Are Italian Start-Ups ‘Born Sustainable’? A Systems Approach to Sustainability Challenges

  • Francesca Iandolo Sapienza University of Rome
  • Silvia Cosimato University of Naples Federico II
  • Piero Ferrari Acea Group
Keywords: Sustainability; Sustainable development; System theories; Viable Systems Approch (VSA); Start-up.

Abstract

A number of intricate problems affect the current socio-economic scenarios, which have engaged policy-makers and, above all, entrepreneurs in finding sustainable solutions. Thus, embracing the service system perspective, this work aims at understanding if start-ups have an inner orientation towards sustainability as well as the main element that boost it. To this end, the authors embraced a service ecosystem approach, considering these companies as one of the actors (e.g., employees, customers, incubators, venture capitalists, institutions, etc.) that populate the Italian start-up service ecosystem and which interactions contribute to the ecosystem surviving in the long run. To this end, an empirical and explorative analysis has been conducted to better understand if Italian start-ups are inherently oriented towards sustainability, highlighting the main sustainability drivers that these companies should have since their origin. Although this work represents one of the first attempts to investigate start-ups’ inner disposition towards sustainability, it is somewhat limited by the nature of the analysis, which let to grasp just the economic and social drivers of sustainability. Finally, an agenda for further research has been defined to further advance the achieved results.

References

Antonietti, R., and Gambarotto, F. (2018), “The Role of Industry Variety in the Creation of Innovative Start-Ups in Italy”, Small Business Economics, 1–13.

Araya, D., and Peters, M.A. (eds) (2010), Education in the Creative Economy: Knowledge and Learning in the Age of Innovation, New York (NY): Peter Lang.

Audretsch, D.B. (2009), “The Entrepreneurial Society”, The Journal of Technology Transfer, 34 (3): 245–254.

Baland, J.M., Bardhan, P., and Bowles, S. (eds) (2018), Inequality, Cooperation, and Environmental Sustainability, Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

Balmer, J.M., Powell, S.M., Hildebrand, D., Sen, S., and Bhattacharya, C.B. (2011), “Corporate Social Responsibility: A Corporate Marketing Perspective”, European Journal of Marketing, 45 (9-10): 1353–1364.

Barile, S. (2009), Management Sistemico Vitale (Vol. 1), Turin: Giappichelli.

Barile, S., and Polese, F. (2010), “Smart Service Systems and Viable Service Systems: Applying Systems Theory to Service Science”, Service Science, 2 (1-2): 21–40.

Barile, S., and Polese, F. (2011), “The Viable Systems Approach and Its Potential Contribution to Marketing Theory”, in S. Barile, C. Bassano, M. Calabrese, M.G. Confetto, P. Di Nauta, P. Piciocchi, F. Polese, M. Saviano, A. Siano, M. Siglioccolo and A. Vollero (eds), Contributions to Theoretical and Practical Advances in Management: A Viable System Approach (vSa), 139–174, Z.I. Pianodardine (Avellino): International Printing Srl.

Barile, S., and Saviano, M. (2018), “Complexity and Sustainability in Management: Insights from a Systems Perspective”, in S. Barile, M. Pellicano and F. Polese (eds), Social Dynamics in a Systems Perspective, 39–63, Cham (Switzerland): Springer.

Barile, S., Saviano, M., Iandolo, F., and Calabrese, M. (2014), The Viable Systems Approach and Its Contribution to the Analysis of Sustainable Business Behaviors, Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 31 (6): 683–695.

Barile, S., Carrubbo, L., Iandolo, F., and Caputo, F. (2013), “From ‘EGO’ to ‘ECO’ in B2B Relationships”, jbm – Journal of Business Market Management, 6 (4): 228–253.

Barile, S., Lusch, R., Reynoso, J., Saviano, M., and Spohrer, J. (2016), “Systems, Networks, and Ecosystems in Service Research”, Journal of Service Management, 27 (4): 652–674.

Battistella, C., De Toni, A.F., and Pessot, E. (2017), “Open Accelerators for Start-Ups Success: A Case Study”, European Journal of Innovation Management, 20 (1): 80–111.

