The Three Dimensions of Sustainability: A Delicate Balancing Act for Entrepreneurs Made More Complex by Stakeholder Expectations

  • Denise FischerEmail author
  • Malte Brettel
  • René Mauer
Original Paper


Previous research on sustainable entrepreneurship has mainly aimed to understand the antecedents of entrepreneurs’ sustainability-oriented behavior. Yet the literature lacks a more nuanced understanding of how entrepreneurs implement sustainability strategies when creating a new venture. Drawing on sustainability concepts, we first examine how entrepreneurs balance the economic, environmental, and social dimensions as part of their ventures’ strategic ambitions. We show that sustainable entrepreneurs prioritize the three sustainability dimensions and possibly reprioritize them in response to stakeholder interests. Applying a stakeholder theory perspective, we theorize that how entrepreneurs balance their sustainability dimensions and goals depends on the degree of stakeholder involvement and of external expectations. Our contributions refine the growing sustainable entrepreneurship literature and call attention to the importance of including weightings and time when examining the dimensions of sustainability.


Sustainable entrepreneurship Sustainability Stakeholder theory Case study research 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group (WIN) – TIME Research AreaRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Chair of Entrepreneurship and InnovationESCP EuropeBerlinGermany

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