were made between the two rounds of data collection although the content remained unchanged. To avoid confirmation bias, some items and one intentions scale were reversed. The research focuses on young adults, and hence the age range for respondents was set between 18 and 35 years old. Moreover, the research context is university students, because higher education has been associated with increased entrepreneurial activity (Levie and Autio, 2008). Additionally, education level plays an important role in specific forms of entrepreneurship. An increase in education level has been associated with an increase in the emphasis put on social and environmental entrepreneurial goals, while it tends to decrease the emphasis put on economic entrepreneurial goals (Hechavarria et al., 2017). Similarly, prior research has found that the course of study and entrepreneurial intentions are connected (Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010).
The data sample consists of 415 university students from universities in Liechtenstein (n=81), Austria (n=123) and Finland (n=211). In total, 5 percent of questionnaires were discarded due to incomplete answers and respondents being over the age range limit (>35). This results in 393 responses. The respondents’ average age was 23 years, which corresponds to the average age of university students. Of the respondents, 44 percent were female and 56 percent were male. Respondents were mainly studying in three academic disciplines: business (67 percent), architecture (20 percent) and technology (9 percent). In total, 32 percent of the respondents had someone in their circle of friends or family who is an entrepreneur.
First, the scale for entrepreneurial intentions was mostly adopted from Liñan and Chen’s (2009) study, while one item, “I am going to start my own business within one year of graduation,” was adopted from Autio et al.’s (2001) and Davidsson’s (1995) studies. Second, perceived entrepreneurial desirability was measured using the scale from Liñan and Chen’s (2009) study, while the scale for perceived entrepreneurial feasibility was adopted from Krueger’s (1993) and Peterman and Kennedy’s (2003) studies. Third, the scale for work values was adopted from Dietz et al.’s (2002) and Twenge et al.’s (2010) studies. Since Schwartz’s (1992) value scale is the base of both scales, items from these two scales were integrated. The scale includes work values for security, extrinsic reward, intrinsic reward and altruism. Fourth, the scale for general self-efficacy was adopted from Chen et al.’s (2001) study.
Lastly, since there are only few measurement scales available for entrepreneurial opportunity attributes, and they have not taken into account different types of entrepreneurship, the scales for entrepreneurial goal and attitude toward sustainability were developed for the purposes of this study. Entrepreneurial goal together with entrepreneurial intentions forms the measure for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. The first measurement scale for entrepreneurial goal is Osgood’s semantic differential scale (Osgood et al., 1975, pp. 25-26), which asked the respondents to evaluate pairs of opposite characteristics of their ideal venture. These characteristics reflecting sustainable entrepreneurship include impact on society’s weakest members, environmental problems, the world’s poverty problem, sustainable development, the responsible use of natural resources and having a goal that maximizes social good rather than economic gain. These six items were developed based on the sustainable development goals identified by United Nations (UNDP, 2015). The second measure, attitude toward sustainability, asked respondents to rate the extent (from 1 to 7) to which they would consider social and environmental impact when evaluating an entrepreneurial opportunity.
To assess the validity of measurement, the average variance extracted (AVE) for sustainable entrepreneurial goal was examined, and it is 0.56. Since the AVE is above the cut-off value (0.5), it is concluded that there is convergent validity (Hair et al., 1998, p. 612). Moreover, correlations were examined, and all are below squared AVE; hence there is discriminant validity (Henseler et al., 2015; Zait and Bertea, 2011). As a result, it can be concluded that construct is valid (see Table AVII). Summed scales were constructed for work values, sustainable entrepreneurial goal, general self-efficacy, perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility and entrepreneurial intention. The detailed composition of factors is presented in Tables AI-AVIII.