Baumgartner, R.J., and Rauter, R. (2017), “Strategic Perspectives of Corporate Sustainability Management to Develop a Sustainable Organization”, Journal of Cleaner Production, 140: 81–92.

Blank, S. (2013), “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything”, Harvard Business Review, 91 (5): 63–72.

Bocken, N.M. (2015), “Sustainable Venture Capital: Catalyst for Sustainable Start-Up Success?”, Journal of Cleaner Production, 108: 647–658.

Boyer, T., and Blazy, R. (2014), “Born to Be Alive? The Survival of Innovative and Non-Innovative French Micro-Start-Ups”, Small Business Economics, 42 (4): 669–683.

Cantamessa, M., Gatteschi, V., Perboli, G., and Rosano, M. (2018), “Startups’ Roads to Failure”, Sustainability, 10 (7): 1–19.

Carroll, A.B. (1999), “Corporate Social Responsibility: Evolution of a Definitional Construct”, Business & Society, 38 (3): 268–295.

Chew, E.K. (2016), “iSIM: An Integrated Design Method for Commercializing Service Innovation”, Information Systems Frontiers, 18 (3), 457–478.

Colombelli, A. (2016), “The Impact of Local Knowledge Bases on the Creation of Innovative Start-Ups in Italy”, Small Business Economics, 47 (2): 383–396.

Cosenz, F., and Noto, G. (2018), “A Dynamic Business Modelling Approach to Design and Experiment New Business Venture Strategies”, Long Range Planning, 51 (1): 127–140.

Cosimato, S., and Troisi, O. (2015), “Green Supply Chain Management: Practices and Tools for Logistics Competitiveness and Sustainability: The DHL Case Study”, The TQM Journal, 27 (2): 256–276.

Dal Mas, F., and Paoloni, P. (2019), “A Relational Capital Perspective on Social Sustainability; The Case of Female Entrepreneurship in Italy”, Measuring Business Excellence, 1–17.

De Lange, D.E. (2017), “Start-Up Sustainability: An Insurmountable Cost or a Life-Giving Investment?”, Journal of Cleaner Production, 156, 838–854.

Del Baldo, M. (2014), “Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Next Stage of Responsible Business”, in C. Weidinger, F. Fischler and R. Schmidpeter (eds), Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Business Success through Sustainability, 135–153, Berlin & Heidelberg, Springer.

Eizenberg, E., and Jabareen, Y. (2017), “Social Sustainability: A New Conceptual Framework”, Sustainability, 9 (1): 1–16.

Evanschitzky, H., Ahlert, D., Blaich, G., and Kenning, P. (2007), “Knowledge Management in Knowledge‐Intensive Service Networks”, Management Decision, 45 (2): 265–283.

Fisk, P. (2010), People Planet Profit: How to Embrace Sustainability for Innovation and Business Growth, London: Kogan Page Publishers.

Giraudo, E., Giudici, G., and Grilli, L. (2019), “Entrepreneurship Policy and the Financing of Young Innovative Companies: Evidence from the Italian Startup Act”, Research Policy, 48 (9): 1–18.

Golinelli, G M. (2000), L’Approccio Sistemico al Governo dell’Impresa (Vol. 1), Padova: CEDAM.

Golinelli, G.M. (2010), Viable Systems Approach (VSA): Governing Business Dynamics, Padova: Cedam.

Halberstadt, J., and Johnson, M. (2014), “Sustainability Management for Startups and Micro-Enterprises: Development of a Sustainability-Quick-Check and Reporting Scheme”, in J.M. Gómez, M. Sonnenschein, U. Vogel, A. Winter, B. Rapp and N. Giesen (eds), Proceedings of the 28th Conference on Environmental Informatics: Informatics for Environmental Protection, Sustainable Development and Risk Management, 17–24, Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag.

Hechavarria, D. M., and Ingram, A. (2014), “A Review of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and the Entrepreneurial Society in the United States: An Exploration with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Dataset”, Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship, 26 (1): 1–35.

