What is it about?

------------------------ Research Focus ------------------------ Our study looks at the micro-level practices of entrepreneurs who support sustainability transitions in entrepreneurial ecosystems. We conducted 31 in-depth interviews with the founders and senior managers of sustainable ventures to investigate how they advocate the sustainability cause in their ecosystem. Our findings show that sustainable entrepreneurs rely on three distinct sets of micro-level practices which we summarise in a theoretical framework.

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Why is it important?

------------------------------------------------------- Contribution to Academic Scholarship ------------------------------------------------------- While research on entrepreneurial ecosystems has rapidly grown, the constituents of an entrepreneurial ecosystem remain unclear. Moreover, while entrepreneurial ecosystem research emphasizes the ecosystem's macro-level attributes, institutions, and relations, it neglects its central carrier's role: the entrepreneurial venture itself. Capturing the entrepreneur's role in the development of the ecosystem is crucial to understanding entrepreneurial ecosystems as a whole. Studying this offers a central perspective for understanding the emergence of entrepreneurial ecosystems that closely adhere to the sustainability cause. To investigate this under-researched topic, our study draws on 31 in-depth interviews with the founders and senior managers of sustainable ventures in the sharing economy. We specifically address the following research question: how do sustainable sharing ventures advocate the sustainability cause in their ecosystems? Specifically, we examine the micro-level practices that facilitate the sustainability of sharing ventures. Our study's main contribution is a theoretical framework for the micro-level practices of sustainable sharing ventures that facilitate the sustainability cause in their ecosystem. We find that sustainable entrepreneurs rely on three distinct sets of micro-level practices: building a supportive environment, disrupting normative standards, and reframing the sustainability paradigm. Furthermore, we find that sustainable ventures engage in intense political work to defend their position in an entrepreneurial context that increasingly threatens their credibility. By substantiating the central role and micro-level practices that sustainable entrepreneurs enact to advocate sustainability, our study contributes to theorizing the sharing economy. Furthermore, our resultant framework provides a detailed overview of the distinct micro-level practices that help ventures support entrepreneurial ecosystems' sustainability transition. ------------------------------------------------------- Contribution to Management Practice ------------------------------------------------------- Our resultant framework shows how sustainable sharing entrepreneurs enact three distinct micro-level practices to advocate the sustainability cause. The framework guides entrepreneurial actors aiming to grow their ventures in a more sustainable way. The three micro-level practices summarize the sayings, doings, and actions that entrepreneurs can draw from to address the sustainability challenge and incite the actors in their respective ecosystems to adopt a more sustainable way of venturing. Furthermore, sustainable ventures must involve multiple stakeholders in their cause, such as employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. To steer an entire ecosystem towards sustainability requires many actors' support, all pursuing the same purpose. Our study shows that sustainable entrepreneurs tend to be supportive when creating relationships with sharing ventures that seek similar values. A shared sense of purpose encourages sustainable entrepreneurs to develop strong ties with each other and significantly strengthens awareness of and respect for the sustainability cause in the broader ecosystem. Finally, our study shows that political intervention is necessary to encourage sustainable ventures' long-term success in business and society. The reason being that sustainable entrepreneurs have to handle more venture risks because their business practices result in higher barriers for a market breakthrough, regulatory particularities, and higher information asymmetries.


Entrepreneurial ecosystems represent autonomous systems of interrelated institutions and their environments, in which entrepreneurs are the central actors shaping the long-term evolution of the ecosystem. Understanding the role and impact of entrepreneurial actors on entrepreneurial ecosystems' shared values, norms, and business practices constitute a central puzzle. To address this, we use a micro-level research perspective in our study to investigate how sustainable entrepreneurs advocate for the sustainability cause in the sharing economy. Three distinct sets of micro-level practices, define a common notion of sustainability in the sharing economy.

Full Professor Dirk Schneckenberg
ESC Rennes School of Business

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This page is a summary of: Advocating sustainability in entrepreneurial ecosystems: Micro-level practices of sharing ventures, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, May 2021, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2021.120654.
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