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Making a difference, and money!

Sustainable entrepreneurship (SE) offers the potential to improve personal well-being, while making positive contributions to sustainable development. Unlike conventional enterprises that create value, but often have a negative social and ecological impact, sustainable enterprises seek to structure their operations in order to deliver value while enhancing the health and wellbeing of the social-ecological systems in which they operate. 

Motivation for societal gain

Sustainable entrepreneurs share a number of characteristics with conventional entrepreneurs, such as focus of control, the need for autonomy, high levels of motivation, plus the ability to innovate and take risks; along with a strong belief in the venture they are building. In addition to these character traits, sustainable entrepreneurs also have to be motivated by working towards a sustainable future. In reality, this means that they are not only competitive, but very open and collaborative. Sustainable entrepreneurs are not just looking to compete in the market, but are working towards a common goal of sustainable development. Sustainable entrepreneurs show genuine concern for environmental and social justice, which is a key driving force in their business development, whereas personal fortune is a less important motivator.

Is love enough?

Being close to the sustainable cause is a key driver in motivating sustainable entrepreneurs. Having first-hand experience with the issue they are working on gives entrepreneurs a personal motive for making their venture succeed. Another factor which motivates sustainable entrepreneurs is the ability to educate others about the issue in question. Educating others about how they can help society allows entrepreneurs to develop a real sense of achievement.

Making an impact…

Despite these promising avenues, the unique conditions of the environment, the available markets and the unique combination of skill sets and knowledge, limit the number of sustainable start-ups that are launched. Sustainable entrepreneurs are rare and often operate in a very specific niche market, but with the potential to create big impact when they get it right. The entrepreneurs themselves have recognized this fact and incorporate this into their business through educating and generating awareness and using their venture to provide real experience for people to engage meaningfully with the environment. Sustainable entrepreneurship can contribute towards sustainability, perhaps not as an ultimate solution to environmental degradation, but it can certainly make a large impact.

This article is brought to you by Shova Thapa Karki and Iain Ross, University of Sussex, UK. Want to find out more about sustainable entrepreneurship? Click here to take a look at our latest research, exclusive interviews and top tips! 

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Priya Dhani
Content Communications Executive

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