Hodgetts, R.M., and Kuratko, D.F. (2001), Entrepreneurship: A Contemporary Approach, Fort Worth (TX): Harcourt College Publishers.

Holt, R., and Macpherson, A. (2010), “Sensemaking, Rhetoric and the Socially Competent Entrepreneur”, International Small Business Journal, 28 (1): 20–42.

Kirzner, I.M. (1973), Entrepreneurship and Competition, Chicago (IL): Chicago University Press.

Kohler, T. (2016), “Corporate Accelerators: Building Bridges between Corporations and Startups”, Business Horizons, 59 (3): 347–357.

Korhonen, H.M., Still, K., Seppänen, M., Kumpulainen, M., Suominen, A., and Valkokari, K. (2017), “The Core Interaction of Platforms: How Startups Connect Users and Producers”, Technology Innovation Management Review, 7 (9): 17–29.

Kuckertz, A., and Wagner, M. (2010), “The Influence of Sustainability Orientation on Entrepreneurial Intentions: Investigating the Role of Business Experience”, Journal of Business Venturing, 25 (5): 524–539.

Kuratko, D.F. (2016), Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, and Practice, London: Cengage Learning.

Lukeš, M., Longo, M.C., and Zouhar, J. (2019), “Do Business Incubators Really Enhance Entrepreneurial Growth? Evidence from a Large Sample of Innovative Italian Start-Ups”, Technovation, 82: 25–34.

Lusch, R.F., and Nambisan, S. (2015), “Service Innovation: A Service-Dominant Logic Perspective”, MIS Quarterly, 39 (1): 155–176.

Maglio, P.P., and Spohrer, J. (2008), “Fundamentals of Service Science”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36 (1): 18–20.

Mele, C., Pels, J., and Storbacka, K. (2015), “A Holistic Market Conceptualization”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 43 (1): 100–114.

MISE, 2017. Circolare N.4/E del 30/03/2017, 4–10.

Moogk, D.R. (2012), “Minimum Viable Product and the Importance of Experimentation in Technology Startups”, Technology Innovation Management Review, 2 (3): 23–26.

Nidumolu, R., Prahalad, C.K., and Rangaswami, M.R. (2009), “Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation”, Harvard Business Review, 87 (9): 56–64.

O’Neil, I., and Ucbasaran, D. (2011), “Building Legitimacy in the Face of Competing Institutional Logics: Evidence from Sustainability-Driven Entrepreneurs”, Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, 31 (19): 674–688.

Odoardi, I., and Muratore, F. (2019), “The Role of Human Capital after the Crisis in Italy: A Regional Analysis”, Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 66: 58–67.

Parrish, B.D. (2010), “Sustainability-Driven Entrepreneurship: Principles of Organization Design”, Journal of Business Venturing, 25 (5): 510–523.

Patzelt, H., and Shepherd, D.A. (2011), “Recognizing Opportunities for Sustainable Development”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35 (4): 631–652.

Piccarozzi, M. (2017), “Does Social Innovation Contribute to Sustainability? The Case of Italian Innovative Start-Ups”, Sustainability, 9 (12): 1–28.

Polese, F., Mele, C., and Gummesson, E. (2014), “Addressing Complexity and Taking a Systemic View in Service Research”, Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, 24 (6): 542–544.

Retolaza, J.L., Ruiz, M., and San‐Jose, L. (2009), “CSR in Business Start‐Ups: An Application Method for Stakeholder Engagement”, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 16 (6): 324–336.

Ries, E. (2011), The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, New York (NY): Crown Business.

Ruokolainen, T., Ruohomaa, S., and Kutvonen, L. (2011), “Solving Service Ecosystem Governance”, in 2011 IEEE 15th International Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference Workshops, 18–25, Los Alamitos (CA): IEEE Computer Society.

Saviano, M., Barile, S., Farioli, F., and Orecchini, F. (2019), “Strengthening the Science-Policy-Industry Interface for Progressing toward Sustainability: A Systems Thinking View”, Sustainability Science, 14 (6): 1549–1564.

