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Call for Abstracts    

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Sustainable Innovation in Chains and Networks 

Track Coordinators: Vincent Blok, Thomas Lans, and Renate Wesselink (Wageningen University) and the Wageningen Entrepreneurship Research Network (WERN).

The concept of sustainable entrepreneurship has gained importance over the years (Schaltegger and Wagner 2011) as a merger of the field of sustainable development and entrepreneurship. While entrepreneurs were originally seen as self-interested and egocentric, as opposed to the more altruistic concerns of people involved in sustainable development, it is increasingly acknowledged that there are entrepreneurs who want to create new business opportunities in which ecological and societal goals are carefully integrated into viable, profitable and therefore sustainable business models. Sustainable entrepreneurs seem to combine the best of both worlds, i.e. initiating profitable business opportunities while preserving climate change, reducing environmental degradation or improving agricultural practices at the same time (cf. Cohen & Winn 2007; Dean & McMullen 2007). Because sustainable development isn’t just a hype but will have a lasting impact on our way of living, it is expected that sustainable entrepreneurship will increasingly become an integral part of business life in general and of entrepreneurial behaviour in particular.

        Although the concept of sustainable entrepreneurship received considerable attention in recent research, there are several under-researched areas in general, and with regard to chains and networks in particular. In the context of the WICaNeM conference on chain and network management, the following research areas are of special interest:

        1. Conceptually, the concept of sustainable entrepreneurship draws heavily on traditional entrepreneurship studies. Entrepreneurship is for instance defined as the ability to recognize and seize business opportunities (Shane & Venkataraman 2000) and therefore, sustainable development is primarily understood as a business opportunity. As a consequence, sustainable development may still be seen from an economic – self-interested – perspective and social or ethical concerns are of minor importance. In this specific research area we are looking for empirical studies or conceptual papers that really integrate entrepreneurship and sustainable development, in particular on the level of chains and networks.

        2. Because the ambition of sustainable entrepreneurs is to address societal challenges like climate change in a profitable way, the concept is intrinsically linked with the concept of innovation. Because of the complexity or ‘wickedness’ of problems like sustainable development, sustainable innovation requires a different approach of problem solving (a systems approach for instance, in which the long-term impact is taken into account, as well as all relevant actors of the chain or network). This raises the question what specific competencies sustainable entrepreneurs and their employees need in order to be able to innovate and develop their technologies and business models in a sustainable way (see for example Lans et al., 2013). A related question is to which extent these competencies can be developed in education or corporate environment (i.e. HRD). In this specific research area we are looking for papers that focus on individual competencies that enable sustainable entrepreneurs to deal with sustainability challenges in chains and networks.

        3. Entrepreneurs often innovate in collaboration or in partnerships with (global) supply chain partners. Sustainable entrepreneurship in chains and networks is underrepresented in current research, which raises the question what are the specific challenges for sustainable entrepreneurship in the process of partner selection, partnership design and partnership institutionalisation in the context of chains and networks. The perception of sustainable development is for instance culturally determined. This raises the question how sustainable entrepreneurs deal with these different perceptions of sustainability within their global supply chain in order to achieve sustainability goals. In this specific area we invite scholars to submit proposals that focus on sustainable entrepreneurship in relationship with chains and networks and with special attention for the international/intercultural dimension.

        4. The demand for inclusive business approaches aiming at sustainable supply chain development is increasing over the years. The transition towards a more sustainable business model is already a challenge at company level, let alone at chain or network level. In this specific area we are looking for papers which address the role of sustainable entrepreneurs as change agents in these type of transitions towards sustainability in chains and networks.

        Given the importance of the emerging field of sustainable entrepreneurship in chains and networks, this call for papers aims to deepen management scholars’ and practitioners’ understanding of how networks and chains can effectively be involved in sustainable entrepreneurial processes in order to add social and economic value. Therefore, we encourage submission of papers that tackle a broad range of questions, including (but not limited to) the aforementioned areas of special interest. Both empirical and conceptual papers are welcome and we strongly encourage multi-disciplinary submissions in areas such as management, finance, accounting, supply chain, public administration and policy, marketing, organizational behaviour, communication, education, development, sociology and psychology among others. In addition to the track session, submissions will be subject to a double-blind review process and will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Chain and Network Sciences on Sustainable Entrepreneurship in Chains and Networks.

        To ensure consideration for this WICaNeM track session, please submit your abstract through the WICaNeM submission system by November 1, 2013: WICaNeM2014@wur.nl. For further questions and remarks, please feel free to contact the track coordinators Vincent Blok (vincent.blok@wur.nl), Thomas Lans (thomas.lans@wur.nl) or Renate Wesselink (renate.wesselink@wur.nl).



Cohen, B., Winn, M.I., (2007) Market imperfections, opportunity and sustainable entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing 22(1), 29-49

         Dean, T.J., McMullen, J.S. (2007) Toward a theory of sustainable entrepreneurship: reducing environmental degradation through entrepreneurial action. Journal of business venturing 22(1), 50-76

         Lans, T., Blok, V., Wesselink, R. (2013) Learning apart and together: towards an integrated competence framework for sustainable entrepreneurship in higher education. Journal of Cleaner Production 30

         Schaltegger, S., Wagner. M. (2011) Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business Strategy and the Environment 20, 222-237.

         Shane, S., Venkataraman, S. (2000) The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. The academy of management review 25, 217-226.

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