In recent years, China has made great achievements in economic development. However, environmental issues such as environmental pollution, resource waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat destruction caused by economic production activities are becoming increasingly serious [1
]. As the economy and society pay more attention to environmental protection and sustainability, the Chinese government has proposed a series of measures to help promote environmental protection and sustainable economic and social development, such as “green manufacturing”, “carbon emission peak”, and “carbon neutrality” projects. Among them, these measures are found to be relevant to manufacturing enterprises. The manufacturing industry, as an essential engine of China’s economic growth and a main sector of energy consumption and carbon emissions, is considered to be the key to achieving environmental goals. Therefore, on the one hand, manufacturing enterprises are under unprecedented environmental pressure, and on the other hand, they are also confronted with opportunities for green development. Only by seizing the great opportunities brought by economy and society, green transformation and realizing innovation-driven green transformation and upgrades, can manufacturing enterprises shape their competitive advantage in a green market and achieve long-term development in the future.
Reviewing the existing research, the green transformation of large enterprises has attracted more attention from scholars. It is generally believed that green development requires a large amount of resource investment, while large enterprises have more tangible and intangible resources to support green innovation. However, in fact, small and medium-sized enterprises are the source of vitality for economic development, and they tend to be responsible for more than 60 per cent of the environmental impact [2
]. More entrepreneurs attempt to seize the opportunity of the green market and set up new ventures aiming at green development. Compared with large scale enterprises, the new ventures are more flexible and have stronger innovation capacity. When the external environment changes, new enterprises could respond and adjust more quickly. As a result, manufacturing new ventures have the potential to transform environmental issues into business solutions based on innovation by serving as green executors or green innovators. In the end, solutions to substantial environmental problems and significant improvement of economic performance will be realized [3
]. Hence, the implementation of a green innovation strategy may become the key to obtain green competitive advantages for manufacturing new ventures in the new period. Based on the above analysis, we focus on new ventures to explore the green innovative development of new ventures, which may be more beneficial to promote the green transformation of economy and society.
However, new ventures present “liability of newness”, especially those aiming at green innovative development. They may face more severe challenges. Therefore, how to maintain survival and achieve successful development and performance growth of enterprises needs more attention. Reviewing the existing research, it is found that there are inconsistent views on whether green innovation strategy can enhance new venture performance. Some scholars believe that the green operation of enterprises requires a lot of resource investment, and the benefits remain uncertain. Moreover, compared with large scale enterprises, the resource investment of new ventures in green innovation will increase the operating burden to a greater extent and weaken the profitability of enterprises. Nevertheless, other scholars, such as Porter and van der Linde, also pointed out that the green behavior could bring an “innovation offsets” effect, which contributes to shaping differentiated competitive advantages of the enterprises and improved organizational performance [4
]. To sum up, we hold that there may be an undiscovered path mechanism between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, which leads to the inconsistent views.
Previous studies have pointed out that green innovation strategy can boost enterprises to seize green opportunities through innovative means and production processes, so as to improve new business models. Business model innovation is considered as a value creation activity involving complex knowledge fusion and innovation [5
]. It is also an enterprise’s disruptive innovation behavior that breaks existing balance. However, limited by resource endowment, it is difficult for new ventures to support effective innovation activities through existing resources and capabilities. Therefore, it is necessary to apply external forces to promote green innovation events. Prior studies have found that valuable resources to encourage innovation activities could be mobilized through network relationships [6
]. Green knowledge sharing is regarded as a process of sharing or transferring green marketing and technical knowledge between manufacturers and their supply chain members [7
]. These stakeholders could be sources of resources and capabilities for new ventures, which is conducive to the development of new ventures’ innovation activities and shape competitive advantage. Nevertheless, there is still insufficient research on the role of green knowledge sharing and business model innovation between green innovation strategy and new venture performance.
Based on the above analysis, this paper constructs a comprehensive framework of the relationship between green innovation strategy, green knowledge sharing, business model innovation, and new venture performance. Furthermore, we take 240 Chinese manufacturing new ventures to empirically examine the relationship between these four variables. Different from previous studies, this paper mainly focuses on new ventures, explores the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, as well as the essential path for new ventures implementing a green innovation strategy to achieve performance transformation; that is, whether green knowledge sharing and business model innovation play a mediating role between them.
