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Sustainable and Circular Business Models to Promote Sustainable Entrepreneurship

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2021) | Viewed by 1307

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Soumodip Sarkar
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Management, University of Évora & CEFAGE, Portugal
2. Associate, Asia Center, Harvard University
Interests: Grassroots Entrepreneurship, AI implications for business and Sustainability
Department of Economics and Management, Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal and CEFAGE, University of Évora, Portugal
Interests: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Sustainability
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Entrepreneurship has been critical for alleviating extreme poverty and promoting economic development (Sutter et al, 2019). While a large part of the entrepreneurship literature still remains rooted to developed economy and tech startups contexts, its role in promoting economic development and positive impact on vulnerable communities even in some developed countries remains understudied. The rise of the two Asian giants, China and India, who have “changed the landscape of innovation” (Lim & Fujimoto, 2019) and a need for better understanding the emergence, dynamics and framing of locally-oriented innovative solutions (Sarkar & Pansera, 2017) that emerge or can emerge from poorer sections of societies worldwide. When it comes to poverty alleviation, conversations have tended to be confined to the role of government (VanSandt & Sud, 2012) and large businesses, typically MNCs (Kolk & Van Tulder, 2006).

While entrepreneurship for development is increasingly being recognized as a more grassroots and “bottoms-up” approach for economic growth, a parallel conversation on entrepreneurships’ role in promoting sustainability concerns is also being recognized. Broadly termed as sustainable entrepreneurship, this strand of entrepreneurial behaviour is aimed not only towards the fulfilment of  economic and financial  goals, but also towards social and ecological goals, “triple bottom line” (Cohen et al., 2008; Schaltegger and Wagner, 2011; Zahra et al. , 2009). Within management and business studies, this new field of field of research, places an “emphasis on the key role of individuals and organizations in engendering a shift towards more sustainable practices” (Gibbs, 2006, p.70).  Recent research has also noted sustainability efforts not just by start-ups or small and medium enterprises, but also of grassroots entrepreneurs who endeavour to create value across a wide spectrum (Sarkar & Pansera, 2017).

In line with the orientation for sustainable entrepreneurship, literature in the last decade has advanced the concept of Sustainable Business Model (SBM) (e.g. Birkin et al., 2009; Lüdeke-Freund, 2010; Stubbs and Cocklin, 2008; Schaltegger et al., 2016; Wells, 2016). SBM creates value and competitive advantages that contribute positively for social and environmental gains (Stubbs and Cocklin, 2008) and includes the management of multiple stakeholders, creating monetary value for all stakeholders in the long term (Geissdoerfer et al., 2018).  Additionally, the huge pressures on natural resources and the impact of climate changes around the world has led to considerations of of Business Models for Circular Economy or BMCE. (Diaz Lopez et al., 2019; Lewandowski, 2016; Linder and Williander, 2017; Nubholz, 2017).  These business models incorporate the principles of the Circular Economy and loops the production cycles in order to create economic value (Bocken et al., 2016).

Sustainable Business Models and Circular Business Models could be seen as the as both operational mechanisms and outcomes of sustainable entrepreneurship that reflects a balance between social, environmental and economic aspects. This concern is especially important in developing and poorer societies due the scarcity of the resources and the emergence of development models supported in circular and green economy that allows the reduction of the environmental impacts, generate economic rewards and involve communities with a social perspective. Furthermore, the discussion about development models and sustainability now in the global political agenda via the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be an opportunity to bring new ideas and create knowledge. Even in big cities of developed countries, many communities face social and economic problems, sometimes with negative impacts on environment due the huge pression generate by population density, traffic, pollution, social exclusion, etc in peripheric locations (Verick, 2011, Trindade et al, 2017).

While the extant literature that attends to these topics remains focused mainly in the context of developed world, there is a lot for academics to contribute when it comes to sustainable entrepreneurship phenomenon in developing countries and also vulnerable communities in the developed world. This special issue is meant to contribute to both a broader as well as a deeper understanding of how sustainable entrepreneurship is making a difference in various parts of the globe.



Birkin, F., Polesie, T., Lewis, L. (2009). A new business model for sustainable development: an exploratory study using the theory of constraints in Nordic organizations. Business Strategic Environment. 18, 277-290.

Bocken, N.M.P., de Pauw, I., Bakker, C., van der Grinten, B. (2016). Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy. Journal Industrial Production Engineering. 33, 308-320.

Cohen, B., Smith, B., & Mitchell, R. (2008). Toward a sustainable conceptualization of dependent variables in entrepreneurship research. Business Strategy and the Environment17(2), 107-119.

