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What motivates ecopreneurs to start businesses?

What motivates ecopreneurs to start businesses?

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Published by chandmagsi
What motivates ecopreneurs to
start businesses?
What motivates ecopreneurs to
start businesses?

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Published by: chandmagsi on Feb 21, 2011
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What motivates ecopreneurs tostart businesses?
 Jodyanne Kirkwood and Sara Walton
Centre for Entrepreneurship, School of Business, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand 
Ecopreneurs are those entrepreneurs who start for-profit businesses with strongunderlying green values and who sell green products or services. This is an emerging field whereresearch is still in its infancy. Research has been called for to understand the factors that motivatethese ecopreneurs to start businesses – and that is the focus of this study. The aim of this paper is tocompare the findings with results of extant literature on entrepreneurial motivations.
– This study comprises 14 in-depth case studies of ecopreneurialcompanies in New Zealand in 2008. Participants were interviewed in a face-to-face, semi-structuredformat. In total, 88 secondary sources such as media reports, industry statistics, and information fromcompany web sites were also collected.
– Ecopreneurs were motivated by five factors: their green values; earning a living; passion;being their own boss; and seeing a gap in the market. Ecopreneurs appear to have quite similarmotivations to entrepreneurs in general, aside from their green motivations. They had lower levelfinancial motivations than have been found in prior research on entrepreneurs. The ecopreneurs wereprimarily pulled into entrepreneurship, which bodes well for their ongoing success. The paper presentsa number of contributions to both the ecopreneurship and entrepreneurship literatures.
Research limitations/implications
– The small sample is a potential limitation and the countrycontext may also influence the findings.
– This is one of the largest samples of ecopreneurs to date. Given the emergingnature of the field of ecopreneurship, this study’s conclusions require further research and testing. Atotal of 11 such suggestions for future research are made.
Business formation, Entrepreneurs, Motivation (psychology), New Zealand
Paper type
Research paper
1. Introduction
Ecopreneurs are emerging as a new breed of entrepreneur who are worthy of muchgreater consideration than has been given to date. The field of ecopreneurship began toreceive research attention in the late 1990s (Anderson, 1998; Keogh and Polonsky, 1998;Pastakia, 1998), but is still in its infancy (Cohen and Winn, 2007). Clemens (2006)similarly notes that little research exists on the environment and small firms in general(see, for example de Bruin and Lewis, 2005). While there has been increasing researchinterest in discussing ecopreneurs from a conceptual perspective, there remains littleempirical research to date (Gibbs, 2007). Only one study could be located which focuseddirectly on the ecological orientation of founder’s start-up processes (Freimann
et al.
,2005). Where there has been useful related research, small sample sizes prevail.Authors to date have focused on single case studies (Dixon and Clifford, 2007), or smallsamples of between one and 10 cases (de Bruin and Lewis, 2005; Freimann
et al.
, 2005;Pastakia, 1998; Schaltegger, 2002). Others have studied co-operative ownershiparrangements in the energy sector (associative entrepreneurship) (Cato
et al.
, 2008).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received September 2008Revised February 2009Accepted April 2009
International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour &ResearchVol. 16 No. 3, 2010pp. 204-228
Emerald Group Publishing Limited1355-2554DOI 10.1108/13552551011042799
Ecopreneurs are defined in this study as those entrepreneurs who enter theseeco-friendly markets not only to make profits, but also having strong, underlying greenvalues. Our definition is:
Entrepreneurs who found new businesses based on the principle of sustainability (based onideas from Issak, 2002; Walley and Taylor, 2002).
This definition has two main components which also need to be carefully defined. First,there are many different definitions of what constitutes an entrepreneur (see, forexample Carland
et al.
, 1984; Gartner, 1990), and no consensus has been reached. Thedefinition used in this study focuses on the founding role but others would suggest thatinnovation is a requirement for being an entrepreneur (Schumpeter, 1934). Therefore,we define an entrepreneur as someone who is the founder of a new for-profit business.The study is particularly focused on people who start a business with pre-existinggreen values. These types of ecopreneurs have been referred to as “green-green” (Issak,2002). One of the classic examples is the company founded by Anita Roddick – TheBody Shop (Issak, 2002). Our interest is in these business founders as they have theability to “constitute and shape the “face” of their company” (Schaltegger, 2002 p. 47).These ecopreneurs who are “eco-dedicated” have been found to exhibit “firmconvictions” (Freimann
et al.
