Business model patterns of sustainability pioneers - Analyzing cases across the smartphone life cycle
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The production and consumption of smartphones have been associated with a wide range of sustainability issues throughout the life cycle. While the dominant industry practices and resulting social and ecological problems have been discussed in depth in the extant literature, it has not been investigated so far how sustainability pioneers alleviate unsustainability in the smartphone industry through their business models. Addressing this gap, this exploratory multiple case study analyzes sustainable business models of 16 sustainability pioneers along the entire smartphone life cycle. Based on a variety of business model designs in the sample, the findings reveal seven sustainable business model patterns that are explained in terms of their value proposition, value creation and delivery, and value capture. One key finding is that most patterns extend beyond a single life cycle phase into other phases, which allows them to develop more comprehensive solutions than single-phase sustainable business models. This article furthermore discusses how sustainable business models of pioneers address sustainability issues of the smartphone industry. Comparing empirical insights with the emerging sustainable business model concept shows that the ?ideal? sustainable business model suggested in academic literature could not be observed. This article concludes with implications for sustainable business model research and practice. First, solving the industry?s sustainability issues comprehensively requires a combination of pioneering sustainable business models and collaboration of actors. Second, the sustainable business models explored in this study provide design options for pioneer and conventional smartphone companies alike.