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Special Issue "Social Innovation and Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Geography and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021) | Viewed by 11319

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Pedro Verga Matos
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Lisbon School of Economics & Management (ISEG), Universidade de Lisboa, 1649-004 Lisboa, Portugal
Interests: corporate governance; investment appraisal; social innovation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Tania Pereira Christopoulos
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades (EACH), Universidade de Sao Paulo, São Paulo – SP, 05508-220, Brazil
Interests: microfinance; financial inclusion; social innovation; social entreprises

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The concept of social innovation has been gaining visibility in the media, in the formulation of national and global public policies, in the management of third-sector organizations, and in academia (Weber, 2012; Dainienė & Dagilienė, 2016), but it is still a theme for which there is a profound need for research, covering both the concept and associated practices, as well as their results. According to Jessop, Bob, Moulaert et al. (2013), social innovation is a hot topic, appears regularly in the news, and is part of the core of the essential programs of several international organizations; for example, it is present in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Eichler & Schwarz, 2019), the European Union’s innovation-related incentive programs, and the OECD’s social entrepreneurship programs.

Although the concept of innovation is as old as humanity (Cajaiba-Santana, 2014), the realization of its importance for economic growth, for improving the quality of life, and for so-called "progress" is much more recent (Jessop, Bob, Moulaert et al., 2013). As stated by Cajaiba-Santana (2014) (p. 43), "The capacity to innovate and create new things is one of the hallmarks of civilization.” Innovation is present throughout human history as a manifestation of its creative capacity and as the outcome of humanity's efforts to develop responses to its needs and to improve its quality of life; in Simms' words: “Civilizations are the result of human innovations.” However, above all, in this century, social innovation has become prominent as a result of the recognition of its importance by the OECD and the European Union (European Commission, 2013), and it is a concept that differs from traditional innovation by its aim of promoting social change (Repo & Matschoss, 2020)

The debate on the concept of social innovation is still ongoing and, therefore, is a source of research in several domains of the social sciences (Cajaiba-Santana, 2014; Ionescu, 2015; Pol & Ville, 2009; van der Have & Rubalcaba, 2016,). In 1995, in a document of great importance, the European Commission (1995) (p. 11) considered that "Innovation is not just an economic mechanism or a technical process. It is, above all, a social phenomenon. Through it, individuals and societies express their creativity, needs and desires. (…) In the final analysis, the history, culture, education, political and institutional organization and the economic structure of each society determine that society's capacity to generate and accept novelty." Also, for the European Commission (2013), this concept refers to the development and implementation of new ideas (e.g., products, services, and models) to meet social needs and to create new social relationships or collaborations. These activities, services, and programs always encompass four fundamental elements that characterize social innovation (Dawson & Daniel, 2010), namely, people, the challenge (i.e., the problem that can be solved or the opportunity to explore), the process (i.e., dealing with the challenge), and the objective (e.g., solving the challenge to achieve greater well-being).

It is challenging to define sustainability in a way that is generally accepted, given the abundance of definitions. In effect, the word "sustainable" has become a buzzword that people interpret in their own way, and the difficulty in stabilizing a definition is aggravated when we associate it with companies or organizations (Hockerts, 2001).

The use of the term "sustainability," prevalent in the literature and encompassing several meanings, gained global notoriety, as did the expression "sustainable development," as a result of the United Nations Conference “Environment and Development” held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (RIO-92). Sustainable development has been defined since 1987 by the Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) as "the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED, 1987). However, over time, robust answers to questions regarding the nature of sustainability, of a sustainable organization, or of a sustainable society have proven to be illusory (Marshall & Toffel, 2005).

More specifically, corporate sustainability is an important concept that covers several dimensions (i.e., ethical, social, environmental, cultural, and economic) (Lankoski, 2016), and today, its importance is growing. The three central non-financial factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an organization are the environmental, social, and governance dimensions, known by the abbreviation ESG. This approach follows the so-called triple bottom line (TBL or 3BL), which is a sustainability model that analyzes the social, environmental, and economic impact of a project, organization, or company. It was originally developed in the 1990s by John Elkington and formally referenced for the first time in 1994, by himself, and complemented in 1995 by the introduction of the concept "3Ps: People, Planet, Profit." However, the triple bottom line approach is also very controversial because empirically, Adam (2006) verified that the economic dimension is typically more prevalent than the social and environmental dimensions. Regarding the aims of sustainability, it is easy to contest the scope and direction of the change it promotes, as well as the need of social business innovation (Bock, 2012). Would social innovation provide better ways for achieving a balance between the economic, environmental, and social dimensions?

