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The Regional Soul of Sustainability

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Document pages: 35 pages

Abstract: Profits and social-environmental performance have always been perceived as in contrast with one another. Governments and super-national authorities felt that corporations were lacking the incentives to pursue sustainable practices, which then had to be imposed through regulation. Such situation opens space to (at least) two debates: the first one is about whether or not entrepreneurs can help regulations and policies to implement sustainable development; the second one concerns how the current economic context is going to affect sustainable development. This paper joins such debates arguing that: a) the role of entrepreneurs in the implementation of sustainability is increasingly important and not just complementary to regulations and policies; b) changes in the economic contexts will give an increasingly “regional” character to sustainable development. There is emerging evidence that sustainability is becoming profitable for firms as a result of a dynamics involving consumer awareness, regulations, new cost structures and market-driven requests for sustainable business practices. This new-born profitability is the incentive which will make firms play their important part in the implementation of sustainability. Increased geographical proximity among activities and less global value chains will be the result of the efforts that companies will make in order to capture these profits through sustainable business model innovation. This will lead to invest in surrounding communities and territories (Porter and Kramer, 2011), to leverage circular economies (Fang, Cotè, Qin, 2007) and to re-think logistics and transportation strategies. Entrepreneurs capable to relocate activities fitting with each other and to aggregate them properly in coherent bundles can realize durable competitive advantages (Porter, 1996). This is why sustainability has a “regional” soul.

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