Understanding and Promoting Sustainable Entrepreneurship in New Ventures

Experienced Researcher: Dr. Sylvia Rohlfer, CUNEF University, Madrid

In the summer of 2023, I had the opportunity to conduct a research stay at Erhvervshus Sjaelland in Denmark. The main focus of my research was to explore the understanding and interplay between the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental, and social) in new ventures, along with the challenges of sustainability implementation. This report outlines the key activities and findings of my research stay.

One of the primary objectives of my research stay was to develop an interview guide to delve into the understanding and implementation of sustainability in entrepreneurial firms (startups) and the role of people management practices in doing so. The guide was designed to identify the perspectives and experiences of entrepreneurs from diverse cultural
backgrounds. I collaborated with colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark and at Erhvervshus Sjaelland to create an inclusive and comprehensive interview guide. To ensure a comprehensive analysis, we plan to include entrepreneurs from different cultural backgrounds in our research. Secondees were selected to conduct interviews with Japanese,
Argentinian, Moroccan, and Spanish entrepreneurs during August and autumn of 2023. This diverse group of entrepreneurs will provided valuable insights into how entrepreneurs from different national cultures approach sustainability and the challenges they face in implementing sustainable practices.

Additionally, during my research stay, I collaborated with Dr. Simon Jebsen from SDU (University of Southern Denmark) to complete a book chapter. The chapter focused on exploring the relationship between sustainable knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, and sustainable entrepreneurial intention among first-year business students. The study examines the role of sustainable knowledge and entrepreneurial skill sets on entrepreneurial intentions and sustainable entrepreneurial goal orientation among business
school students. Using a person-centered approach with latent profile analysis, six distinct student profiles were identified. Each profile was characterized by a unique combination of sustainable knowledge and entrepreneurial skills, leading to varying entrepreneurial intentions and orientations towards sustainable entrepreneurship. The findings reveal that the combination of sustainable knowledge and entrepreneurial skills
had a positive influence on entrepreneurial intention. Conversely, a lack of sustainable knowledge results in a less pronounced entrepreneurial intention. While sustainable knowledge and skills has a lesser impact on the later, their combination is found to be crucial in fostering sustainable entrepreneurial intentions. The findings of the study have significant practical implications, particularly for business schools. To foster sustainable entrepreneurship intentions, business schools should adopt
student-centered and holistic pedagogical approaches, such as experiential and problembased learning. These approaches help cultivate sustainable knowledge, which serves as a strong foundation for developing multidisciplinary entrepreneurial skills and contributing to building social sustainability. The research stay at Erhvervshus Sjaelland in Denmark during June/July 2023 provided the opportunity to prepare with the feedback by the Danish colleagues the fieldwork on the study
into the understanding and interplay between the three pillars of sustainability in new ventures. By interviewing entrepreneurs from diverse cultural backgrounds, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in implementing sustainability in different contexts. Additionally, the collaborative effort with a colleague from SDU resulted in an insightful book chapter exploring the relationship between sustainable knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, and sustainable entrepreneurial intention among business students. Overall, this research stay has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in sustainable
entrepreneurship and provided actionable recommendations for fostering sustainable entrepreneurial intentions in future business leaders. I am grateful for the support and cooperation received during my time at Erhvervshus Sjaelland together with the collaboration of the University of Southern Denmark, which made this research endeavor possible.