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Celebrating 3 years of Strongly Sustainable Business Model Research

On Tuesday January 13th, 2015 the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG) held it’s first monthly meeting of 2015. This marked the beginning of the group’s fourth year and called for a brief celebratory exchange about the achievements of the group in the past three years:

The SSBMG LinkedIn group counts now almost 330 members including key researchers and practitioners of sustainable business modeling from around the world.

A new sophisticated and intriguing tool has been developed based on the remarkable work of Antony Upward, one of the group’s co-founders. This new tool, the Flourishing Business Canvas (FBC) allows business model analysis and innovation while encompassing critical elements and relationships that main stream tools such as Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas could not capture, so for example business risks from social and environmental causes that usually do not appear on the balance sheet. The FBC is being currently tested with  organizations of various type and size. It has been presented in a number of international conferences and workshops in the US and Europe.

SSBMG long-time member Bob Willard has been contributing significantly to the global effort of developing a reliable benchmark to identify the performance indicators and corresponding values that must be achieved to become a strongly sustainable enterprises. His and his colleagues hard work came finally to fruition with the publication late in 2014 of Public Draft 1.0 of the Future Fit Business Benchmark, which is available now for comment and feedback.

In the area of impact measurement and social asset valuation and tracking, SSBMG member Anshula Chowdhury, CEO of Toronto-based Social Asset Measurements Inc., brought the annual conference of Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) usually held in Europe to convene in Toronto for the first time. The conference titled “Talking Data: Measurement with a Message” took place November 3 and 4, 2014. It was an excellent and rich event that included City Impact Tours for delegates to visit various organizations in the City of Toronto. SSBMG was one of the select City Impact Tours destinations and welcomed about 15 delegates for an afternoon to introduce them to its work.

In the past 2 years we also started our new research stream within SSBMG exploring the decision-making processes of SME leaders and their mental models while making these decisions. Two Major Research Projects (MRP) were completed. One investigated a sample of progressive SME leaders when making business decisions involving social and/or environmental aspects. The second used a similar methodology to investigate a sample of main stream SME leaders. This research stream produced a number of insights that will contribute to the design brief of the tools and methods being developed for SME leaders. It also posed new critical questions about the position of business modeling in the strategy formulation processes of SMEs.

The past year saw a steady flow of monthly meeting presentations by members of SSBMG about their work: Natalie Robinson, Marion Real, Alexandre Joyce from Montreal, Cilia Holmes Indahl from HEC Paris, Lindsay Clinton from SustainAbility (US), Marie-Claude Lacerte from HEC Montreal, Merlina Missimer from Sweden, Randy Saad from the Harbour Front Centre, Nancy Bocken from TU Delft in the UK.

More importantly many relationships and collaborations started emerging. One example is the workshop organized by the Canvas team in February 2014, which attracted members from other locations (Montreal to Hamburg). The interaction between members and the cross pollination of ideas is an essential component of SSBMG’s value proposition. Another example is the blog started by Group member Florian Lüdeke-Freund of the University of Hamburg in Germany. In a recent post on the LinkedIn group Florian wrote: “2014 was the second year for our platform, and it was a very good year: 13 active bloggers, 130 entries in our open publication list, a total of 49 posts since the blog’s start in February 2013 and our new “Papers in Brief” series have attracted 7,900 page views in 2014, and 10,200 page views in total!”

So there is much to celebrate but also much work still to be done. In 2015 SSBMG will continue developing the major streams, paying attention to synchronization and alignment between the different streams. An important area of exploration will be how the Group measures its own progress towards achieving its objective of “accelerating the transition of SMEs to sustainability“. It will be an interesting journey again and we look forward to continuing participating and contributing.

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