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A new sustainability model: engaging the entire firm

Wayne McPhee (Director, EcoNomics™ and Sustainability, WorleyParsons, Markham, Canada)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 14 April 2014




The sustainable activity model re-envisions Porter's value chain to reflect the emerging impact of sustainability on firm strategy. The model helps to convert high level sustainability vision statements into a new set of actions that can create value from emerging issues like climate change, resource constraints, and a smaller, more connected world.


The emergence and growth of sustainability, provides an opportunity to rethink traditional business models to better reflect current and emerging market conditions. Porter's value chain was adapted to reflect that: the value of a firm is based on more than just the profit margin and includes reputation, brand value and license to operate; sustainability can generate value by improving both internal and external engagement and collaboration; and the impact that the firm has on the outside world need to be included in firm strategy and decision making.


The sustainable activity model is useful for focusing strategy on the material impacts of the firm rather than focusing on the issues that are most prevalent in the media or where managers have a particular interest. The model allows the firm to clearly set out new actions and new behaviors that change how the firm interacts with the world and how value is created.


The sustainable activity model adapts the traditional value chain model to better fit the business issues that have emerged over the last 25 years and to prepare for a future that will continue to change at an ever increasing rate. Applying the model to strategy and business decisions will encourage new ways of thinking about value and generate new activities for creating value and enhancing the resilience of the firm against future changes as the sustainability trend continues to evolve.



McPhee, W. (2014), "A new sustainability model: engaging the entire firm", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 4-12.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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