, 2005, p. 117). We contrast this population with otherentrepreneurs and business owners who undertake (or contemplate) environmentalinitiatives after starting their business (McKeiver and Gadenne, 2005; Rao, 2008;Schaper, 2002b). For example, research has concluded that while entrepreneurs mayhave positive environmental attitudes this does not automatically translate into theadoption of environmental management systems (McKeiver and Gadenne, 2005).The second component of our definition of an ecopreneur is that the business mustbe sustainable. Our focus is on green entrepreneurs, and while that might mean theyoperate with some social values, their inclusion in this research is primarily aconsequence of their green practices. Of particular interest for this study of ecopreneurs is the notion of ecological sustainability. Our definition of an ecopreneur isnot, however, as narrow as some researchers who include the requirement of havingsocial drivers as well as environmental and business goals (Dixon and Clifford, 2007).For some it is strongly linked to the greening of an existing business (Issak, 2002), andfor others ecopreneurship is related to sustainability, which adds social dimensionssuch as justice and equity into the construction of the business (Gladwin
et al.
, 1995).
Theoretical perspectives
Our view at the outset of this study is that ecopreneurs are a subset of entrepreneurswho may differ in the way they start businesses, particularly in their motivations forbecoming entrepreneurs. Before commencing with a review of the relevant literature, itis important to describe our theoretical approach to ecopreneurship. In addressing theresearch aims there are various perspectives of analysis that are useful. Researchershave noted that psychologists, economists and sociologists have tried to understandthe business start-up process (Freimann
et al.
, 2005). In early studies of entrepreneurship, economists have had much input into the body of knowledgeabout the field (Knight, 1921; Penrose, 1968; Schumpeter, 1934). The focus of economists has primarily been at the firm level (such as size of the firm, growthintentions, firm performance and survival rates), but this perspective has the potential
What motivatesecopreneurs?
danger of removing the person (the entrepreneur) from the study of entrepreneurship(Smith, 1967). In this paper, one of our research objectives was to explore themotivations for becoming an ecopreneur, and it seemed that Smith’s concerns werewell-founded. An alternative view of entrepreneurship is from a psychologicalperspective. This psychological viewpoint certainly moves closer to being interested inthe entrepreneur, rather than looking at entrepreneurship as a purely economicprocess. Researchers following this psychological perspective have focused onpersonality traits such as the need for achievement (Langan-Fox and Roth, 1995), andrisk-taking propensity (Belcourt
et al.
, 1991; Watson and Robinson, 2002). However,like economic views of entrepreneurship, psychological perspectives have also beencriticized because “too often entrepreneurship is viewed merely as a psychologicalcapacity like musical or poetical talent” (Campbell, 1992, p. 21).Due to the weaknesses of both of these perspectives of entrepreneurship, this studyprefers a sociological theoretical framework. This perspective argues that the socialenvironment affects entrepreneurs (Belcourt, 1987; Hurley, 1999). Such perspectivesassume that behaviour is “so constrained by ongoing social relations that to construethem as independent is a grievous misunderstanding” (Granovetter, 1985, p. 482). Weconcur with other ecopreneurship researchers who observed that “bothentrepreneurship and environmentalism are deeply embedded in the social matrix”(Anderson, 1998, p. 138). In order to understand how individuals become ecopreneurs,we must view their decisions as being embedded in a wider sociological perspective.Indeed, “entrepreneurs are human, part of the same ecological system as theirorganization, and consequently subject to the same concerns” (Anderson, 1998, p. 138).In practice, taking this sociological perspective meant that we asked questions aboutthe founder’s background, their personal views on the environment and discussionsoften revolved around their families and the importance of that in their motivations forecopreneurship. The open-ended questions (discussed further in method) allowed us toexplore issues that were relevant to our participants, and cast a wider net than takingonly a firm level (economics approach) or individual (psychological) approach asdiscussed earlier.
2. Literature review
The emerging ecopreneurship literature
As mentioned above, we view ecopreneurship to be one form of entrepreneurship. Thegrowth in ecopreneurs may be partially due to increasing market opportunities forsustainable products and services. Customers are becoming increasingly environmentallyconscious (Laroche
et al.
, 2001). Many are losing confidence in larger corporations andhave expectations of companies to exhibit more social and environmental responsibility(Webb
et al.
, 2008). A trend towards value-driven environmentalism has flourished sinceconsumers started demanding and purchasing environmentally friendly products andservices (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Post and Altman, 1994). Recent discourse onenvironmental issues such as climate change and carbon miles has raised awareness of theenvironment and many people nowchoose topurchase withenvironmental sensitivityin mind (Anderson, 1998).Inresponse to this, manycompaniesarerecognising theneed togo green (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Schaper, 2002a).Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are also recognizing opportunities for newventures as consumer demand grows for more eco-friendly products and services

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