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Sustainability and Business Models

How do I integrate sustainability into my Business Model? The answer is it depends and there is a spectrum of answers ranging from some organizations never entertaining sustainability activities to others who will have started the business with sustainability integrated into their core.

How do I integrate sustainability into my Business Model? The answer is it depends and there is a spectrum of answers ranging from some organizations never entertaining sustainability activities to others who will have started the business with sustainability integrated into their core.


sustainability model


I have spent several years thinking about how to leverage my Business Model frameworks and processes to design sustainability into the organization’s Business Model and get beyond the perceived conflict between Profit, Planet and People. The solution is rooted in reframing a Business Model’s outcome from Profit to Value.

A Business Model’s objective is to generate Value for the company, with Profit as the principal Value. Sustainability’s objective is to generate Value for the company AND ITS STAKEHOLDERS, with profit one type of value, and in the process also generate Value to People and the Planet.

Different types of Value include:

  • Net Income / Profit: most common form of value, Revenue less Costs. This is also the Retained Value from the Corporate point of view.

  • Customer Retained Value: The difference between the customer reservation price (highest price willing to pay) and the actual price paid.

  • Market Value: there are several specific metrics that represent Market Value – Enterprise value, Market Cap to name a couple and represent the total value of the enterprise if sold to an unrelated party.

  • Brand: Successful Sustainability efforts have been shown to have a positive effect on Brand Value.

  • Do less harm / Reduction of externalities: there are many situations where reducing externalities also reduce costs, and that includes situations where sustainability has the effect of making operations “less bad”. For example, to reduce the carbon footprint, one must reduce electricity usage, fossil fuel usage, travel and transportation. Those items also reduce costs.
  • Increase in societal benefits: examples range from employees volunteering in service days for local charities to providing community services in local villages with an eye to the long-term supply of quality labor and local goodwill.

How do this all change the process of designing, innovating and managing Business Models with Sustainability integrated? Using our framework there are 3 specific changes required:


Starcher Group Business Model Framework

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  • Market Context: a broader range of stakeholders needs to be considered and a systems perspective makes a broader set of linkages visible. The insights gained here will help determine the sources and recipients of value.

  • Customer Value Gaps: what gaps in experience can be identified across all stakeholders and all segments across the Market Context.

  • Value Proposition: considers the broader value created and the new perspectives on Market Context and Customer Value Gaps.

In the end, integrating Sustainability into your Business Model requires a reframing from Profit to Value. And the reason why you would want to do this is simple: because it is good business!


Mr. Starcher has 15 years’ experience working with Business Models and launched a Sustainability Program from scratch at a Multi-National Corporation as Director of Sustainability. Mr. Starcher is Managing Director of the Starcher Group, a consultancy focused on identifying Meaningful Growth for its clients.