Strategies for Integrating Stakeholders into Sustainability Innovation: A Configurational Perspective

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Abstract

Sustainability is a key driver of innovation for products, services, and business models. Sustainability innovations are aimed at improving the environmental, social, and economic performance of the innovated solution. Given the complexity of many sustainability challenges, leading innovators may seek to boost their innovation capacity by tapping into the ideas, knowledge, and expertise of their stakeholders. In doing so they need to consider how many and which stakeholders to integrate into new product development (NPD) processes, and at what stage. This study investigates stakeholder integration strategies associated with high sustainability performance of innovation. Building on the literatures of sustainability innovation and stakeholder integration in the context of NPD, this study developed a configurational model to analyze stakeholder integration strategies. The empirical data consisted of 80 interviews and documents from 13 medium to large companies and their stakeholders in Europe. Using the fsQCA method, it was found that there is not just one effective strategy but three stakeholder integration strategies for high sustainability performance of innovation. The results imply that deep organizational engagement with stakeholders is necessary for the achievement of high performance. Otherwise, the three strategies range from progressive openness, which allows stakeholders to exert a fundamental influence on the sustainability innovation, to limited openness toward stakeholder integration. With the early secondary strategy pointing to progressive openness, companies integrate secondary stakeholders early on and so maximize the influence of different views on the innovation. As to limited openness, companies following the selective strategy limit the number of stakeholder groups in NPD but are indifferent to the timing of these groups’ inputs. Finally, the fine-tuning strategy is least open to atypical views as it restricts the share of secondary stakeholders and only allows external inputs after the fuzzy front end phase when key decisions regarding the innovation have been made.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-355
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Volume36
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Stakeholder Theory, Open Innovation, Sustainability

ID: 30230562