Business Sustainability Typology

The Business Sustainability Typology (Dyllick & Muff 2016) offers a practical approach to evaluate different levels of integration of sustainability in business. As such, it provides an answer to the difficult question of what business sustainability actually means and how to differentiate between beginning, intermediate and advanced levels in business practice.

The framework classifies companies to different types based on their efforts to move from „business-as-usual“ to „true business sustainability“, and thus provides a framework to engage in the transformation of business.

In a first phase of sustainability engagements the relevant concerns considered by business mostly shift from purely economic concerns to include social and environmental concerns related to sustainability issues faced by society. As the values created remain firmly attached to the generation of shareholder value, this is not more than a “refined shareholder value management”. We call this Business Sustainability 1.0.

In a more advanced phase the value created by business shifts from shareholder value to a broadened value proposition including people, planet, and profit. What results is a “management of the triple bottom line” which we call Business Sustainability 2.0.

In a most advanced form the organizational perspective shifts from an inside‐out perspective, with a focus on the business, to an outside‐in perspective, with a focus on society and the sustainability challenges it is facing. This shift results in the associated redefinition of strategies being driven by sustainability challenges thus reframing the business concerns and business models, as well as the associated redefinition in values created. What results from this is Business Sustainability 3.0 or “true business sustainability” as the most advanced form of business sustainability. The focus shifts from reducing the negative impact of business to making a positive impact in critical and relevant areas for society and the planet. Only true business sustainability holds the promise to overcome the big disconnect between the sustainability issues society is facing and business contributions.

(Based on: Dyllick, T./Muff, K.: Clarifying the meaning of sustainable business. Introducing a typology from business-as-usual to true business sustainability, October 2013. Submitted for publication in: Organization & Environment.)

More information:

Introducing a Typology From Business-as-Usual to True Business Sustainability” article by Dr. Thomas Dyllick, University of St. Gallen, and Dr. Katrin Muff, Business School Lausanne - Download the “Clarifying the Meaning of Sustainable Business. 

Visit the Business Sustainability Typology online space