Exploring the Coevolution of Traditional and Sustainable Business Models: A Paradox Perspective


  • Niklas Endregat University of Groningen
  • Bartjan Pennink




Purpose: This paper rectifies a dearth in current research and investigates the coevolution of traditional and sustainable business models under one corporate roof. By taking on a paradox perspective, firms’ solutions and mechanisms to cope with the paradoxical situations that arise throughout the coevolution are determined and analyzed. 

Design/ Methodology/ Implications: This is executed by conducting seven case studies of Western-European firms, consulting firms, and governmentally-owned consulting institutions. 

Findings: Findings display the array of responses firms deploy to address paradoxical areas of competing demands of economic, social, and environmental foci, organizational culture and mindset, training and staffing, resource allocation, and the stakeholder environment during the coevolution of traditional and sustainable business models. Furthermore, four distinct strategies firms utilize are derived from the data.

Research limitations: All cases under investigation resemble Western-European firms, which limits the generalizability of the findings at hand.

Practical implications: This paper outlines four distinct pathways firms deploy to address paradoxes arising during the coevolution of traditional and sustainable business models under one corporate roof.

Originality/ Value: This study contributes to the discussion related to the integration of traditional and sustainable business model research, as it sheds light onto a previously largely unresearched phenomenon: a situation where both business models coevolve under one corporate roof. Utilizing the paradox view as a theoretical lens, underlying dynamics and arrays of solutions are uncovered.

Key words: Traditional business models, sustainable business models, coevolution, paradox lens, international business, sustainability






Special Issue: Fostering Multi- and Interdisciplinary Business Model Research