Assessment Questions for Sustainable Entrepreneurs

The following list of assessment questions incorporate requirements for and elements of sustainable entrepreneurship proposed in several well-known models and frameworks of corporate sustainability and sustainable entrepreneurship listed as sources below.

Leadership and Governance Considerations

  • Have we identified and integrated sustainable value propositions into our business model (e.g., climate change initiatives, “cradle-to-cradle” design, eco-premium solutions, sustainability leadership etc.)?
  • Have we integrated sustainability into all aspects of our value chain (e.g., increased support for research and development and innovation, particularly eco-premium solutions; emphasis on functional excellence in sourcing arrangements and manufacturing; and emphasis on eco-premium solutions in sales and marketing)?
  • Have we implemented processes and procedures necessary for compliance and ensuring a long-term license to operate (e.g., environmental management systems, product stewardship and distribution, integrity and risk management, health, safety and security management, employment practices, including people development and diversity/inclusion and community involvement)?
  • Is our pursuit of sustainable entrepreneurship a self-initiated process and not simply a response to external pressures?
  • Have we identified clear aims and targets with respect to sustainable entrepreneurship and are they closely related to our practices and aligned with our values and primary activities?
  • Are our aims and targets with respect to sustainable entrepreneurship closely related to the actual needs and preferences of consumers?
  • Are we able to explain the relationship between our activities and production processes and sustainability (e.g., are we providing consumers and pressure groups with a transparent overview of the investments we are making related to sustainable entrepreneurship)?
  • Have we developed a business model and strategic plans that will enable us to adhere to our aims and targets with respect to sustainable entrepreneurship on a long-term basis?
  • Have we developed and maintained an organizational culture that ensures that the preferred practices relating to sustainable entrepreneurship are shared by the organization as a whole and not just among a small group of organizational leaders (e.g., is everyone in the organization given an opportunity to participate in decision making processes and is information relating to sustainability issues widely disseminated throughout the organization)?

Economic Considerations

  • Does our business model emphasize innovation, capital efficiency, risk management, margin improvement, growth enhancement and total shareholder return?
  • Can we make our product or provide our service at a profit so that our business model can survive and grow to achieve economic sustainability?
  • Does our business provide and ensure that the employees producing our products and providing our services will earn a living wage?
  • Are men and women producing our products and providing our services being paid the same amount for the same work?
  • Are we finding new ways to honor everyone involved in our business, regardless of race, sex, nationality or religion, and respect human rights and diversity and treat our employees with great care?
  • Do we acknowledge and respect the channels for fair labor relations and bargaining regarding the conditions of work?
  • Have we developed and implemented a pricing structure for our products and services that does not shift the cost of our sustainable entrepreneurship practices to consumers?
  • Does our business model promote the distribution of economic wealth fairly between existing generations as well as future generations?
  • Do we include the economic welfare of future generations among the factors that are considered when making decisions and engaging in operating activities?

Environmental Considerations

  • Is our ecological strategy economically viable and do our service or production processes use natural resources efficiently (e.g., life-cycle management) and reduce waste, air pollution and other environmental damage (e.g., releases and spills and water and land emissions)?
  • Will the operation of our factories and offices improve the quality of life of all stakeholders and restore ecosystems?
  • Are we identifying ways in which our products and services could enhance the health of employees and customers?
  • Do we have processes and procedures, as well an appropriate organizational culture, in place to ensure compliance with environmental and health and safety regulations and effective response to environmental crises caused by our operational activities?
  • Are we obeying nature’s laws and creating habitats?
  • Will our product or service contribute to the balance of the local ecology?
  • Are we taking steps to achieve better technical effectiveness and/or a complete alternative to eco-efficiency?
  • Does our business model achieve inter-generational inheritance of natural capital, both positive and negative (i.e., pollution etc.)?
  • Does our business model exert positive forces on the environment to stabilize and where necessary restore the various ecosystem functions (e.g., climate change)?
  • Do we include long-term environmental stability among the factors that are considered when making decisions and engaging in operating activities?

Social Considerations

  • Does our business model incorporate core socio-economics principals such as jobs creation, skills enhancement, local economic impacts, community outreach, social investments, business ethics and security?
  • How efficient is our business model with respect to the minimization of negative impacts (e.g., workplace accidents) and the maximization of positive social impacts (e.g., training and health benefits)?
  • Are our products and services accessible and thus benefitting all or limited in availability and just benefitting an elite few?
  • Is our business model mindful of the actions of individual consumers to make responsible choices and the collective actions of consumers to boycott or subvert corporate branding and marketing strategies that are believed to lead to harm to the environment and/or society in general?
  • Are we taking responsibility and being accountable for direct and indirect and negative and positive social impacts of our activities on existing generations?
  • Do we include the social well-being of future generations among the factors that are considered when making decisions and engaging in operating activities?

Sources: W. Young and F. Tilley, “Can Businesses move Beyond Efficiency? The Shift towards Effectiveness and Equity in the Corporate Sustainability Debate”, Business Strategy and the Environment, 15 (2006), 402; T. Dyllick and K. Hockerts, “Beyond the Business Case for Corporate Sustainability”, Business Strategy and the Environment, 11 (March 2002), 130; W. McDonough and M. Braungart, “Design for the triple top line: new tools for sustainable commerce”, Corporate Environmental Strategy, 9(3) (2002), 251; M. Janssen Groesbeek, Sustainable Entrepreneurship–Theory, Practice, Instruments (Amsterdam: Business Contact: 2001); and A. Bos, “Sustainable Entrepreneurship in a Changing Europe: Pedagogy of Ethics for Corporate Organizations in Transformation”, in G.F. Simons, D. Min et al. (eds.), EuroDiversity: A Business Guide to Managing Differences (Oxford: UK and Woburn, USA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002), 16; Sustainche Farm Project (sustainability development policies); and AkzoNobel (sustainability framework).

This post is part of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project’s extensive materials on  Entrepreneurship and Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.

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