How Do Leaders Embrace Stakeholder Engagement for Sustainability-Oriented Innovation?

  • Babak GhassimEmail author
  • Lene Foss


In this chapter, we demonstrate how open innovation can be applied to sustainability contexts. In this regard, we specifically address the leadership challenges encountered in accessing the wide variety of knowledge from multiple external stakeholders. First, we demonstrate that implementing open innovation for sustainability requires specific organizational capabilities that are different from what a firm might already possess regarding its general innovations. Second, we argue that successfully leading open innovation for sustainability entails broadening the scope of external stakeholder engagement to collaborate with non-conventional stakeholders such as local communities. Some sustainability-oriented innovation initiatives may also benefit from transactional type of stakeholder engagement where frequent interactions assist companies to establish stable search platforms and secure timely access to external knowledge.



We thank Wim Vanhaverbeke for encouraging us to write this chapter and for his valuable comments. Lene Foss thanks Malin Kvalheim for her assistance.


  1. Adams, R., Jeanrenaud, S., Bessant, J., Denyer, D., & Overy, P. (2016). Sustainability-oriented Innovation: A systematic review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 18(2), 180–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aragón-Correa, J. A., Hurtado-Torres, N., Sharma, S., & García-Morales, V. J. (2008). Environmental strategy and performance in small firms: A resource-based perspective. Journal of Environmental Management, 86(1), 88–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold, M. (2017). Fostering sustainability by linking co-creation and relationship management concepts. Journal of Cleaner Production, 140, 179–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ayuso, S., Ángel Rodríguez, M., García-Castro, R., & Ángel Ariño, M. (2011). Does stakeholder engagement promote sustainable innovation orientation? Industrial Management & Data Systems, 111(9), 1399–1417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Behnam, S., Cagliano, R., & Grijalvo, M. (2018). How should firms reconcile their open innovation capabilities for incorporating external actors in innovations aimed at sustainable development? Journal of Cleaner Production, 170, 950–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bini, L., Bellucci, M., & Giunta, F. (2018). Integrating sustainability in business model disclosure: Evidence from the UK mining industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 171, 1161–1170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bonte, W., & Dienes, C. (2013). Environmental innovations and strategies for the development of new production technologies: Empirical evidence from Europe. Business Strategy and the Environment, 22(8), 501–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bos-Brouwers, H. E. J. (2010). Corporate sustainability and innovation in SMEs: Evidence of themes and activities in practice. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19(7), 417–435.Google Scholar
  9. Cainelli, G., De Marchi, V., & Grandinetti, R. (2015). Does the development of environmental innovation require different resources? Evidence from Spanish manufacturing firms. Journal of Cleaner Production, 94, 211–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chesbrough, H. (2003). Open innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chesbrough, H., & Bogers, M. (2014). Explicating open innovation: Clarifying an emerging paradigm for understanding innovation. In H. Chesbrough, W. Vanhaverbeke, & J. West (Eds.), New frontiers in open innovation. New York, United States: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Chesbrough, H., & Crowther, A. K. (2006). Beyond high tech: Early adopters of open innovation in other industries. R&D Management, 36(3), 229–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke, S., & Roome, N. (1999). Sustainable business: Learning—Action networks as organizational assets. Business Strategy and the Environment, 8(5), 296–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crossan, M. M., & Apaydin, M. (2010). A multi-dimensional framework of organizational innovation: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Management Studies, 47(6), 1154–1191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dahlander, L., & Gann, D. M. (2010). How open is innovation? Research Policy, 39(6), 699–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dangelico, R. M., Pujari, D., & Pontrandolfo, P. (2017). Green product innovation in manufacturing firms: A sustainability-oriented dynamic capability perspective. Business Strategy and the Environment, 26(4), 490–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Marchi, V. (2012). Environmental innovation and R&D cooperation: Empirical evidence from Spanish manufacturing firms. Research Policy, 41(3), 614–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. del Rio, P., Penasco, C., & Romero-Jordan, D. (2015). Distinctive features of environmental innovators: An econometric analysis. Business Strategy and the Environment, 24(6), 361–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eccles, R. G., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2014). The impact of corporate sustainability on organizational processes and performance. Management Science, 60(11), 2835–2857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Faems, D., De Visser, M., Andries, P., & Van Looy, B. (2010). Technology alliance portfolios and financial performance: Value-enhancing and cost-increasing effects of open innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 27(6), 785–796.Google Scholar
  21. Foxon, T., & Pearson, P. (2008). Overcoming barriers to innovation and diffusion of cleaner technologies: Some features of a sustainable innovation policy regime. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(1), S148–S161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder perspective (p. 13). Boston: Pitman.Google Scholar
  23. Freeman, R. E. (2010). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frooman, J. (1999). Stakeholder influence strategies. The Academy of Management Review, 24(2), 191–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Galliano, D., & Nadel, S. (2015). Firms’ eco-innovation intensity and sectoral system of innovation: The case of French industry. Industry and Innovation, 22(6), 467–495.Google Scholar
  26. Gassmann, O., & Enkel, E. (2004). Towards a theory of open innovation, three core process archetypes. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the R&D Management Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.Google Scholar
  27. George, G., Schillebeeckx, S. J. D., & Liak, T. L. (2015). The management of natural resources: An overview and research agenda. Academy of Management Journal, 58(6), 1595–1613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ghassim, B., & Foss, L. (2018). Understanding the micro-foundations of internal capabilities for open innovation in the minerals industry: A holistic sustainability perspective. Resources Policy.Google Scholar
