Sustainable Agri-Food Startups - A Study on Business Models and Creation of Value From Waste. Croff, A. & Iannino, P. Master's thesis, Politecnico Di Milano, Milano, September, 2018.
Sustainable Agri-Food Startups - A Study on Business Models and Creation of Value From Waste [pdf]Paper  abstract   bibtex   
In the last years, the need of a radical change in the human consumption patterns represents an urgent challenge for governments, firms and consumers. The objective is to meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987). This is the most acknowledged definition of “Sustainable Development”. The following study is going to investigate the implementation of sustainable development in the agri-food industry, where its effect on the society and on the environment are immediately visible, through the radical change of companies’ business models towards a sustainability orientation. Because of the radicality of this change, the achievement of a sustainability orientation is easier for new ventures, rather than for incumbents. Therefore, the unit of analysis chosen for the study are startups. The findings of the study showed a significant prevalence of technological oriented innovations that are leading the startups’ business models towards sustainability orientation. In particular, it has been possible to describe the business model of 173 startups as “Maximize energy and material efficiency” through technological innovations, highlighting the research of efficiency as a key driver for the implementation of sustainability. Furthermore, the analysis of the study focused on a specific technological and environmental innovation, the “Creation of value from waste”. Through four case studies it has been possible to identify the main typologies of this business model applied to the supply chain stage “Service Providers”, and the main drivers that lead companies to its implementation. Moreover, through the Business Model Canvas tool, the drivers of the specific decision of the interviewed companies for each block of the Canvas have been analysed. For example, the main drivers for the decisions in the block “Key activities” have been identified in the research of scalability and reliability. The former is leading the companies towards a hub-less business model, while the latter is constraining some startups from relying on volunteers for the delivery services. Concerning the different layers of the Food Waste Hierarchy in which the startups are positioning, the type of product managed by the startup has been evaluated as the main decision driver, along with the role of policy makers, that can both, incentivize or constrain the implementation of the “Create value from waste” business model.

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