The main contributions of this study are as follows: First, we expand the research on environmental strategy in the context of new ventures. Previous studies mostly focused on the green transformation of large enterprises, while ignoring the significance of new ventures aiming at green innovative development for sustainable economy and society development. Therefore, this paper complements the existing literature on environmental strategies by regarding new ventures as the research objects to explore the green innovative development of them. Second, we open the “black box” of the effect of green innovation strategy on new venture performance, verify the positive relationship between them, and find that green knowledge sharing and business model innovation are two essential paths for the transformation of green innovation strategy into new venture performance, which enrich the existing research conclusions on the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance. This study lays a theoretical and empirical foundation for the performance improvement of new ventures implementing a green innovation strategy and puts forward valuable suggestions for promoting green transformation of economy and society.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2
reviews the existing literature and derives our hypotheses. Section 3
introduces sample analysis and data collection methods. Section 4
argues the empirical research results in this paper. Section 5
discusses the findings as well as theoretical and managerial implications. Section 6
discusses the limitations and suggests directions for future research.
3. Research Design
3.1. Research Steps
The empirical test of this paper follows the following steps (see Figure 2
). First, we designed the questionnaire and collected the data from the target enterprises. Then, we used statistical software to further process the data and check the reliability, validity, correlation, and other indicators. Finally, the hypotheses of this paper were tested.
3.2. Sample and Data Collection
In this study, manufacturing new ventures were selected as our objects because their business activities are more likely to have an effect on environment. In addition, we focused the research context on China, because China, as a developing country, has experienced rapid economic growth with serious pollution problems [1
]. At present, entrepreneurship research generally regards enterprises that have been established for no more than 8 years as new ventures [46
], so we followed this convention and defined new ventures.
Compared with listed companies, it was hard to access to new ventures’ managers in different provinces in China. Thus, at first, we distributed questionnaires to qualified entrepreneurs through our own network relationships. Then, we adopted snowballing to obtain more target enterprises. It is useful for getting in touch with hard-to-reach people [48
]. In order to promote the response rate of questionnaires, we promised to provide detailed analysis reports for the interviewees and emphasized anonymity in the process of answering. Finally, a total of 342 questionnaires were distributed, and 240 valid questionnaires were obtained after eliminating invalid samples. The effective rate of sample recovery was 70.18%.
Among these samples, the subjects accounted for 69.17% of males and 30.83% of females. According to the industry classification of the 2017 national economy, the sample enterprises engaged in pharmaceutical manufacturing and electronics, in addition to communication equipment manufacturing accounting for the largest proportion, accounting for 37.92% and 33.75%, respectively. Medical instrument and instrument manufacturing, as well as aviation, spacecraft, and equipment manufacturing accounted for 10.00% and 9.17%, respectively. Computer and office equipment manufacturing, as well as information chemical manufacturing, accounted for 5.00% and 3.33%. Others accounted for 0.83%. In view of China’s vast territory, we divided China into four regions to achieve a more comprehensive coverage of the sample enterprises; that is, northeast region, east region, west region, and central region. Most of the sample enterprises were located in northeast China, accounting for 61.25%. Meanwhile, the east region accounted for 17.92%. The west region and central region accounted for 10.83% and 10.00%, respectively.
To make our research more rigorous, this paper evaluated the non-response bias. We used a t-test to compare the differences between early and late responses [49
]. The results showed that the non-response bias could be neglected.
In this study, some measures were taken to intervene in common method variance (CMV). In the beginning, the respondents answered the questionnaire anonymously with the mixed items. Then, we used Harman’s single-factor test to examine the potential threat, while the result suggested that CMV could not be a serious problem. Finally, the result of the one-factor model also showed CMV did not need extra attention [50
/df = 5.857, RMSEA = 0.142; SRMR = 0.151; CFI = 0.463; TLI = 0.424).