Following the suggestion of Bono and McNamara (2011) about the conditions under which a variable should be controlled for, gender and discipline were chosen as control variables. First, gender was controlled for, since the prior literature has found that it plays a role in the level of entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions (Arrighetti et al., 2016; Fellnhofer et al., 2016; Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010; Zhao et al., 2005). However, previous studies have provided mixed results about the role of gender in entrepreneurial intentions and attitudes toward value creation. For example, female business students are found to have higher entrepreneurial intentions, while the level of entrepreneurial intentions is not influenced by gender among science and engineering students (Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010). On the contrary, female MBA students were found to have a lower level of entrepreneurial intentions than males (Zhao et al., 2005). Moreover, gender plays a role in entrepreneurial goals as well as values and behaviors related to sustainability. For example, females are more likely to have social and environmental entrepreneurial goals than males, while males are more likely to have economic entrepreneurial goals than females (Hechavarria et al., 2017). Similarly, males tend to be less emphatic toward others compared to females (Hockerts, 2015). Second, discipline (business, technology, architecture or other) was controlled, since prior research has found differences between business and engineering students in terms sustainability orientation and level of entrepreneurial intentions (Kuckertz and Wagner, 2010).
Following Podsakoff et al. (2003), the risk of common method variance was reduced by using different scale types and reversing some items and one scale (see Tables AI-AVIII). Moreover, in this study, Harman’s single factor test was used to examine common method variance. The results suggest that there are ten factors in the data and that together they explain 66 percent of the variance. Also, the first factor explains only 20 percent of the variance, hence there does not seem to be any general factor explaining the variance. As a result, it can be concluded that common method variance does not seem to be an issue. The summed scales were created on the basis of a principal component analysis, and the composition of items in each scale was based on communalities, MSA values and cross-loadings (Tables AI-AVIII). All the Cronbach’s αs were above 0.6 and all except one above 0.7 (see Table I). This confirmed the internal consistency of the scales, and hence they could be considered reliable (Hair et al., 1998, p. 118). The two self-developed measures – sustainable entrepreneurial goal and attitude toward sustainability – were internally consistent and could be considered reliable, hence showing promise in terms of measuring attitudes toward types of entrepreneurial opportunities as well as opportunity-specific intentions. As a result, a measure for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions was created by multiplying measures of entrepreneurial intention by social entrepreneurial goal.
Through ordinary least squares (OLS) estimation, the proposed relationships in the theoretical framework were tested. On the basis of the fit statistics of the models, it is concluded that the models fit the data at an acceptable level, since all the models are significant and explained 21-42 percent of the variance (Table II). Gender and discipline were controlled for in light of the results of the earlier studies and correlations. Keeping all other things equal, women tend to perceive entrepreneurship as less feasible and desirable while they tend to have a more positive attitude toward sustainability than men. Similarly, non-business students tend to perceive entrepreneurship as more feasible and desirable as well as have a higher level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions.
First, the elements of TPB are examined: perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility as well as sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions (SEI_1 model). The model is significant and explains 21 percent of the variance. The results show that perceived entrepreneurial desirability positively affects the level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions, while perceived entrepreneurial feasibility does not have a significant relationship with sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Moreover, the fifth regression model contains attitude toward sustainability as a driver of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. The variance explained increases from 21 to 38 percent (F⩽5.19, p=0.05), hence suggesting that the model with attitude toward sustainability is better. Both attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability have a positive and significant impact on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. When attitude toward sustainability improves by one unit, sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions increase by 1.52 units. Similarly, an increase of one unit in perceived entrepreneurial desirability more than doubles the level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions (2.09 units). These results lend support to H1c and H1a, proposing that attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability have a positive impact on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Surprisingly, in this study, no connection is detected between perceived entrepreneurial feasibility and sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. As a result, H1b is not supported.
Second, perceived entrepreneurial desirability and work values were examined. As hypothesized, both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are positively associated with perceived entrepreneurial desirability. Hence, H2a and H2b are supported. Moreover, security has a negative effect on perceived entrepreneurial desirability. This lends support to H2c, suggesting that security has a negative impact on perceived entrepreneurial desirability. The third model examined work values, general self-efficacy and perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. As expected, the results lend support to H3a, proposing that general self-efficacy has a positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. A higher level of general self-efficacy is associated with higher perceived entrepreneurial feasibility (p<0.01). Similarly, intrinsic reward has a positive effect on perceived entrepreneurial feasibility (p<0.05), and hence H3b is supported. Moreover, the results show that when an individual’s valuation of security increases by one unit, the level of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility diminishes by 0.23 units, supporting H3c.
