Collaborating for Sustainability Innovation: Activities and Roles of Stakeholders in Sustainability-Oriented Innovation of Firms

Jennifer Goodman, Angelina Korsunova-Tsaruk, Minna Halme

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionProfessional


While stakeholders have long been at the forefront of corporate sustainability debates, the emphases have tended to be on stakeholder pressures, or conflict in the management of controversial issues. In this paper we ask how different stakeholders can contribute to sustainability-oriented innovation in firms. Based on 76 semi-structured interviews, we conduct a fine-grained qualitative analysis of stakeholder activities in sustainability-oriented innovation processes in thirteen different companies across Europe. Our analysis brings a fresh direction to stakeholder theory by identifying eight roles that stakeholders play in sustainability-oriented innovation processes: stimulator, initiator, broker/mediator, concept refiner, legitimator, educator, context enabler and impact extender. While legitimator and educator roles appear frequently in the stakeholder literature, these traditional roles are less common in our cases, while emerging roles such as the stimulator, concept refiner, context enabler and impact extender are clearly identifiable and could be of particular value for sustainability-oriented innovation. Further we argue that groups traditionally labelled as secondary stakeholders may actually be more relevant for sustainability-oriented innovations than primary stakeholders and can play a highly collaborative rather than a conflictive role. The findings suggest that sustainability-oriented innovation has an inherently collaborative nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGronen Conference, Hamburg, May 25-27, 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2016
MoE publication typeD3 Professional conference proceedings
EventGronen Research Conference - Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 25 May 201627 May 2016


ConferenceGronen Research Conference


  • Sustainability innovation


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