Saviano, M., Barile, S., Spohrer, J.C., and Caputo, F. (2017), “A Service Research Contribution to the Global Challenge of Sustainability”, Journal of Service Theory and Practice, 27 (5): 951–976.

Schaper, M. (ed.) (2016), Making Ecopreneurs: Developing Sustainable Entrepreneurship, London & New York: Routledge.

Schick, H., Marxen, S., and Freimann, J. (2002), “Sustainability Issues for Start-Up Entrepreneurs”, Greener Management International, 38: 59–70.

Schumpeter, J.A. (1942), Socialism, Capitalism and Democracy, New York (NY): Harper and Brothers.

Shepherd, D.A., and Patzelt, H. (2017), “Researching Entrepreneurships’ Role in Sustainable Development”, in D.A. Shepherd and H. Patzelt (eds), Trailblazing in Entrepreneurship: Creating New Paths for Understanding the Field, 149–179, Cham (Switzerland): Palgrave Macmillan.

Singh, S.K. (2018), “Sustainable People, Process and Organization Management in Emerging Markets”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, 25 (3): 774–776.

Spohrer, J., Maglio, P.P., Bailey, J., and Gruhl, D. (2007), “Steps toward a Science of Service Systems”, Computer, 40 (1): 71–77.

Talani, L.S. (2017), “Italy and the Loss of Competitiveness: Between the Underground Economy and Migration”, in L.S. Talani (ed.), The Political Economy of Italy in the Euro: Between Credibility and Competitiveness, 223–260, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tardivo, G., and Viassone, M. (2009), “How Attractive Are Italian Regions for Foreign Investment? Methodological Approach”, Journal of Financial Management & Analysis, 22 (1): 48–60.

Todeschini, B.V., Cortimiglia, M.N., Callegaro-de-Menezes, D., and Ghezzi, A. (2017), “Innovative and Sustainable Business Models in the Fashion Industry: Entrepreneurial Drivers, Opportunities, and Challenges”, Business Horizons, 60 (6): 759–770.

Vargo, S.L., and Akaka, M.A. (2012), “Value Cocreation and Service Systems (Re)Formation: A Service Ecosystems View”, Service Science, 4 (3): 207–217.

Vargo, S.L., and Lusch, R.F. (2008), “Service-Dominant Logic: Continuing the Evolution”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36 (1): 1–10.

Vargo, S.L., and Lusch, R.F. (2011), “It’s All B2B… and Beyond: Toward a Systems Perspective of the Market”, Industrial Marketing Management, 40 (2): 181–187.

Vargo, S.L., and Lusch, R.F. (2017), “Service-Dominant Logic 2025”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34 (1): 46–67.

Voinea, C.L., Logger, M., Rauf, F., and Roijakkers, N. (2019), “Drivers for Sustainable Business Models in Start-Ups: Multiple Case Studies”, Sustainability, 11 (24): 1–25.

Wang, J., Yuan, J., Xiao, F., Li, Z., Wang, J., and Xu, Z. (2018), “Performance Investigation and Sustainability Evaluation of Multiple-Polymer Asphalt Mixtures in Airfield Pavement”, Journal of Cleaner Production, 189: 67–77.

WCED, S.W.S. (1987), Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future, New York (NY): Oxford University Press.

Weiblen, T., and Chesbrough, H.W. (2015), “Engaging with Startups to Enhance Corporate Innovation”, California Management Review, 57 (2): 66–90.

Westley, F., Olsson, P.; Folke, C., Homer-Dixon, T., Vredenburg, H., Loorbach, D., Thompson, J., Nilsson, M., Lambin, E., Sendzimir, J., Banerjee, B., Galaz, V., and van der Leeuwand, S. (2011), “Tipping toward Sustainability: Emerging Pathways of Transformation”, Ambio, 40 (7): 762–778.
Published
2020-02-17
How to Cite
Iandolo, F., Cosimato, S., & Ferrari, P. (2020). Are Italian Start-Ups ‘Born Sustainable’? A Systems Approach to Sustainability Challenges. PuntOorg International Journal, 4(2), 103-118. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.19245/25.05.pij.4.2.4