Journal Browser

Journal Browser

Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Beyond Opportunity or Necessity Entrepreneurship?

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2023) | Viewed by 6157

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Louvain Research Institute in Management and Organizations, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Interests: social and sustainable entrepreneurship; entrepreneurial motivations and entrepreneurship and society, i.e., impact of religion, culture, institutions

Guest Editor
Head of Doctoral College, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Wels, Austria
Interests: religion; sustainable entrepreneurship; entrepreneur´s profile

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The combined phenomenon of entrepreneurship with the pursuit of sustainable development goals is commonly referred to as sustainable entrepreneurship (SE) (Shepherd and Patzelt, 2011 ; Anand et al., 2021). As an increasingly important subfield of entrepreneurship research, SE is gaining importance (Muñoz et al., 2018; Gast et al., 2017).

However, there is no common ground as to whether SE is opportunity or necessity driven. While Pinkse and Groot (2013, p. 436), for instance, define SE as: “the discovery, creation, and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities that contribute to sustainability by generating social and environmental gains for others in society “, or Schaltegger and Wagner (2007, p.32) as “an innovative, market oriented and personality driven form of value creation by environmentally or socially beneficial innovations and products exceeding the start-up phase of a company.”. Others, such as Cavaleri and Shabana (2018, p. 9), argue that “necessity, however, may require a firm to engage in sustainability initiatives […]. This type of necessity arises from the firm’s dependence on its environment.” Climate change at large can also be seen as a necessity factor.

This lack of a common view, as well as the dichotomy between push and pull factors, may be simply due to the fact that SE is an entrepreneurial phenomenon, and that the discussion about opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship in the field of entrepreneurship in general is still not resolved (Dencker et al., 2021; O’Donnell et al., 2021).

Necessity entrepreneurship is based on the assumption that people are pushed into self-employment by negative conditions to secure their livelihood (O’Donnell et al., 2021). On the contrary, opportunity entrepreneurship is focused on the recognition, discovery, identification, or creation of market opportunities (Hansen et al, 2011). Opportunity entrepreneurship and the related processes have been deeply studied in the last decades and the word “opportunity” is often cited in the entrepreneurship literature since it has been recognized as a central component of entrepreneurship (Gaglio and Katz, 2001). In this sense, necessity entrepreneurship could be seen as a reactive behavior, while opportunity entrepreneurship is often considered as a proactive conduct.

However, recent research on opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship (e.g., Dencker et al., 2019 ; Dencker et al., 2021 ; Dheer and Treviño, 2021) call for a new discussion of this view that seems to be “oversimplified, and unable to account for the wide array of antecedents, processes and outcomes that occur” (Coffman and Sunny, 2021, p. 823). In this perspective, Coffman and Sunny (2021), using motivational theory, demonstrate that depending on the theoretical lens that has been chosen, the same entrepreneurial situation may be interpreted as opportunity or necessity entrepreneurship. Several other studies have also questioned the separateness of opportunity and necessity drivers and argued that they co-exist in entrepreneurs’ motivations (Aidis et al., 2006 ; Williams, 2008);i.e., both opportunity and necessity drivers co-exist among reasons for starting up business.

Yet, the debate on opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship is not closed and further research is needed. New contexts are especially promising to deliver new insights. In this sense, SE represents an interesting field to explore, because motivational aspects play an important role in the decision of an entrepreneur to enter that field.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to offer new research directions on opportunity and necessity behaviors in the special context of sustainability entrepreneurship. Research questions may include:

  • Is SE opportunity or necessity driven?
  • Under what contexts and/or conditions?
  • Are sustainable entrepreneurs able to transform a necessity into an opportunity?
  • When, how or under what conditions?
  • What are the processes behind opportunity and/or necessity driven SE?
  • Is climate change the most important entrepreneurial necessity driver?
  • Other related topics are also welcomed.


Aidis R., Welter F., Smallbone D., Isakova N. (2006), Female entrepreneurship in transition economies: the case of Lithuania and Ukraine, Feminist Economics, 12 (3/4): 82–101.

Ananda A., Argade P., Barkemeyer R., Salignac F. (2021), Trends and patterns in sustainable entrepreneurship research: A bibliometric review and research agenda, Journal of Business Venturing, 36 (3),

Bacq S. C., Janssen F. (2011), The multiple faces of social entrepreneurship: A review of definitional issues based on geographical and thematic criteria, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 23 (5-6): 373-403.

Cavaleri S., Shabana K. (2018), Rethinking sustainability strategies, Journal of Strategy and Management, 11 (1): 2-17.

Coffman C., Sunny S. (2021), Reconceptualizing necessity and opportunity entrepreneurship: a needs-based view of entrepreneurial motivation, Academy of Management Review, 46 (4): 823-825.

Dencker J., Bacq S. C., Gruber M., Haas M. (2019), Reconceptualizing necessity entrepreneurship: a contextualized framework of entrepreneurial processes under the condition of basic needs, Academy of Management Review, 46 (1): 60-79.

Dencker J., Bacq S., Gruber M. (2021), Basic Needs as the Boundary Condition for a Reconceptualization of Necessity Entrepreneurship across Contexts, Academy of Management Review, 46 (4): 830-835.

Dheer R., Treviño L. (2021), Explaining the rate of opportunity compared to necessity entrepreneurship in a cross-cultural context: Analysis and policy implications, Journal of International Business Policy, 1-27.