  29. Ghisetti, C., Marzucchi, A., & Montresor, S. (2015). The open eco-innovation mode. An empirical investigation of eleven European countries. Research Policy, 44(5), 1080–1093.Google Scholar
  30. Greenwood, M. (2007). Stakeholder engagement: Beyond the myth of corporate responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(4), 315–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hall, J. K., & Martin, M. J. C. (2005). Disruptive technologies, stakeholders and the innovation value-added chain: A framework for evaluating radical technology development. R&D Management, 35(3), 273–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hall, J. K., & Vredenburg, H. (2003). The challenges of innovating for sustainable development. MIT Sloan Management Review, 45(1), 61–68.Google Scholar
  33. Hall, J. K., & Wagner, M. (2012). Integrating sustainability into firms’ processes: Performance effects and the moderating role of business models and innovation. Business Strategy and the Environment, 21(3), 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hansen, E. G., Bullinger, A. C., & Reichwald, R. (2011). Sustainability innovation contests: Evaluating contributions with an eco impact-innovativeness typology. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 5(2–3), 221–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hart, S. L. (1995). A natural-resource-based view of the firm. Academy of Management Review, 20, 986–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Heldal, T., Schiellerup, H., & Aasly, K. A. (2016). Minerals for the green economy.Google Scholar
  37. Hillman, A. J., & Keim, G. D. (2001). Shareholder value, stakeholder management, and social issues: What’s the bottom line? Strategic Management Journal, 22(2), 125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Holmes, S., & Smart, P. (2009). Exploring open innovation practice in firm-nonprofit engagements: A corporate social responsibility perspective. R&D Management, 39(4), 394–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ingenbleek, P. T. M., & Dentoni, D. (2016). Learning from stakeholder pressure and embeddedness: The roles of absorptive capacity in the corporate social responsibility of Dutch Agribusinesses. Sustainability, 8(10).Google Scholar
  40. Jamali, D., Yianni, M., & Abdallah, H. (2011). Strategic partnerships, social capital and innovation: Accounting for social alliance innovation. Business Ethics: A European Review, 20(4), 375–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kassinis, G., & Vafeas, N. (2006). Stakeholder pressures and environmental performance. Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 145–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kazadi, K., Lievens, A., & Mahr, D. (2016). Stakeholder co-creation during the innovation process: Identifying capabilities for knowledge creation among multiple stakeholders. Journal of Business Research, 69(2), 525–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ketata, I., Sofka, W., & Grimpe, C. (2015). The role of internal capabilities and firms’ environment for sustainable innovation: Evidence for Germany. R&D Management, 45(1), 60–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lane, P., Koka, B., & Pathak, S. (2006). The reification of absorptive capacity: A critical review and rejuvenation of the construct. Academy of Management Review, 31, 833–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Laursen, K., & Salter, A. (2006). Open for innovation: The role of openness in explaining innovation performance among U.K. manufacturing firms. Strategic Management Journal, 27(2), 131–150.Google Scholar
  46. Mothe, C., & Nguyen-Thi, U. T. (2017). Persistent openness and environmental innovation: An empirical analysis of French manufacturing firms. Journal of Cleaner Production, 162, S59–S69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Murphy, M., Perrot, F., & Rivera-Santos, M. (2012). New perspectives on learning and innovation in cross-sector collaborations. Journal of Business Research, 65(12), 1700–1709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Muscio, A., Nardone, G., & Stasi, A. (2017). How does the search for knowledge drive firms’ eco-innovation? Evidence from the wine industry. Industry and Innovation, 24(3), 298–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nidumolu, R., Prahalad, C. K., & Rangaswami, M. R. (2009). Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation. Harvard Business Review, 87(9), 56–64.Google Scholar
  50. Peng, X., & Liu, Y. (2016). Behind eco-innovation: Managerial environmental awareness and external resource acquisition. Journal of Cleaner Production, 139, 347–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rennings, K. (2000). Redefining innovation—Eco-innovation research and the contribution from ecological economics. Ecological Economics, 32(2), 319–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Segarra-Ona, M., Peiro-Signes, A., Albors-Garrigos, J., & De Miguel-Molina, B. (2017). Testing the social innovation construct: An empirical approach to align socially oriented objectives, stakeholder engagement, and environmental sustainability. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 24(1), 15–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sharma, S., & Henriques, I. (2005). Stakeholder influences on sustainability practices in the Canadian forest products industry. Strategic Management Journal, 26(2), 159–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sharma, S., & Vredenburg, H. (1998). Proactive corporate environmental strategy and the development of competitively valuable organizational capabilities. Strategic Management Journal, 19(8), 729–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spithoven, A., Vanhaverbeke, W., & Roijakkers, N. (2013). Open innovation practices in SMEs and large enterprises. Small Business Economics, 41(3), 537–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Suopajärvi, L., Poelzer, G. A., Ejdemo, T., Klyuchnikova, E., Korchak, E., & Nygaard, V. (2016). Social sustainability in northern mining communities: A study of the European North and Northwest Russia. Resources Policy, 47, 61–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Trott, P., & Hartmann, D. (2009). Why ‘open innovation’ is old wine in new bottles. International Journal of Innovation Management, 13(4), 715–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. van der Have, R. P., & Rubalcaba, L. (2016). Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies? Research Policy, 45(9), 1923–1935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. West, J., Salter, A., Vanhaverbeke, W., & Chesbrough, H. (2014). Open innovation: The next decade. Research Policy, 43(5), 805–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilson, M. (2003). Corporate sustainability: What is it and where does it come from? Ivey Business Journal (Online), 1.Google Scholar
  61. Zollo, M., Cennamo, C., & Neumann, K. (2013). Beyond what and why: Understanding organizational evolution towards sustainable enterprise models. Organization & Environment, 26(3), 241–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Business and EconomicsUiT-The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway

Personalised recommendations