Finally, the results show support for H4a, proposing that altruism has a positive impact on attitude toward sustainability. A higher level of altruism is associated with a more positive attitude toward sustainability (p<0.01). As hypothesized, extrinsic reward has a negative effect on attitude toward sustainability, hence providing support for H4c, suggesting a negative connection between extrinsic reward and attitude toward sustainability. Contrary to H4b, intrinsic reward has no significant connection with attitude toward sustainability. This contradicts H4b, suggesting that intrinsic reward has a positive impact on sustainability, and hence the hypothesis is not supported.
The purpose of the present study was to examine sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions by extending and adapting the intention model to sustainable entrepreneurship. In this study, the drivers of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions as well as the antecedents of those drivers were identified through regression analysis. The results of the study are summarized in Table III.
First, in line with TPB, sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions are driven by perceived entrepreneurial desirability and attitude toward sustainability. Thus, the results lend support for H1a and H1c. These results are partially in line with the prior findings in the context of social entrepreneurship (Hockerts, 2015; Urban and Kujinga, 2017). Their results show that perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility have positive impact on social entrepreneurial intentions. Contrary to earlier findings, no relationship between perceived entrepreneurial feasibility and sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions was detected. As a result, H1b is not supported. Our findings also provide support for the results of the social entrepreneurship literature (e.g. Ayob et al., 2013) about the insignificant role of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility on entrepreneurial intentions. Similarly, Schlaegel and Koenig (2014) found only partially significant and positive relationship between perceived feasibility and entrepreneurial intent. Their results also show that the influence of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility on entrepreneurial intention is mediated by perceived entrepreneurial desirability. By contrast, a negative interaction between perceived entrepreneurial feasibility and desirability has been reported in the entrepreneurship literature by Fitzsimmons and Douglas (2011). They found that the positive relationship between perceived entrepreneurial desirability and entrepreneurial intentions is stronger when the level of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility is low and weaker when it is high. Hence, our results together with the findings of the prior literature reinforce the notion that the relationship between perceived entrepreneurial desirability, feasibility and intentions may be more complex than a simple linear relationship. Alternatively, the insignificant impact of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility may imply that specific measures for the sustainable entrepreneurial context should be developed. Both perceived entrepreneurial desirability and feasibility might need to be developed in a way that takes into consideration different types of entrepreneurial opportunities, and hence they would be more context-specific.
Second, the findings of the study show that intrinsic and extrinsic reward have positive impact on perceived entrepreneurial desirability, while security tends to have negative effect on it. Thus, the results lend support for H2a-H2c. These results are in line with the findings of prior literature that has shown that individuals aiming to become entrepreneurs or acting entrepreneurially tend to appreciate independence, power, innovativeness and risk-taking (Brenner et al., 1991; Douglas and Shepherd, 2002; Kirkley, 2016). Similarly, H3a-H3c are supported by the results of the study. Regarding self-efficacy, the results of the study show a positive connection between general self-efficacy and perceived entrepreneurial feasibility (H3a). This is in line with the prior entrepreneurship literature that has tended to connect self-efficacy to entrepreneurial intentions (e.g. Schlaegel and Koenig, 2014; Zhao et al., 2005). However, the prior literature has tended to examine the role of entrepreneurial self-efficacy, which is a domain specific from of self-efficacy, as a driver of entrepreneurial intentions. Thus, the results extend the findings of the prior literature by examining general self-efficacy as a driver of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility. Furthermore, the results show positive connection between intrinsic reward and perceived entrepreneurial feasibility (H3b), while security tends to decrease its level (H3c). These results are in line with the findings of the prior literature by showing that individuals highlighting security tends to have lower entrepreneurial intentions than those who value independence and innovativeness (Brenner et al., 1991; Douglas and Shepherd, 2002). Similarly, Kirkley (2016) has found that independence, choosing own goals and creativity were connected to underlie entrepreneurial behavior.
