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Business decision-making for material demand reduction

Matoh, Suzana (2019) Business decision-making for material demand reduction. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Material demand reduction is a major global challenge that requires actions at individual, organisational and systemic levels. Businesses are considered the key players in making significant contributions towards material demand reduction and sustainability through business model change. Despite increasing research into this area, it remains unclear what factors enable sustainable business model change. This research explores factors at organisational and individual levels influencing business model change for sustainability by using a multiple case study research strategy to answer three research questions. First, internal factors at the organisational level (e.g. culture, leadership and top management team) and the individual level (e.g. adversity to change and open mindedness) influence business model change. Furthermore, external factors at system level (e.g. governmental affairs and public policies) also influences business model change. However, less is known about factors influencing business model change in the context of sustainability. Therefore, the first research question is what internal and external factors influence business model change for sustainability? Second, there is an empirical gap in understanding the role of individuals’ cognitive models in decision-making about business model change for sustainability. From here, the second research question is what sustainability issues influence decision-making for business model change to improve sustainability performance? Furthermore, the third question is derived: how do cognitive models of sustainability issues differ in the context of sustainable business models? The research questions were addressed using a mixed-methods approach in four case studies. The first one was a pilot project in which a developed cognitive mapping method was tested using an online survey to elicit cognitive models. Resulting cognitive models were validated and adjustments were made to the method. The method was applied to the remaining case studies with additional data collection methods. First, document analysis was used to better understand the background of organisations selected as cases and site visits and observations were carried out. Second, interviews with key informants were used to explore factors influencing business model change for sustainability at the organisational level. Furthermore, participatory cognitive mapping was used to explore sustainability issues driving key informants’ decision-making at the individual level. Findings suggest that resource-based businesses can do more to achieve material demand reduction and improved sustainability performance. However, a number of factors will influence their success; for instance, companies’ research and development, sustainability approaches, and the context in which they operate. Cognitive models of sustainability issues can help managers to better understand and manage business model change for sustainability. Significant changes are likely to happen when changes at individual, organisational and systemic level occur simultaneously. The research findings address the empirical gap regarding factors enabling business model change for sustainability. Specifically, findings across the four cases showed diversity in individuals’ cognitive models of sustainability issues in relation to content and structure. These findings give an indication of the type of decision-making stance managers tend to use when considering business model change for sustainability. Links were found between individuals’ cognitive models and components in sustainable business models. This research contributes to the current debates in business model change within the contexts of circular economy and sustainability. This research makes three key contributions. First, it makes an empirical contribution to the research field of sustainable business models, focusing on the business model change for sustainability. More specifically, it provides insights into cognitive models of sustainability while also considering other internal, external and contextual factors influencing business model change for sustainability. Second, it provides a methodological contribution by developing a survey method to explore cognitive models of sustainability. Third, the integrative, conceptual framework designed in this research can be used in further theoretical and practical research to identify paradoxical tensions that could hinder business model change for sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: business model change for sustainability; circular business models; circular economy; sustainability; cognitive models
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Depositing User: Suzana Matoh
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2020 16:46
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2020 16:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25896

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