Sustainable business model innovation. “Progetto Quid” as an exploratory case study


  • Maria V. Ciasullo
  • Paola Castellani
  • Chiara Rossato
  • Orlando Troisi



value strategies; sustainable value creation; value dissemination; sustainable innovation development; fashion business


Purpose of the paper: The research aims to better comprehend the mechanisms that allow the generation and dissemination of sustainable value. In particular, assuming the business model as conceptual framework and as unit of analysis, the purpose of the study is to understand factors and processes able to orient the strategic conduct of a company towards sustainable innovation.

Methodology: The study adopts a research approach oriented to the discovery and it privileges the analysis of a business case with a high explanatory power.

Findings: In highlighting the drivers for the creation of sustainable value and sustainable innovation at the base of the analysed company business model, the research proposes a framework for the Sustainable Business Model Innovation (SBMI).

Research limits: The analysis of a single case study, although explanatory, does not allow to reach a generalization of the results.

Practical implications: The study offers a contribution to the development of managerial theories on innovation with reference to business models oriented to sustainability. The case analyzed is also a best practice that could guide managers and entrepreneurs to plan innovation and sustainability-driven business models already in the start-up phase.

Originality of the paper: In response to a gap in the literature, the study proposal is focused on how companies should incorporate the logic of sustainable development and innovation into their business models at a strategic and holistic level.


ALVESSON M. (2003), “Beyond neopositivists, romantics, and localists: a reflexive approach to interviews in organizational research”, The Academy of Management Review, vol. 28, n. 1, pp. 13-33.

ARRU B., RUGGIERI M. (2016), “I benefici della Corporate Social Responsibility nella creazione di valore sostenibile: il ruolo delle risorse di competenza e del capitale reputazionale”, Economia Aziendale Online, vol. 7, n. 1, pp. 17-41.

BANSAL T. (2002), “The corporate challenges of sustainable development”, Academy of Management Perspective, vol. 16, n. 2, pp. 122-131.

BARILE S., CAPUTO F., IANDOLO C., SAVIANO M. (2015), “La dinamica della sostenibilità tra vortici e correnti”, XXXVII Convegno Nazionale AIDEA Sviluppo, sostenibilità e competitività delle aziende: il contributo degli economisti aziendali, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Piacenza.

BEH L.S., GHOBADIAN A., HE Q., GALLEAR D., O’REGAN N. (2016), “Second-life retailing: a reverse supply chain perspective”, Supply Chain Management: an International Journal, vol. 21, n. 2, pp. 259-272.

BICHI R. (2002), L’intervista biografica. Una proposta metodologica, Vita e pensiero, Milano.

BOCKEN N.M., SHORT S.W., RANA P., EVANS S. (2014), “A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 65, pp. 42-56.

BOONS F., LÜDEKE-FREUND F. (2013), “Business models for sustainable innovation: state-of-the-art and steps towards a research agenda”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 45, pp. 9-19.

CARROLL A.B. (1999), “Corporate social responsibility: Evolution of a definitional construct”, Business & society, 38, n. 3, pp. 268-295

CIASULLO M.V., CARDINALI S., COSIMATO S., (2017), “A strenuous path for sustainable supply chains in the footwear industry: A business strategy issue”, Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, vol. 8, n. 2, pp. 143-162.

ELKINGTON J. (1997), Cannibals with forks - Triple bottom line of 21st century business, Stoney Creek, CT: New Society Publishers.

ELKINGTON J., HARTIGAN P. (2008), The power of unreasonable people: How social entrepreneurs create markets that change the world, Harvard Business Press.

EVANS S., VLADIMIROVA D., HOLGADO M., VAN FOSSEN K., YANG M., SILVA E. A., BARLOW C.Y. (2017), “Towards a unified perspective for creation of sustainable business models”, Business Strategy and the Environment, vol. 26, n. 5, pp. 597-608.

FLETCHER K., GROSE L. (2012), Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London.

GEISSDOERFER M., BOCKEN N.M., HULTINK E.J. (2016), “Design thinking to enhance the sustainable business modelling process-A workshop based on a value mapping process”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 135, pp. 1218-1232.

GEISSDOERFER M., VLADIMIROVA D., EVANS S. (2018), “Sustainable business model innovation: A review”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 198, pp. 401-416.

GLAVAS A., MISH J. (2015), “Resources and capabilities of triple bottom line firms: going over old or breaking new ground?”, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 127, n. 3, pp. 623-642.

GRIECO C., CERRUTI C. (2018), “Managing co-creation in innovative business models: The case of sharing economy”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 36, n. 106, pp. 109-125.