The diversity of approaches, objectives, and methodologies applied in the study of social innovation and sustainability leads to the need for more research on these themes, requiring a multidisciplinary approach, with different perspectives, studying different sectors, and bringing together academics and other professionals. This is the aim of this Special Issue: To approach sustainable development and social innovation, both at the macro- and micro-levels, using trans- and interdisciplinary approaches.

Authors from management, economics, finance, sociology, and other related disciplines are invited to submit their papers. Multidisciplinary research that embraces the diversity of the sustainability and social innovation perspectives is particularly appreciated. Submissions for publication in this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Social Innovation and sustainable development;
  • Corporate practices of sustainable development in emerging versus developed markets;
  • Social enterprises and sustainability;
  • Social innovation as a way of achieving strong sustainability;
  • Ethical issues in social Innovation;
  • The future of sustainability in social innovation: A holistic approach;
  • Cases studies in different industries and/or countries;
  • Sustainable and innovative approaches on environmental and social issues.
Prof. Dr. Pedro Verga Matos
Dr. Tania Pereira Christopoulos
Guest Editors

References

  1. Adams, W. M. (2006). The Future of Sustainability: Re-Thinking Environment and Development in the Twenty-First Century, Report of the IUCN Renowned Thinkers Meeting, 29-31 January 2006.
  2. Bock B.B. (2012). Social innovation and sustainability: how to disentangle the buzzword and its application in the field of agriculture and rural development. Studies in Agricultural Economics,114(2) pp.57–63
  3. Cajaiba-Santana, G. (2014). Social Innovation: Moving the field forward. A conceptual framework. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 82(1), 42–51.
  4. Dainienė, R., & Dagilienė, L. (2016). Measurement of Social Innovation at Organisation's Level: Theoretical Issues. Economics and Business, 29(1), 96–103.
  5. Dawson, P., & Daniel, L. (2010). Understanding social Innovation: A provisional framework. International Journal of Technology Management, 51(1), 9–21.
  6. Eichler, G. M., & Schwarz, E. J. (2019). What sustainable development goals do social innovations address? A systematic review and content analysis of social innovation literature. Sustainability (Switzerland), 11(2).
  7. European Comission,  1995. Green paper on innovation.
  8. European Comission (2013). Social Innovation Research in the European Union: Approaches, Findings and Future Directions: Policy Review. EUR-OP.
  9. Hockerts, K. (2001). Corporate sustainability management, towards controlling corporate ecological and social sustainability. Proceedings of Greening of Industry Network Conference, 21-24.
  10. Ionescu, C. (2015). About the conceptualization of social Innovation. Theoretical and Applied Economics, 22(3), 53–62.
  11. Jessop, Bob, Moulaert, F., MacCallum, D., Mehmood, A., Hamdouch, A., Moulaert, F., Hulgård, L., & Hamdouch, A. (2013). Social innovation research: a new stage in innovation analysis? The International Handbook on Social Innovation, 110–130.
  12. Lankoski, L. (2016). Alternative conceptions of sustainability in a business context. Journal of Cleaner Production, 139, 847-857.
  13. Marshall, J. D., & Toffel, M. W. (2005). Framing the elusive concept of sustainability: A sustainability hierarchy. ACS Publication, 673-682
  14. Phillips, F., 2011. The state of technological and social change: Impressions. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 78 (6), pp.1072-
  15. Pol, E., & Ville, S. (2009). Social Innovation: Buzz word or enduring term? Journal of Socio-Economics, 38(6), 878–885.
  16. Repo, P., & Matschoss, K. (2020). Social Innovation for Sustainability Challenges. Sustainability, 12(1), 1-12
  17. van der Have, R. P., & Rubalcaba, L. (2016). Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies? Research Policy, 45(9), 1923–1935. 010
  18. Weber, J.M., 2012. Social innovation and social enterprise in the classroom: Frances Westley on bringing clarity and rigor to program design. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11 (3), pp.409-418.
  19. WCED - World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future, Oxford University Press.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Article
Social Innovation for a Just Sustainable Development: Integrating the Wellbeing of Future People
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9013; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169013 - 12 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1273
Abstract
Social innovation has gained increased attention as a mechanism for sustainable development. As the Brundtland Commission highlights, the improvement of present conditions should not compromise future generations’ needs. So far, (social) sustainable development has mostly focused on the amelioration of contemporary people’s wellbeing, [...] Read more.
Social innovation has gained increased attention as a mechanism for sustainable development. As the Brundtland Commission highlights, the improvement of present conditions should not compromise future generations’ needs. So far, (social) sustainable development has mostly focused on the amelioration of contemporary people’s wellbeing, relegating its duties towards future generations to second place. Given this, I consider it necessary to (re-)direct social innovation towards the promotion of the wellbeing of future people. I propose the concept of irreplaceable goods, a notion deriving from a strong sustainability perspective, which could then be integrated into social innovation practices related to sustainable development. Focusing on guaranteeing, at least, sufficient fruition of certain goods and resources, I devise this concept as a governance tool for steering development actions towards intergenerational justice, driven by social innovation action. In this article, we firstly delineate the relations between sustainable development and social innovation, while focusing on ‘value-driven’ social innovation. Afterward, I shortly introduce strong sustainability as support for future generations’ wellbeing. Furthermore, I develop the concept of irreplaceable goods as a governance tool in social innovation practices and finalize with a discussion on the application of irreplaceable goods in the assessment of sustainable development strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation and Sustainability)
