Sustainable business model

Last modified:

Tuesday 7 September 2021

A business model is what allows a company to grow and grow. More specifically, it is a synthetic representation meant to describe the major aspects of the activity undertaken by a company, both in terms of its aims (goal, offers, strategies) and resources and means employed (infrastructure, organisations, diffusion and distribution practice, and operating rules and process). This is all to guarantee the existence and sharing of an added value between stakeholders over a period and for a clearly identified field of activity.

For many companies, business models are thought out to develop more and consume more, all while forgetting about the social and environmental stakes.

However, the classic logic according to which each company develops by selling more products, which is a logic of volume, has reached its limits. Indeed, our planet's natural resources are truly depleted. If all countries must reach the same level of standard of living and of consumption as developed countries, there clearly aren't enough resources to do so. The threat of global warming, which originates from the increase in CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, is also a driving force for thinking differently about the economy and choosing a low-carbon society.

. This can be done through the supply of provisions from renewable resources, through increasing product lifetime (reuse, remanufacturing, upcycling), through recycling waste, through the implementation of economic models which allow for the increase of the user rate of products, equipment, space... just like product-service systems (selling a product's use rather than the product itself) or the sharing economy (underused equipment and products will be shared). These new business models are part of the "circular economy": an economy opposed to the linear economy, where material ends up as waste. In the circular economy, material is better used and always re-integrated in the economic circuit as material.

According to Alexander Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas, you can create your business model and work on it according to 9 elements: clients, the value proposition, distribution channels, client relations, the company's resources and activities, partners and, finally, costs and revenue. The European project ResilieNtWEB has made it possible to develop a set of tools that completes this business model canvas and integrates reflections on the possibilities of making it more durable and resilient. Coaches are trained to help you.

Example: Tale Me

The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil sector due to the use of many aggressive chemicals, which are harmful to health and the environment.

The company Tale Me has chosen an economic model that completely breaks with the classic model of selling clothes. It has chosen to sell the use of its clothes, rather than the clothes themselves. Through a membership, it makes clothes available to children of up to 8 years old as well as to pregnant women. The concept seeks to have the clothing designed by Belgian designers, with biological textiles produces as close as possible to Belgium. When the clothes are returned, they are cleaned and repaired to be used once again. The overall concept aims to reduce the pressure on resources as much as possible. Unlike other businesses, both the consumer and the company both wish for the product's life to last as long as possible. No planned obsolescence here.

Let's stay in touch

Join more than 25,000 subscribers and receive every fortnight in your mailbox our free newsletter (only in French or Dutch), packed with the latest news, fascinating testimonials, actionable advice and an overview of useful workshops and networking activities for entrepreneurs in Brussels !