Changing for good: Transforming existing organizations into sustainable enterprises

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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How can existing organizations induce and maintain the process of sustainable entrepreneurship?
Because sustainable development cannot occur without sustainable businesses, understanding how to transform organizations into sustainable ones is essential. The activities of a sustainable entrepreneur are consistent with the United Nations ‘Sustainable development goals.

Research context

This research is based on empirical observations resulting from an ethnographic study at a housing association implementing a new strategy to transform their entire portfolio into energy neutral houses. By 2050, the housing stock in The Netherlands needs to be transformed to meet the CO2-neutral national targets. This forces housing association to undergo multiple changes. Changes in the way they organize, changes in the way the communicate with the tenants, and in the way they think about social impact. Initial attempts to undertake these changes have failed to properly consider the impact on tenants' well-being.


This PhD research identified four main aspects in which existing organizations can initiate and maintain the sustainable entrepreneurship process: 1. Leadership, i.e. a change-maker who can initiate the transition and build an external network of supporters; 2. A decision making process in which internal organizational identities are coupled to external societal demands; 3. A responsive approach to sustainability as opposed to a primarily proactive of reactive attitude towards environmental and social interventions; 4. Joint innovation initiatives that help organizations to reformulate the sustainability problem. Simultaneously, this PhD highlights that failing in meeting the users’ needs either leads to unintended consequences or failure of entrepreneurship efforts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • de Jong, Gjalt, Supervisor
  • Long, Tom, Co-supervisor
Award date16-Sep-2020
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-2452-1
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-2451-4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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