Diaz-Lopez, F.J., Bastein, T., Tukker, A. (2019). Business model innovation for resource efficiency, circularity and cleaner production: what 143 cases tell us. Ecology and Economy. 155, 20-35.

Geissdoerfer, M., Vladimirova, D., Evans, S. (2018). Sustainable business model innovation: A review. Journal of Cleaner Production. 198, 401-416.

Gibbs, D. (2006). Sustainability entrepreneurs, ecopreneurs and the development of a sustainable economy. Greener Management International, 2006(55), 63-78.

Kolk, A., & Van Tulder, R. (2006). Poverty alleviation as business strategy? Evaluating commitments of frontrunner multinational corporations. World Development34(5), 789-801.

Lewandowski, M. (2016). Designing the Business Models for Circular Economy. Towards the Conceptual Framework. Sustainability, 8 (1), 1-28.

Lim, C., & Fujimoto, T. (2019). Frugal innovation and design changes expanding the cost-performance frontier: A Schumpeterian approach. Research Policy48(4), 1016-1029.

Linder, M., Williander, M. (2017). Circular business model innovation: inherent uncertainties. Business Strategy and Environment. 26, 182-196

Nußholz, J. (2017). Circular Business Models: Defining a Concept and Framing an Emerging Research Field. Sustainability, 9, 1-18.

Sarkar, S., & Pansera, M. (2017). Sustainability-driven innovation at the bottom: Insights from grassroots ecopreneurs. Technological Forecasting and Social Change114, 327-338.

Schaltegger, S., & Wagner, M. (2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business strategy and the environment20(4), 222-237.

Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E.G., Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2016). Business Models for Sustainability. Organization and Environment,  29, 3-10.

Stubbs, W., Cocklin, C.  (2008). Conceptualizing a sustainability business model. Organizational Environment. 21, 103-127.

Sutter, C., Bruton, G. D., & Chen, J. (2019). Entrepreneurship as a solution to extreme poverty: A review and future research directions. Journal of Business Venturing, 34(1), 197-214.

Trindade et al. (2017). Sustainable development of smart cities: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, 3:11, 1-14.

VanSandt, C. V., & Sud, M. (2012). Poverty alleviation through partnerships: A road less travelled for business, governments, and entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(3), 321-332.

Verick S. (2011) The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Labour Markets in OECD Countries: Why Youth and Other Vulnerable Groups Have Been Hit Hard. In: Islam I., Verick S. (eds) From the Great Recession to Labour Market Recovery. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Zahra, S. A., Gedajlovic, E., Neubaum, D. O., & Shulman, J. M. (2009). A typology of social entrepreneurs: Motives, search processes and ethical challenges. Journal of business venturing24(5), 519-532.

Zhang, X. Q. (2016). The trends, promises and challenges of urbanisation in the world. Habitat International, 54(3), 241–252.

Wells, P. (2016). Economies of scale versus small is beautiful. Organization and Environment. 29, 36-52.

Manuscripts addressing sustainable entrepreneurship as tools for sustainable development in developing counties and vulnerable communities from all areas of the economy, management, and sustainability are welcome. For this Special Issue, papers that address the following topics, among others, are requested:

  • Sustainable development in developing countries
  • Indigenous entrepreneurship
  • Social innovation
  • Creation of sustainable value.
  • Sustainable management and new development models.
  • Sustainable entrepreneurship in Africa, Asia, and South America
  • Migrant and refugee entrepreneurship
  • Green development and green technology.
  • Circular economy and new business models
  • Sustainable business models
  • Green economy
  • Smart and sustainable cities
  • Social entrepreneurship and case studies in vulnerable communities (developing and developed countries)
  • Female entrepreneurship, rural entrepreneurship and young entrepreneurship in developing countries
  • Grassroots entrepreneurship for development
  • Other relevant topics related to the subject.

We welcome papers that make both a theoretical and empirical contribution in sustainable entrepreneurship.

Prospective contributors are invited to informally discuss their submission proposal with the Guest Editors prior to submission.

Prof. Dr. Soumodip Sarkar
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Luísa Cagica Carvalho
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at 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 2400 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.


  • Sustainable entrepreneurship
  • Sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Economic growth
  • Green development and green technology
  • Migrant and refugee entrepreneurship
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social innovation
  • Business models for green and circular economy
  • Sustainable Business Models
  • Developing countries
  • Poor countries
  • Smart and sustainable cities and territories
  • Vulnerable communities

Published Papers

There is no accepted submissions to this special issue at this moment.
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