The Role of Privacy Protection in Business Models for Sustainability

A Conceptual Integration from an Ecosystem Perspective




Purpose: The principal purpose of this article is to address a critical issue emerging in the realm of interorganizational dependencies heavily impacted by digitalization, namely developing business models that would protect privacy in a sustainable way. On the one hand, companies have been jointly proposing, creating, delivering, and capturing value through an excessive, unethical exploitation of personal data and information. On the other, restricting and controlling flows of data and information hampers the processes that lead to social well-being. This article reflects on this paradox by building on the theories of business models for sustainability and contextual integrity, while offering a holistic conceptual narrative guiding the sustainable transition towards digital equity and inclusivity.

Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual article can be classified as a theory synthesis paper with the ambition to achieve an outcome that enhances knowledge on concepts and a phenomenon by a conceptual integration across two different, previously unconnected literature streams and theories.

Findings: This article suggests that businesses which play any role in transmission of data and information cannot be sustainable without protecting privacy as a social value. Furthermore, it argues that privacy cannot be protected without addressing the appropriateness of both flow and use of data and information with respect to all involved stakeholders. Ultimately, via linking two distinct yet interrelated and rigorously developed research streams, a heuristic framework for privacy and sustainability in business models is proposed as a system of key considerations for managers to apply in assessing and planning a business practice, so it protects privacy in a sustainable way.

Originality/value: The key theoretical contribution of this article can be considered twofold. Firstly, it unfolds the relevance of privacy protection for the stream of business model research directed toward sustainable development in a way that is theoretically rigorous, complementary with the stakeholder theory, and reflecting the changing interorganizational dependencies affected by digitalization. Secondly, it contributes to the contemporary debate on privacy as a social value through identifying theoretically thorough avenue for adapting the theory of contextual integrity to a social domain where value proposition, creation, delivery, and capture with and for stakeholders involves transmission of data and information.

Author Biography

Fabien Rezac, Aarhus University & University of Oxford

Fabien Rezac is a PhD Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Digital Business Development, Department Business Development and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, and a Recognised DPhil Student at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK. Fabien holds an award-winning MSc degree in Economics and Business Administration, has consultancy experience from Deloitte, and managerial experience from public and non-profit sector. In his research, he focuses on projects exploring business development in relation to sustainability and technology.






Digitalization and Business Models