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. It further explains 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”. Thus it provides a framework to engage in the transformation of business. The typology for business sustainability is further explained in the following video.
Business Sustainability Typology categories
Business as usual: This paradigm is based on a purely economic view of the firm and the business processes. The focus remains on typical economic concerns, e.g. access to cheap resources, efficient processes or striving for a strong market position. The underlying assumption is that such typical economic concerns are pursued to produce economic value. This could be in the form of profit, market value or, more generally, shareholder value.
BST 1.0: In this first phase of sustainability, the relevant concerns shift from purely economic concerns to include also social and environmental concerns. Yet, the values created remain firmly attached to the generation of shareholder value. Hence, this phase is not more than a “refined shareholder value”.
BST 2.0: In the second phase, the value created by business shifts from shareholder value to a broadened value proposition including people, planet, and profit. This results in a “management of the triple bottom line” approach.
BST 3.0: In the third phase, 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. This shift results in the associated redefinition of strategies, being driven by sustainability challenges. Thus, it re-frames business concerns and business models as well as the associated redefinition in values created.