Gaglio, C. M., Katz J. (2001), The Psychological Basis of Entrepreneurial Identification: Entrepreneurial Alertness, Small Business Economics, 16: 95–111.

Gast J., Gundolf K., Cesinger B. (2017), Doing business in a green way: a systematic review of the ecological sustainability entrepreneurship literature and future research directions, Journal of Cleaner Production, 147: 44-56.

Hansen D. J., Shrader R., Monllor J. (2011), Defragmenting Definitions of Entrepreneurial Opportunity, Journal of Small Business Management, 49:2, 283-304.

Muñoz P., Janssen F., Nicolopoulou K., Hockerts K. (2018), Advancing sustainable entrepreneurship through substantive research, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Research, 24 (2): 322-332.

O’Donnell P., O’Gorman C., Clinton E. (2021), Rethinking the “Necessity” in Necessity Entrepreneurship, Academy of Management Review, 46 (4): 827-830.

Patzelt H., Shepherd D.A. (2011), Recognizing opportunities for sustainable development, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35 (4): 631-652.

Pinkse J., Groot K. (2015), Sustainable entrepreneurship and corporate political activity: overcoming market barriers in the clean Energy sector, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 39 (3): 633-654.

Schaltegger S., Wagner M. (2007), Types of Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Conditions for Sustainability Innovation: From the Administration of a Technical Challenge to the Management of an Entrepreneurial Opportunity, in R. Wüstenhagen, J. Hamschmidt, S. Sharma and M. Starik (eds.), Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 27–48.

Williams C. (2008), Beyond necessity-driven versus opportunity-driven entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 9 (3): 157–165.

Prof. Dr. Frank Janssen
Prof. Dr. Katherine Gundolf
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
  • necessity/opportunity entrepreneurship

Published Papers (2 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:


21 pages, 363 KiB  
Opportunity and/or Necessity Entrepreneurship? The Impact of the Socio-Economic Characteristics of Entrepreneurs
by Olivier Giacomin, Frank Janssen, Jean-Luc Guyot and Olivier Lohest
Sustainability 2023, 15(14), 10786; - 10 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2026
Entrepreneurs have often been considered as either belonging to the necessity or to the opportunity category based on their motivations when they started their organization. However, the necessity/opportunity entrepreneurship dichotomy is too limiting and the boundary between opportunity and necessity is certainly not [...] Read more.
Entrepreneurs have often been considered as either belonging to the necessity or to the opportunity category based on their motivations when they started their organization. However, the necessity/opportunity entrepreneurship dichotomy is too limiting and the boundary between opportunity and necessity is certainly not as clear-cut as it is assumed. Moreover, the interpretation of the entrepreneurial motivation must be considered as a product of the interaction between a specific situation and a specific individual. Depending on the individual’s characteristics, the same motivation could be interpreted either as a necessity motivation or as an opportunity motivation. In this paper, based on an original dataset of 538 Belgian nascent entrepreneurs, we thus explore the impact of entrepreneurs’ background and socio-economic characteristics on the way they position themselves on the necessity–opportunity axis. We point out that individuals who become involved in an entrepreneurial process have encountered a situation of necessity and/or opportunity and that the latter can take various forms. We show the impact of the socio-economic characteristics of entrepreneurs on the alignment of their project with a necessity or opportunity entrepreneurial dynamic. The existence of sub-profiles of entrepreneurs within the necessity–opportunity typology is also highlighted. We stress, for instance, that not all jobseekers are necessity entrepreneurs and that new venture creation based on family influence may convey both a necessity and an opportunity dimension. Finally, our study reveals a new kind of entrepreneurship, i.e., hobby entrepreneurship. Full article
28 pages, 745 KiB  
Exploring the Motivations, Abilities and Opportunities of Young Entrepreneurs to Engage in Sustainable Tourism Business in the Mountain Area
by Ioana-Simona Ivasciuc and Ana Ispas
Sustainability 2023, 15(3), 1956; - 19 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3335
An important driver of socio-economic development in mountain areas is sustainable tourism. Young entrepreneurs can represent a solution for the sustainable development of the mountain area. However, little is known if an opportunity or necessity drives them to engage in sustainable tourism business [...] Read more.
An important driver of socio-economic development in mountain areas is sustainable tourism. Young entrepreneurs can represent a solution for the sustainable development of the mountain area. However, little is known if an opportunity or necessity drives them to engage in sustainable tourism business in the mountain area. The present study uses the motivation–ability–opportunity (MAO) framework in an effort to understand young entrepreneurs’ sustainable behavior. Semi-structured interviews with young tourism entrepreneurs in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains (n = 21) showcase why young business owners are motivated to engage in sustainable behaviors, how they make the sustainable outcome happen, and what is entrepreneurs’ perception on the opportunities that allow them to do sustainable business. This paper brings new perspectives presenting the perception of young entrepreneurs regarding the opportunities provided by natural resources in the mountain area for the sustainable development of the tourism business. The results reveal that intrinsic motivation is dominant, sustainable business development being considered an extension of personal lifestyle by most of the study participants. All respondents stated that they have knowledge about alternative energy sources, and they want to use them as much as possible in their business. Most respondents have the managerial capability to integrate the specifics of the area in the offers and to use the natural resources and infrastructure to business advantage. The use of technologies that help save resources is considered an opportunity to build a sustainable business by all study respondents, followed by facilities offered by the local community. The findings may be used by governments and other stakeholders to make key decisions that stimulate sustainable forms of entrepreneurship in the mountain area. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop