To celebrate Responsible Business Week we will be posting a series of blogs on this topic. In this post, Senior Lecturer Dr. Natalia Vershinina and Research Fellow Dr. Vivek Soundararajan tackle sustainable entrepreneurship.
We are living in the age, when climate change is accelerated by collective human activity, which includes irresponsible business activity. We seem to think that any attempts in ecological sustainability require a trade-off in profitability for businesses. In our project on sustainable entrepreneurship, we aim to understand if indeed there is a different perspective. Is it possible for firms to balance the economic health, social equity and environmental resilience? Can this potentially offer a long-term perspective for businesses and provide opportunities for win–win solutions, where both the environment and businesses benefit? Or is this process which Elkington (1997) defined as managing with triple bottom line merely a myth? For the purpose of this blog for “Responsible Business Week” we are reflecting on sustainability, which is the ability of firms to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987).
We think that sustainable entrepreneurs can offer solutions to environmental problems, as their inventions and innovations that are driving efficiency and new technologies, can overcome the economic, psychological, social, and environmental consequences of human activity. By including consideration of the social benefits resulting from environmental initiatives; of the economic benefits of successful venturing; and of entrepreneurship’s positive impact on social wealth, these benefits address economic, social and environmental sustainability.
We wanted to make a difference, and our project was conceived…
We are focusing on the economic and environmental components of sustainability as part of our investigation into sustainable entrepreneurship. University of Birmingham is strategically positioned for research on sustainability, as BizzInn – a business incubator run by the University of Birmingham’s Enterprise Acceleration Team – is just at our doorstep. They provide an integrated network of business support for entrepreneurs, start-ups and academics, helping to drive forward business ideas and transform innovations into enterprises, and they were our first point of call in developing research agenda on sustainable entrepreneurship. As an accelerator specialising in supporting entrepreneurs who develop sustainable businesses, BizzInn offers a range of support, specialist facilities and shared experiences designed to accelerate their growth, and was a perfect place to start our research.
We have approached a number of sustainable entrepreneurs operating in and around Birmingham with the aim to understand how environmentally oriented sustainable entrepreneurs access resources. We were also interested in understanding the challenges they faced as well as strategies they used to overcome such challenges. Our participants are nascent entrepreneurs, start-ups and experienced entrepreneurial firms, that have a connection to Birmingham and BizzInn. Moreover, we are interviewing individuals that have involvement in resource offering, and they come from support agencies beyond the University, investors, incubators and accelerators, supporting entrepreneurs through seed and growth stages, and other experts. We explore how sustainable entrepreneurs acquire resources, what helps or hinders their ability to have access to the relevant resources in timely fashion. Practically, this research may help sustainable entrepreneurs to refine their resource acquisition strategies and may help resource providers to understand the challenges sustainable entrepreneurs face during resource acquisition and develop programmes and interventions that are more specific to the entrepreneurs’ needs.
We are half way through our data collection, and our participants’ stories provide incredibly rich narratives about the motivations for developing sustainable enterprises, and for our intermediaries, passion for environmental sustainability is clear. There seems to be a variety of support available locally and nationally; and there are pockets of excellence in terms of support for sustainable entrepreneurship, and future looks bright. However, as we proceed with our project we shall cast a critical eye on the stories we have been collecting. Watch this space, we think we may have some important insights to share on particular resourcing requirements for sustainable entrepreneurship, and their needs, that are currently not being met.
If you are a sustainable entrepreneur or an intermediary helping sustainable entrepreneurs by mentoring, providing access to networks and access to capital or provided other important support, feel free to approach us, as you will help us understand what interventions are necessary, at what stage, and in what shape and form, that may enable sustainable entrepreneurship to flourish in Midlands and beyond.
More about Responsible Business Week
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