Characteristics of sustainable entrepreneurship : some early explorations from the CAUSEE study

Matthews, Judy H. & Senyard, Julienne M. (2010) Characteristics of sustainable entrepreneurship : some early explorations from the CAUSEE study. In Langan-Fax, Janice (Ed.) Proceedings of the 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Swinburne University of Technology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, pp. 903-917.

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Principal Topic:

For forward thinking companies, the environment may represent the ''biggest opportunity for enterprise and invention the industrial world has ever seen'' (Cairncross 1990). Increasing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues through media including the promotion of Al Gore's ''An Inconvenient Truth'' has seen increased awareness of environmental and sustainability issues and increased demand for business processes that reduce detrimental environmental impacts of global development (Dean & McMullen 2007). The increased demand for more environmentally sensitive products and services represents an opportunity for the development of ventures that seek to satisfy this demand through entrepreneurial action. As a consequence, increasing recent market developments in renewable energy, carbon emissions, fuel cells, green building, and other sectors suggest an increasing importance of opportunities for environmental entrepreneurship (Dean and McMullen 2007) and increasingly important area of business activity (Schaper 2005).

In the last decade in particular, big business has sought to develop a more ''sustainability/ green friendly'' orientation as a response to public pressure and increased government legislation and policy to improve environmental performance (Cohen and Winn 2007). Whilst much of the literature and media is littered with examples of sustainability practices of large firms, nascent and young sustainability firms have only recently begun generating strong research and policy interest (Shepherd, Kuskova and Patzelt 2009): not only for their potential to generate above average financial performance and returns owing to a greater popularity and demand towards sustainability products and services offerings, but also for their intent to lessen environmental impacts, and to provide a more accurate reflection of the ''true cost'' of market offerings taking into account carbon and environmental impacts.

More specifically, researchers have suggested that although the previous focus has been on large firms and their impact on the environment, the estimated collective impact of entries and exits of nascent and young firms in development is substantial and could outweigh the combined environmental impact of large companies (Hillary, 2000). Therefore, it may be argued that greater attention should be paid to nascent and young firms and researching sustainability practices, for both their impact in reducing environmental impacts and potential higher financial performance.

Whilst acknowledging this research only uses the first wave of a four year longitudinal study of nascent and young firms, it can still begin to provide initial analysis on which to continue further research. The aim of this paper therefore is to provide an overview of the emerging literature in sustainable entrepreneurship and to present some selected preliminary results from the first wave of the data collection, with comparison, where appropriate, of sustainable and firms that do not fulfil this criteria. ''One of the key challenges in evaluating sustainability entrepreneurship is the lack of agreement in how it is defined'' (Schaper, 2005: 10). Some evaluate sustainable entrepreneurs simply as one category of entrepreneurs with little difference between them and traditional entrepreneurs (Dees, 1998). Other research recognises values-based sustainable enterprises requiring a unique perspective (Parrish, 2005). Some see the environmental or sustainable entrepreneurship is a subset of social entrepreneurship (Cohen & Winn, 2007; Dean & McMullen, 2007) whilst others see it as a separate, distinct theory (Archer 2009). Following one of the first definitions of sustainability developed by the Brundtland Commission (1987) we define sustainable entrepreneurship as firms which ''seek to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future''. ----------

Methodology/Key Propositions:

In this exploratory paper we investigate sustainable entrepreneurship using Cohen et al.'s (2008) framework to identify strategies of nascent and young entrepreneurial firms. We use data from The Comprehensive Australian Study of Entrepreneurial Emergence (CAUSEE). This study shares the general empirical approach with PSED studies in the US (Reynolds et al 1994; Reynolds & Curtin 2008). The overall study uses samples of 727 nascent (not yet operational) firms and another 674 young firms, the latter being in an operational stage but less than four years old. To generate the sub sample of sustainability firms, we used content analysis techniques on firm titles, descriptions and product descriptions provided by respondents. Two independent coders used a predefined codebook developed from our review of the sustainability entrepreneurship literature (Cohen et al. 2009) to evaluate the content based on terms such as ''sustainable'' ''eco-friendly'' ''renewable energy'' ''environment'' amongst others. The inter-rater reliability was checked and the Kappa's co-efficient was found to be within the acceptable range (0.746). 85 firms fulfilled the criteria given for inclusion in the sustainability cohort. ----------

Results and Implications:

The results for this paper are based on Wave one of the CAUSEE survey which has been completed and the data is available for analysis. It is expected that the findings will assist in beginning to develop an understanding of nascent and young firms that are driven to contribute to a society which is sustainable, not just from an economic perspective (Cohen et al 2008), but from an environmental and social perspective as well. The CAUSEE study provides an opportunity to compare the characteristics of sustainability entrepreneurs with entrepreneurial firms without a stated environmental purpose, which constitutes the majority of the new firms created each year, using a large scale novel longitudinal dataset. The results have implications for Government in the design of better conditions for the creation of new business, firms who assist sustainability in developing better advice programs in line with a better understanding of their needs and requirements, individuals who may be considering becoming entrepreneurs in high potential arenas and existing entrepreneurs make better decisions.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 32168
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Characteristics of Sustainable Entrepreneurship, CAUSEE
ISBN: 9780980332865
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Entrepreneurship (150304)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 13 May 2010 04:21
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2016 04:01

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