Third, the results of the study lend support for H4a and H4c, but they do not support H4b. Regarding the H4a, the study shows that altruism seems to play the most important role in driving attitude toward sustainability. These results are in line with the social and environmental entrepreneurship literature (Mair and Noboa, 2006; Patzelt and Shepherd, 2010; Schultz and Zelezny, 1999; Smith et al., 2010). Similarly, following the findings of the prior literature (Schultz and Zelezny, 1999), the results show a negative relationship between extrinsic reward and attitude toward sustainability. The prior research has shown that power and tradition decrease entrepreneurial attitude. Surprisingly, intrinsic reward is not connected to attitude toward sustainability. Although the literature has connected innovativeness and creativity with social and environmental value creation, attitude toward sustainability is not affected by valuing intrinsic reward (Austin et al., 2006; Hockerts and Wustenhagen, 2010; Short et al., 2009). However, when looking at the results regarding attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability, a contradiction in the role of extrinsic reward driving the antecedents of sustainable entrepreneurship. Extrinsic reward enhances the level of perceived entrepreneurial desirability, while it tends to hinder attitude toward sustainability.
Fourth, the results additionally reveal that gender and disciplinary differences are present in sustainable entrepreneurship. On average, women tend to have more positive attitudes toward sustainability, while men tend to perceive entrepreneurship as more desirable and feasible. These results are supported by the findings of the prior literature, which has found that females tend to hold more altruistic values than males (Hechavarria et al., 2017; Hockerts, 2015). Surprisingly, there are no gender differences when it comes to the level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Similarly, as suggested by the findings of the prior literature, non-business students tend to perceive entrepreneurship in more positive light and have a higher level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions than business students. Our findings support the results of Kuckertz and Wagner (2010), who also found differences among disciplines when it comes sustainability orientation and entrepreneurial intentions.
The need to adapt intention models and how they apply to entrepreneurship type-specific intentions has been raised in the entrepreneurial intention literature (Liñan and Fayolle, 2015). The focus of this paper was on sustainable entrepreneurship and the applicability of TPB on this particular type of entrepreneurship. Hence, the purpose of the study was to examine entrepreneurial intentions in sustainable entrepreneurship, and a model for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions is proposed. The results of the study contribute to the sustainable entrepreneurship literature and entrepreneurship literature in three ways, as discussed below. The findings of the study also have implications for public policies and society through education. Especially, the findings of the study have implications for educating young adults about sustainable entrepreneurship and influencing their attitudes toward becoming sustainable entrepreneurs.
First, this study contributes to the entrepreneurship literature by showing that entrepreneurial intention models need to be adapted to fit the chosen context. Entrepreneurial opportunities are the underlying assumption in entrepreneurial intention models (Ajzen, 1991) although the heterogeneity in entrepreneurial opportunities is not reflected in the existing models (Brännback et al., 2007). Despite the introduction of a context-specific entrepreneurial intention model (Elfving, 2008) that includes both opportunity evaluation and entrepreneurial goal, the idea seems to have attracted only limited attention. The findings of the study provide support for the notion that the adaption of TPB is needed when examining entrepreneurship-specific entrepreneurial intentions. The results of the study show that the variance explained is higher when attitude toward sustainability is included as a driver of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. In this study, the sustainable entrepreneurship literature is extended by providing a sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intention model, which can also be extended to the other entrepreneurship types. To conclude, the research findings imply that it may be time to consider adapting the entrepreneurial intention models to include and to take into account the variance in entrepreneurial opportunities.
Second, the findings of the study provide new insights to the sustainable entrepreneurship literature by showing how the dual or triple goal-setting in sustainable entrepreneurship is also reflected in work values. The findings of the study support the notion proposed in the literature (e.g. Shepherd et al., 2013) that sustainable entrepreneurship is associated with the internal balancing of values, motives and perceived capabilities. That is, from one perspective people need to earn a living and want to be successful; but by contrast, they want to have a positive influence on societal and environmental issues despite the loss in personal economic gain. All in all, the findings of the study highlight the value aspects of sustainable entrepreneurship. Sustainable entrepreneurship, as well as social and environmental entrepreneurship, are strongly associated with altruistic value (Dees, 2012; Gibbs, 2009; Hockerts, 2015; Mair and Noboa, 2006; Linnanen, 2002; Smith and Woodworth, 2012) although sustainable entrepreneurship is connected to triple value creation (Cohen and Winn, 2007; Dean and McMullen, 2007; Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011).