HANSEN E.G. (2010), Responsible Leadership Systems: An Empirical Analysis of Integrating Corporate Responsibility into Leadership Systems, Galber, Wiesbaden, Germany.

LEE K.H., CIN B.C., LEE E.Y. (2016), “Environmental responsibility and firm performance: the application of an environmental, social and governance model”, Business Strategy and the Environment, vol. 25, pp. 40-53.

LUEG R., PEDERSEN M.M., CLEMMENSEN S.N. (2015), “The role of corporate sustainability in a low cost business model. A case study in the Scandinavian fashion industry”, Business Strategy and the Environment, vol. 24, n. 5, pp. 344-359.

MAIOLINI R., PETTI E., RULLANI F. (2018), “L’innovazione dei modelli di business nella sharing economy: il caso italiano del car sharing”, Sinergie vol. 36, n. 106, pp. 203-224.

METCALF L., BENN S. (2013), “Leadership for sustainability: An evolution of leadership ability”, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 112, n. 3, pp. 369-384.

NIDUMOLU R., PRAHALAD C.K., RANGASWAMI M.R. (2009), “Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 87, n. 9, pp. 56-64.

OSTERWALDER A. (2004), Business model ontology: a proposition in a design science approach, doctoral dissertation, University of Lausanne.

PENCARELLI T., CONTI E., GABBIANELLI L. (2019), “La co-creazione di valore nei business model digitali: il caso Xelexia”, Piccola Impresa/Small Business, 2.

POLESE F., CIASULLO M.V., TROISI O., GENNARO M. (2018), “Sustainability in footwear industry: a big data analysis”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 37, n. 1, pp. 149-170.

ROSEMANN M., VOM BROCKE J. (2015), “The six core elements of business process management”, in Handbook on Business Process Management, (pp. 105-122), Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

SCHALTEGGER S., HANSEN E.G., LÜDEKE-FREUND F. (2016), “Business models for sustainability: Origins, Present Research and Future Avenues”, Organization and Environment, vol. 29, n. 1, pp. 3-10.

SCHALTEGGER S., WAGNER M. (2011), “Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions”, Business Strategy and the Environment, vol. 20, n. 4, pp. 222-237.

SCIARELLI M., TANI M. (2015), “Sustainability and stakeholder approach in Olivetti from 1943 to 1960: a lesson from the past”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 33, n. 96, pp. 19-36.

STEAD J., STEAD W. (2008), “Sustainable strategic management: an evolutionary perspective”, International Journal of Sustainable Strategic Management, vol. 1, n. 1, pp. 62-81.

STONE G., JOSEPH M., BLODGETT J. (2004), “Toward the creation of an eco-oriented corporate culture: a proposed model of internal and external antecedents leading to industrial firm eco-orientation”, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, vol. 19, n. 1, pp. 68-84.

STUBBS W., COCKLIN C. (2008), “Conceptualizing a “sustainability business model”, Organization and Environment, vol. 21, n. 2, pp. 103-127.

TENCATI A., POGUTZ S. (2015), Recognizing the limits: Sustainable development, corporate sustainability and the need for innovative business paradigms. Sinergie, n. 96, pp. 37-55.

THOMPSON J.D., MACMILLAN I.C. (2010), “Business models: creating new markets and societal wealth”, Long Range Planning, vol. 43, n. 2/3, pp. 291–307.

VANHAVERBEKE L., MACHARIS C. (2011), “An agent‐based model of consumer mobility in a retail environment”, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 20, pp. 186–196.

WAGNER M. (2007), “Integration of environmental management with other managerial functions of the firm: empirical effects on drivers of economic performance”, Long Range Planning, vol. 40, n. 6, pp. 611-628.

WCED S.W.S. (1987), Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, Available at

WELLS W.D. (1993), “Discovery-oriented consumer research”, The Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 19, n. 4, pp. 489-504.

WOOD D.J. (2010), “Measuring corporate social performance: A review”, International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 12, n. 1, pp. 50-84.

YIN R.K. (2015), Qualitative research from start to finish, Guilford Publications, London.

YIP A.W., BOCKEN N.M. (2018), “Sustainable business model archetypes for the banking industry”, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 174, pp. 150-169.

ZHANG T., ZHANG D. (2007), “Agent‐based simulation of consumer purchase decision‐making and the decoy effect”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 60, n. 8, pp. 912–922.

ZOTT C., AMIT R., MASSA L. (2011), “The business model: recent developments and future research”, Journal of Management, vol. 37, n. 4, pp. 1019-1042.