Value mapping for sustainable business thinking

Value mapping for sustainable business thinking

Pressures on business to operate sustainably are increasing. As a result, companies need to adopt a systemic approach to doing business, that integrates consideration of the three dimensions of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic – in a manner that generates shared value creation for all stakeholders including the environment and society.

This is referred to as “sustainable business thinking”.

The business model is a useful framework for system-level innovation. It is about the way business is done. It makes a link between different activities inside a company, such as design and production, to more outward looking activities, such as supply chain management, managing partnerships, and distribution.

A business model framework is included below.

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 Figure. Business model framework. Bocken et al. (2015), adapted from Richardson (2008), Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) Bocken et al. (2013) and Short et al. (2013).

A value mapping tool has been developed before to assist in ‘sustainable business modelling’ (see below). The tools aims to help create awareness of stakeholder perspectives, contradictions and synergies, and consider the value captured, missed and destroyed for each stakeholder to develop new opportunities that could benefit the whole network of stakeholders, not just the firm and the customer.

Figure. Value mapping (this particular version was used in a joint workshop for AMFI together with Christiaan Kraaijenhagen 20 Jan, 2015)

In this study, the potential use of value mapping as a tool and process was explored, to encourage sustainable business thinking. A range of workshops (over 20) was held with different audiences – industry, academic and student, non-profit – to get a better idea of the usefulness of the tool in different settings.

The potential applications to stimulate sustainable business thinking identified by using the tool include the following:

(1) Ideation for start-ups and established firms, to develop new sustainable business model ideas

(2) Education, to learn about sustainable business model innovation, by using case studies for example

(3) Product and process design and life cycle thinking

(4) Evaluation and screening, of new business model ideas

(5) Systems thinking, to take a more holistic perspective on doing business

(6) Collaboration, to find out about each other’s ‘value maps’ and find common ground

More information on value mapping as an approach is available at:

Bocken, N., Rana, P., Short, S. 2015. Value mapping for sustainable business thinking. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering, DOI: 10.1080/21681015.2014.1000399 

Bocken, N., Short, S., Rana, P., Evans, S. 2013. A value mapping tool for sustainable business modelling. Corporate Governance, 13 (5), 482 – 497

Business model innovation for sustainability grid

Today, the business model innovation for sustainability grid was launched. The business model innovation for sustainability grid was developed to inspire businesses to reconceive how they operate and become more future proof when faced by growing sustainability challenges. It was based on based on research … Continue reading


Sufficiency based sustainable business model innovations – towards a typology

Business models define the way a firm does business. Sustainable business model innovation may be viewed as an important lever for change to ‘business as usual’ to tackle pressing sustainability issues. To expand the scope of business model innovations in practice and research beyond product service systems (e.g. Tukker, 2004), green (FORA, 2010) and social business models (Yunus et al., 2010), sustainable business model archetypes were developed. These include: Maximise material and energy efficiency; Closing resource loops; Substitute with renewables and natural processes; Deliver functionality rather than ownership; Adopt a stewardship role; Encourage sufficiency; Seek inclusive value creation and Re-purpose the business for society/environment (see figure below).


 Figure: Sustainable Business Model Archetypes. Adapted from Bocken et al. (2014)

 Sufficiency based sustainable business models seek to reduce consumption and, as a result, production. The focus is on influencing consumption behaviour, which may involve product design for durability, a major shift in promotion and sales (e.g. no overselling) and supplier selection based on durability. Profitability would typically result from premium pricing, customer loyalty, and better (particularly more durable) products, while societal and environmental benefits include reuse of products and resources across generations, reductions in product use (impact) and societal education (Bocken et al., 2014). Perhaps the opposite of premium models are ‘frugal innovations’ (or Jugaad innovations) where business model solutions are developed with minimum resource inputs. This may also be viewed as a form of ‘sufficiency’.

The figure below includes a typology for sufficiency-based business models, which may facilitate the process of building up these business models.


  Figure: A sufficiency-based business model typology (Bocken, 2014)


Explanation of the Sufficiency Typology

The examples are briefly explained below:

Extending product life – Ensuring the product will last as long as possible. Characteristics for design: durability, reparability, modular design. The original customer retains ownership of the product. The business model is often ‘premium’ but includes high levels of service.

Encourage direct product reuse – Reuse of the product across markets and generations. After use by one customer, it will be passed on to another ‘customer’ for free or a price mostly lower (except e.g. antiques, collector items) than the original purchase price. Companies such as Ebay facilitate this. A different example of direct product reuse can be seen at Reduse, home of the Unprinter. This start-up (which I support as an advisor) has developed a technology to remove print from paper and make paper reuse possible.

Sharing resources across more people – Sharing the same product across multiple customers. The customer never ‘owns’ the product. Product sharing platforms are emerging to facilitate this.

Mitigate product use – Mitigating the use of energy / resources by individuals and businesses such as demand management by energy providers stimulated by government incentives.

Mitigate product life cycle resource use – Solutions focused on minimising resources, the most prominent example being ‘frugal innovations’. Unfortunately, most of these solutions have been focused on low income countries and have not yet widely expanded to the ‘west’.


  • Bocken, N.M.P., 2014. Sufficiency based sustainable business model innovation. Sustainability Science Congress, 22-23 October 2014. Copenhagen.
  • Bocken, N.M.P., Short, S.W., Rana, P., Evans, S. 2014. A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 65, 42–56
  • FORA, 2010. Green business models in the Nordic Region: A key to promote sustainable growth, Denmark. Retrieved
  • Tukker, A., 2004. Eight types of product–service system: eight ways to sustainability? Experiences from SusProNet. Business Strategy and the Environment, 13(4), 246–260.
  • Yunus, M., Moingeon, B., Lehmann-Ortega, L., 2010, Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience, Long Range Planning, 43(2-3), 308–325.