Third, the findings of the study extend the results of the sustainable entrepreneurship literature by showing the connection between values, attitudes and intentions. Krueger (2007) has proposed that entrepreneurial intentions are based on attitudes, which hold roots in cognitive structures and deep beliefs. Deep beliefs are deeply rooted, strong assumptions, such as values, that guide individuals’ way of understanding the world around them and making decisions. The prior entrepreneurial intention literature has tended to focus on the drivers of intentions present in the TPB and EEM (e.g. Krueger, 1993; Krueger et al., 2000; Liñan and Santos, 2007; Schlaegel and Koenig, 2014), while this study also includes values. Thus, the results suggest that there is a connection between altruism, attitude toward sustainability and sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Altruism is positively associated with attitude toward sustainability, and attitude toward sustainability is positively connected to sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Moreover, the connection between extrinsic reward, perceived entrepreneurial desirability and sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions highlights another aspect of sustainable entrepreneurship: economic gain.
The study has policy-level implications regarding the role of sustainable enterprises at the societal level. Sustainable entrepreneurship as a particular form of entrepreneurship is perceived as a resolution to social inequality and environmental degradation, while, conventionally, entrepreneurship has been seen as a cause for these problems (Dean and McMullen, 2007). Sustainable entrepreneurship takes into account the external costs of its operations and even turns them into positive externalities (Cohen and Winn, 2007). In other words, sustainable enterprises may improve the state of the environmental or social community instead of merely enjoying the benefits of utilizing natural and social resources. As a result, the internalization of externalities opens up new entrepreneurial opportunities, and, indirectly, through these entrepreneurial opportunities sustainable entrepreneurs contribute to the development of society. Simultaneously, attention should be paid to supporting and removing barriers for entrepreneurship to promote entrepreneurial activity via public policies.
The findings of the study also have implications for entrepreneurship education. If the aim is to increase the level of sustainable entrepreneurial activity through education, attention should be paid to making entrepreneurship be perceived as more desirable and improving attitudes toward sustainability. Attitudes toward sustainability are highest among females, who tend to hold altruistic values and do not put emphasis on extrinsic reward. Alternatively, perceived entrepreneurial desirability is highest among male non-business students, who tend to emphasize extrinsic and intrinsic rewards and not care about security. Moreover, if the gender differences are to be taken into consideration in an attempt to increase the level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions, women are more prone to the sustainability aspect of the equation, while when it comes to men, the business side is more likely to be influenced. Thus, including sustainability-focused courses in education programs and providing students with positive experiences related to entrepreneurship are possible ways to influence the level of sustainable entrepreneurial intentions. Furthermore, since female students are more attracted to the sustainability aspect of sustainable entrepreneurship, there is a need to educate female students about entrepreneurship and encourage them in this direction. At the same time, there is a need educate male students about sustainability-related issues and through education influence their attitude toward sustainability. Additionally, non-business students should be encouraged toward entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial courses need to be included in educational programs. It seems that individuals from fields other than business are more prone toward sustainable entrepreneurship and that they have more positive views about sustainability and entrepreneurship. Hence, it seems that to enhance sustainable entrepreneurship, non-business students should be targeted to promote entrepreneurship as a career option.
Alternatively, perceived entrepreneurial desirability has the largest influence on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions, hence providing positive images about entrepreneurship and utilizing role models that provide positive experiences could be a way to improve the level of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. The insignificant role of perceived entrepreneurial feasibility and the importance of perceived entrepreneurial desirability and attitude toward sustainability suggest that perception about a person’s capability, skills and know-how in regard to becoming an entrepreneur may not be as important as in the context of conventional forms of entrepreneurship, and a key to enhancing sustainable entrepreneurship is positive views about entrepreneurship and sustainability in the context of university students. All in all, attitudes are important drivers of sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions. Hence, attitudes should be highlighted, and ways to improve them should play a key role in entrepreneurship education.
