The recognition of opportunities for sustainable development is considered to be an essential part of sustainable entrepreneurship, but studies that address this phenomenon are scarce. A conceptual model which aims to explain the factors that lead to the recognition of sustainable opportunities was proposed by Patzelt and Shepherd (2011), but published research that tests this model empirically is limited. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the sustainable entrepreneurship literature by empirically exploring Patzelt and Shepherd’s conceptual model in order to shed light on how sustainable entrepreneurs recognize opportunities for sustainable businesses in practice.
This paper adopts a qualitative research approach to address the aims of the study. In-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with eight sustainable entrepreneurs based in Berlin. The data were analyzed by means of thematic analysis.
The findings indicate that sustainable entrepreneurs are influenced in their identification of sustainable opportunities by their knowledge of natural and communal environments, by their motivation to develop gains for themselves and others, and by entrepreneurial knowledge. These findings largely support the model proposed by Patzelt and Shepherd (2011). Furthermore, they extend this model by shedding light on some of the factors that comprise its components, as this study found that spending time abroad and socialization enhance entrepreneurs’ knowledge of natural and communal environments; a desire to be self-employed, aspects of one’s personality and one’s personal circumstances are sources of motivation, while prior jobs and prior projects create entrepreneurial knowledge.
Only two other studies have empirically tested Patzelt and Shepherd’s (2011) model, and these have led to disparate results. The first was conducted by Choongo et al. (2016), who did not find any evidence to support this model. The second was carried out by Muñoz and Dimov (2017), who addressed the model partially. This paper therefore makes four major contributions. First, it is the first to offer preliminary empirical support for each component of Patzelt and Shepherd’s (2011) conceptual model. Second, it extends their model by identifying some of the factors comprising its components. Third, it reflects on possible reasons why extant research has led to disparate findings. Fourth, it proposes avenues of research to resolve the unanswered questions arising from these studies. This paper therefore makes a contribution to the literature on sustainable entrepreneurship and serves as a stepping stone for further theory development and empirical research on sustainable opportunity recognition.
This paper forms part of a special section: advancing sustainable entrepreneurship through substantive research.
Hanohov, R. and Baldacchino, L. (2018), "Opportunity recognition in sustainable entrepreneurship: an exploratory study", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 333-358. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-12-2015-0275
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