A Review of Sustainable Business Models: Past Accomplishments and Future Promises

Koen van Bommel, Marleen Blanson-Henkemans, Tammo Brinkhorst, Marnix Meurs

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sustainable business models have become a prominent feature of organizations in their quest towards sustainability. The current study takes stock of the SBM field through a systematic review of the literature. Drawing on a qualitative content analysis of 104 articles published in the period 2008–2019, the main aim of the article is to analyze (1) the central characteristics of studies within the SBM field to date, and (2) promising avenues for further research by the SBM community. The review shows that SBM research is proliferating but that there is a persistent emphasis on qualitative work based primarily on case studies. Quantitative studies highlighting causalities, correlations, and generalizations remain scarce. Moreover, the SBM field needs to broaden its empirical focus in terms of sectors and countries studied. A systematic analysis of the future research suggestions proposed in extant work points to three main dimensions of a research agenda: (1) broadening the scope and methods of studies, (2) gaining further insights into developing and managing SBMs, and (3) better understanding the outcomes of SBMs. This study contributes to the literature by offering a reflection on the focus of the SBM community to date, and proposes empirically grounded concrete directions for future research to provide a comprehensive and forward looking SBM research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere200022
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Sustainability Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2020


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