Moreover, the contradictory role of extrinsic reward in attitude toward sustainability and perceived entrepreneurial desirability merits special consideration. As a result, there is a need to develop ways to help aspiring sustainable entrepreneurs to balance the value struggle between extrinsic reward and altruism. Furthermore, the findings of the study imply that the specific goal pursued through entrepreneurship education needs to be carefully defined. If the goal is to increase the perceived desirability of entrepreneurship, then different motivations need to be addressed compared to increasing attitude toward sustainability. This highlights the need to include both extrinsic reward and altruism when examining entrepreneurial intentions in the context of sustainable entrepreneurship. The results of the study imply that to enhance sustainable entrepreneurship by influencing attitude toward sustainability, altruistic values are essential. Moreover, the importance of intrinsic reward as a driver of perceived entrepreneurial desirability and the role of altruistic values in enhancing attitude toward sustainability imply that attention should be paid to teaching soft skills. Moreover, the university students in the study on average perceived intrinsic reward to be more important than extrinsic reward, while altruistic values were, on average, considered to be less important than extrinsic reward. Hence, it seems that university students value freedom and innovativeness, while ability to help others is not perceived to be as important. This suggests that attention should be paid to ways of leveraging altruistic values to influence attitudes toward sustainability.
All in all, to enhance sustainable entrepreneurship through education, there is a need to find ways to address the underlying values. Moreover, depending on the type of value addressed, different aspects of sustainable entrepreneurship may be influenced, keeping in mind the dual role of extrinsic reward in sustainable entrepreneurship. Alternatively, altruism and intrinsic reward as the most important drivers of attitudes toward entrepreneurship and sustainability highlight the importance of values. “Millennials” (or “Generation Y” – those born between 1979 and 1994) have been proposed as being more entrepreneurial and sustainability-conscious (Hewlett et al., 2009) and have been shown to seek more than merely monetary compensation from work (Ng et al., 2010). Hence, this suggests that sustainable entrepreneurship would provide a purposeful work option which reflects their values.
The research has some limitations, each of which opens up avenues for future research. First, the relationships proposed in this study are limited to a particular entrepreneurial context – namely, sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainable value creation. To provide more support for the proposed relationships, future research should examine these relationships across different entrepreneurial opportunities that reflect different entrepreneurship types. Second, the research is limited to the context of young adults participating in higher education. Including individuals from different age categories, non-students and those who already are entrepreneurs would provide more support for the model. Third, the data sample is limited to small European countries, and thus to generalize the findings, research in larger and less sustainability-oriented countries is needed.
Notes: SEI, sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions; ATS, attitude toward sustainability; PEF, perceived entrepreneurial feasibility; PED, perceived entrepreneurial desirability; GSE, general self-efficacy; ALT, altruism; INTR, intrinsic reward; EXT, extrinsic reward; SEC, security, Gender (male=0, female=1); DIS, discipline (0=business, 1=non-business). aCronbach’s α for entrepreneurial intentions is 0.91 and for sustainable entrepreneurial goal is 0.73; Cronbach’s αs so not contain the omitted items that are presented in Tables AI-AVIII. *p<0.001
|Parameter estimate||SE||Parameter estimate||SE||Parameter estimate||SE||Parameter estimate||SE||Parameter estimate||SE|
|Model difference (F-test)||1.18**|
Notes: SE, self-efficacy; ATS, attitude toward sustainability; PEF, perceived entrepreneurial feasibility; PED, perceived entrepreneurial desirability; SEI, sustainability-oriented entrepreneurial intentions; Discipline: 0=business, 1=non-business; Gender: 0=male, 1=female. *p<0.1; **p<0.05; ***p<0.01
Summary of hypotheses results
|H1a: desirability→sustainability-oriented EI||2.40*||Supported|
|H1b: feasibility→sustainability-oriented EI||0.33||Not supported|
|H1c: sustainable attitude→sustainability-oriented EI||1.51*||Supported|
|H2a: intrinsic reward→desirability||0.95*||Supported|
|H2b: extrinsic reward→desirability||0.37*||Supported|
|H3a: intrinsic reward→feasibility||0.28*||Supported|
|H4a: altruism→sustainable attitude||1.10*||Supported|
|H4b: intrinsic reward→sustainable attitude||−0.08||Not supported|
|H4c: extrinsic reward→sustainable attitude||−0.30*||Supported|
Notes: Sustainable attitude, attitude toward sustainability. *p<0.01
Social entrepreneurial goal
Perceived entrepreneurial desirability
Perceived entrepreneurial feasibility
Attitude towards sustainable entrepreneurship
|Shared variance among constructs|
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This paper forms part of a special section: advancing sustainable entrepreneurship through substantive research.