First, based on Chan’s research, we used 7 items to measure the new ventures’ implementation situation of a green innovation strategy [51
]. Second, the measurement of green knowledge sharing referred to the research of Song et al. Additionally, green knowledge sharing was divided into 2 dimensions: green supplier sharing and green customer sharing [7
]. Each dimension was measured by 5 items. Business model innovation was measured by 9 items according to the research of Zott and Amit [52
]. Finally, we used 5 items which were adopted from Cui et al. to measure new venture performance [53
]. All items were measured on 7-point Likert scales, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The constructs’ details and items are listed in Appendix A
Furthermore, we should consider additional effects caused by other factors, especially the firm’s age. Although the research objects of this study were limited to new ventures established within 8 years, we still needed to pay attention to the influence of the difference in resources caused by time on the green development of new ventures. Thus, we made firm age control variables in this paper, and it was measured by the years that firms had operated. “1” = less than 3 years, “2” = 3–5 years, “3” = 5–8 years.
In recent years, the green innovative development of manufacturing enterprises has been considered as the key to promoting the green transformation of China’s economy and society and achieve environmental goals. More entrepreneurs attempt to achieve new value creation by transforming environmental problems into business solutions based on innovation. However, how to effectively transform the performance of new ventures aiming at green innovative development is still a vital problem to be urgently solved in the industry and academia. Therefore, based on the natural resource-based view, this study explores the mechanism of green innovation strategy on new venture performance, constructs a comprehensive framework of green innovation strategy, green knowledge sharing, business model innovation, and new venture performance, and draws the following conclusions.
First, there is a significant positive relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, which is consistent with the standpoints of some scholars that green innovation strategy promotes performance growth. Dai et al. pointed out that proactive environmental strategy could facilitate the utilization of enterprise resources, weaken the negative impact of business activities on the environment, and improve operation performance [12
]. Green innovation strategy could reduce the cost of production and help enterprises to shape differentiated competitive advantages through product or process innovation, thus enhancing performance [17
]. This paper extends the research context of the existing literature. The results show that green innovation strategy also contributes to the improvement of new venture performance, which is consistent with the research of Hansen and Klewitz. They pointed out that small enterprises could take advantage of their flexibility and market response capacity to effectively drive green innovative development [13
]. Dai and Xue argued that for enterprises at the growth stage, green innovative development is conducive to strengthening their profitability [57
Second, green knowledge sharing is a crucial path for new ventures to enhance performance by implementing a green innovation strategy. The existing research on the green development of small and medium-sized enterprises mostly regards the supply chain network as the vital external force that enterprises could rely on. Jo and Kwon showed that small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises needed to implement a green supply chain to overcome the increasingly fierce green market competition and improve their financial performance [58
]. The results of our research also confirm that a green innovation strategy could enhance new venture performance by facilitating green knowledge sharing with key suppliers and key customers. This finding is consistent with several studies based on the green supply chain perspective [7
]. Green knowledge sharing provides new ventures with green knowledge, technology, and information resources from key suppliers and customers, which lays a good foundation for new ventures to capture green opportunities in the market, develop green innovation activities, and enhance performance.
Third, business model innovation is also a crucial path for new ventures to enhance performance by implementing a green innovation strategy. However, prior studies have ignored the essential role of business model innovation in the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance. In this paper, we fill this gap and verify the importance of business model innovation. At the same time, we empirically confirm some researchers’ view that the pursuit of stronger sustainability is an essential antecedent for enterprises to develop business model innovation. Enterprises that advocate a green innovation strategy could lead a novel business model [34
Finally, this paper innovatively finds the chain mediating role of green knowledge sharing and business model innovation between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, which is consistent with the conclusion of Schaltegger et al. They believed that simple knowledge and technology exchange and innovation might not maintain the competitive advantage of enterprises. Therefore, enterprises need to innovate their business models to meet the requirements of green development [59
5.2. Theoretical Implications
This paper provides theoretical contributions to related literature in two aspects. First, it has enriched the environmental strategy research of new ventures. New ventures need to take responsibility for economic growth and the realization of social and environmental goals. However, there is limited research on new ventures’ green innovative development. The transformation path of green innovation strategy into new venture performance is also unclear. Scholars have mostly focused on the implementation of environmental strategy and the green transformation of large enterprises. Thus, based on existing research gaps, we focused on new ventures and attempted to expand the research context of corporate environmental strategy. The results show that green innovation strategy has a positive impact on new venture performance. The conclusions carry theoretical and empirical support for the feasibility of the new ventures’ green development.
