An electronic manual for company decision-makers has been published, providing companies with guidance concerning the planning and building of sustainable business models and networks. The manual was the by-product of a research project at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). The research project was called DemaNET (Dematerialization Through New Models of Industrial Networking).
In conjunction with their study, Industrial Management researchers Samuli Patala and Minttu Laukkanen wanted to create something that was entirely intended for company decision-makers and to assist with everyday routines.
"The manual supports the ideas of circular economy and resource wisdom. Business cannot longer be done in the traditional manner, because raw material prices are rising and natural resources are decreasing. If business doesn't take the limitations of nature into consideration, we'll be eating off the plates of our children," says Laukkanen.
The Towards sustainable business models and eco-industrial networks manual is a tool for planning at the strategic level. This refers to planning that recognises the opportunities of sustainable business, develops a company's business model or looks for new strategic partners.
"According to the companies studied, the most important question is how we can develop solutions that correspond to future megatrends. The ones that present economic, social and ecological challenges to sustainable development. New technologies, and especially business models and network-like operating models, play an important role in this process," explains Laukkanen.
Manual has two mutually supportive sections
The manual's sustainable business models section expands on what the concept pair means and how sustainable business models can be built.
"The companies of today are under pressure from several directions to make their business more sustainable. These pressures can be related to legislation, consumer demands, cost efficiency or lack of resources. Research has shown that forerunner companies turn sustainability into a competitive edge," states Laukkanen.
According to the manual, sustainable business models have to be built via a systematic process that begins with challenging the current situation. The writers have developed different methods and tools for each stage, which help companies respond to questions that arise along the way.
The eco-industrial networks section of the manual tells how new network-like operating models can promote dematerialization and how to create a functional network. Dematerialization means increasing production efficiency, in other words, producing more goods and services from less resources. In eco-industrial networks, companies can, for example, share their resources or equipment.
Important issues when coordinating an eco-industrial network include decision-making in the network and common resources. The tools presented in the manual were tested in company workshops.