Article
Key Drivers of the Engagement of Farmers in Social Innovation for Marginalised Rural Areas
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8454; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158454 - 28 Jul 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1281
Abstract
The European Union promotes social innovation (SI) initiatives for the support of marginalised rural areas through rural and sustainable development policies. These are based on the engagement of local actors and the strengthening of their mutual relationships to boost the fostering of professional [...] Read more.
The European Union promotes social innovation (SI) initiatives for the support of marginalised rural areas through rural and sustainable development policies. These are based on the engagement of local actors and the strengthening of their mutual relationships to boost the fostering of professional collaborations. In this context, the Horizon 2020 Social Innovation in Marginalised Areas (SIMRA) project elaborated a conceptual framework for characterising the engagement in an SI initiative. Accordingly, this paper aims to demonstrate that engagement relies on specific key drivers, such as the existence of unmet social needs and the role of agency. To this end, a two-step Heckman model was applied to an SI initiative case study called Vàzapp’, a rural hub (agency) located in Southern Italy. It promotes relationships among farmers to valorise the marginalised rural areas. The results appear consistent with the theoretical framework, demonstrating that the farmers’ engagement was motivated by the existence of the aforementioned determinants. The implications are relevant for policymakers, consultants, and social innovators who may incorporate these elements in designing specific SI projects in different contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation and Sustainability)
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Article
Social Innovation in Olive Oil Cooperatives: A Case Study in Southern Spain
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3934; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073934 - 02 Apr 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1798
Abstract
Recent years have witnessed a notable increase in the implementation of social innovation strategies for creating products with major social impact. Despite the lack of conceptual clarity still surrounding the term, social innovation, as a participatory research method, is finding scope for growth [...] Read more.
Recent years have witnessed a notable increase in the implementation of social innovation strategies for creating products with major social impact. Despite the lack of conceptual clarity still surrounding the term, social innovation, as a participatory research method, is finding scope for growth in agricultural cooperatives, whether in the areas of R&D and knowledge transfer, or in the commercialization of innovative products. Society has underscored the need for change in the environment and the implementation of new projects that help improve socioeconomic living conditions, promoting territorial development through social transformation. In the case of cooperativism in the olive oil industry in southern Spain, cooperatives are responsible for 70% of the oil produced there. As such, the actions carried out under their influence have a huge impact on the population and serve as tools that anchor people to their municipalities. This article analyses a case study from an olive oil cooperative, exploring the development of a social innovation project involving knowledge transfer and public awareness-raising through the label of an early harvest olive oil called “Primer Día de Cosecha” (First Day of Harvest). It also assesses the impact of the project on the population of the Andalusian municipality of Bailén (Jaén). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation and Sustainability)
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Review

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Review
Society 5.0: A Japanese Concept for a Superintelligent Society
Sustainability 2021, 13(12), 6567; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126567 - 09 Jun 2021
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 5374
Abstract
This document discusses the Japanese context of Society 5.0. Based on a society-centered approach, Society 5.0 seeks to take advantage of technological advances to finally solve the problems that currently threaten Japan, such as aging, birth rates and lack of competitiveness, among others. [...] Read more.
This document discusses the Japanese context of Society 5.0. Based on a society-centered approach, Society 5.0 seeks to take advantage of technological advances to finally solve the problems that currently threaten Japan, such as aging, birth rates and lack of competitiveness, among others. Additionally, another objective is to contribute to the progress of the country and develop the foundations for a better world, in which no individual can be excluded from the technological advances of our current society, to achieve this goal, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been developed. SDGs seek to assess the methods of use of modern technology and thus find the best strategies and tools to use it in a way that guarantees sustainability within the framework of a new society that demands constant renovations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Innovation and Sustainability)
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