Second, this study reveals the mechanism of green innovation strategy on new venture performance. The existing research conclusions about the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance are still controversial. Thus, we try to explore the specific path of transforming green innovation strategy into new venture performance. In this paper, considering the characteristics of new ventures with resource shortages and high flexibility, two variables, green knowledge sharing and business model innovation, are introduced to explain this relationship. The results show that green knowledge sharing, including green supplier sharing and green customer sharing, and business model innovation are the critical paths for manufacturing new enterprises implementing a green innovation strategy to achieve new venture performance. More specifically, green knowledge sharing and business model innovation play a chain mediating role between green innovation strategy and new venture performance. In conclusion, the findings of this study strengthen the scholarly understanding of the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, opens the black box of the impact of green innovation strategy on new venture performance, and builds a theoretical basis for manufacturing new ventures to achieve successful green innovative development.
5.3. Managerial Implications
This paper also offers several managerial implications. First, the implementation of a green innovation strategy may be a new path for manufacturing new ventures to achieve performance growth. In order to meet the requirements of the new period and strengthen the motivational force of development, the Chinese government put forward the new development philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development. The conclusion of this paper also confirms the significance of this philosophy in guiding the development of new ventures. Promoting green innovative development of new ventures will be conducive to China’s economic transformation and upgrading and will contribute to the achievement of China’s environmental goals such as “green manufacturing” in the new era. By implementing green innovation strategy, manufacturing new ventures could innovate in products and services to attract more favor from environment-sensitive customers, enhance corporate social reputation and customer loyalty, build brand advantage, and benefit from the premium income brought by the environmental protection attributes of products [44
]. Meanwhile, green innovation strategy can build differentiated competitive advantages by promoting enterprises to improve operation quality and reduce production costs, which increases the possibility of performance improvement.
Second, manufacturing new enterprises implementing a green innovation strategy need to strive to overcome their own resource weakness. They can achieve a large extent of knowledge and information collection by expanding their social networks and sharing green knowledge with key suppliers and customers in the supply chain network actively. By acquiring advanced green knowledge and technology from key suppliers, as well as green market information and new demands from key customers, new enterprises could facilitate proactive green innovation in products, processes, partners, and transaction methods. In this way, new business solutions can be provided for customers to achieve business model innovation, which is helpful for new ventures to create new value, complete the transformation of green innovation strategy into new venture performance, and promote the green transformation of economy and society.
6. Limitations and Future Research
There are certain limitations that should be mentioned in this paper. First, this study mainly focuses on new ventures in the manufacturing industry in China. However, most of the sample enterprises are from the northeast of China, which may have a certain degree of influence on the current results due to China’s vast territory. Future research may explore whether a different industry (e.g., agriculture, tourism) or enterprises in different regions will affect the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, to enrich the research on new ventures’ environmental strategy. Second, we used scale measurement to measure all the variables, which may be affected by subjective perception of subjects despite our efforts to eliminate this effect. Therefore, future studies may explore the quantitative measurement of variables to reconfirm the research conclusion of this paper. Third, this research focuses on the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance, as well as the transformation process of this relationship within the organization, which ignore the external factors. Therefore, in the future, contingency factors may be considered to add to this comprehensive framework, such as exploring the contingency role of competition intensity in this path mechanism to extend existing research. Finally, based on the natural resource-based view, this study verifies the mediating role of green knowledge sharing and business model innovation in the relationship between green innovation strategy and new venture performance. Future studies may consider other mediating paths or mechanisms, to expand the relevant research on the performance improvement of new ventures under a green context.