There are many ways to define a sustainable business model (SBM). Often, you may also hear the term, business models for sustainability. While the debate continues among academics, we’ll use the explanation below to frame our general understanding:

SBMs work to incorporate the principles of and goals for sustainability into their value proposition, value creation & delivery, and value capture activities. This means integrating innovative activities and a wide-range of stakeholders, including society and the natural environment, and planning for the long-term viability of the organization along environmental, social and economic lines.

A new organization may design and implement its SBM from the start, while an existing organization may choose certain strategies to innovate the ways it creates and captures environmental, social and economic values.

Below you will find theory and examples of some types of SBMs that may serve as inspiration for your organization. Archetypes are common patterns, models or prototypes, and SBM Archetypes therefore help demonstrate some common innovation strategies for increasing sustainability. You can think through each of the archetypes and how you might innovate your organization’s business model across environmental, social and economic aspects. Keep in mind that archetypes can be combined across different parts of your value chain, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Annik Magerholm Fet

Project Manager, NTNU

Haley Knudson

NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology