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Business Model-Resilience in the context of corporate sustainability transformation
Alexandra Palzkill

Last modified: 2012-03-27


The transition to sustainability will not work without rebuilding the economy, i.e. changing its concrete production and consumption patterns.  These changes are essentially triggered by corporate strategies [1, 2, 3]. Therefore, a great part of such a transition will be self-directed transformation processes within individual companies to reduce their environmental impact. Considering that such changes may be wide-ranging and substantial, the major challenge for companies is to identify “resilient” transformation strategies for their business models.

In the socio-ecological research Resilience generally means the capacity of a system to adapt itself to processes of change and to shape these processes at the same time without compromising the structure and identity of the system itself [4, 5, 6]. For successful companies this conservation of their structure and especially their identity – as a brand – is particularly important to continue being successful. Therefore, Business Modell-Resilience can be understood as the ability of companies to adapt their business models in the face of external shocks or pressure, without losing their identity built by its core business model or its brand.

A Resilience approach has not been applied with this perspective to the study of companies and their business models, yet. However, applying such an approach could be useful to better understand companies’ scope of action for self-directed transformation processes within established regimes and, more generally, it might provide new insights for strategic management research.

The hypothesis of the paper is, that business models are in most cases more resilient than assumed but not indefinitely flexible. An empirical basis is needed, in order to classify different types of business model transformation and draw conclusions with regard to their Resilience. Exemplified by the fast food industry the paper will develop such an empirical framework.




[1] Sommer, A. (2011): Managing Green Business Model Transformations, Ph.D. thesis, Lüneburg (i.E.)

[2] Stubbs, W. & Cocklin, C. (2008): Conceptualizing a “Sustainability Business Model.” in Organization & Environment, Vol. 21, No. 2, 103-127.

[3] Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2009): Business Model Concepts in Corporate Sustainability Contexts. From Rhetoric to a Generic Template for “Business Models for Sustainability.” Centre for Sustainability Management, Universität Lüneburg.

[4] Holling, C. S. (1973): Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecological Systems 4:1–23.

[5] Gunderson, L. H. (2000): Ecological resilience—in theory and application. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 31:425–39.

[6] Walker, B., Holling, C. S., Carpenter, S. R. & Kinzig, A. (2004): Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecology and Society 9(2): 5.