Learn How To Design & Build a Sustainable Business Model

Special Edition for the Digital Society School

 In today's fast-changing world, it's becoming more and more obvious, that sustainability is not just an add-on, but rather the core drive of innovation and success in the century to come.

Sustainability is the buzzword of the decade. There's no doubt world is changing, and business leaders want their organizations to be sustainable, green, fair, just, resilient, circular, and regenerative. But what does that really mean? And what can you and your project do to help them achieve these ambitions?

All over the world, citizens, governments, and companies are waking up to the systemic unsustainable reality we are facing, and choose to start working for a society in which all human needs are met within the carrying capacity of planet Earth.

The effects can be seen on many levels. People are becoming more informed and critical demand transparency about e.g. the origin, labour conditions and environmental impact of the things they buy.

Legislation is also rapidly becoming more stringent, recreating a new playing field with new rules and principles to play by.

The systemic aspects of the global sustainability challenge are creating serious problems for all organizations that depend on unsustainable practices, while creating opportunities for those that embrace and anticipate these changes and make sustainability their business.

As an entrepreneur, business owner, founder or manager, a great amount of time, energy, and money gets invested into building your business, and to make sure your investments pay out, you want to be ready for the future, sustainable. Not just in your offer, but in the whole business model that supports it.

Unfortunately, popular approaches for business model innovation only focus on pieces and parts, and do not ensure that your business model is designed sustainable as a whole, and with sustainability as the core driver for ánd of business model innovation.

Online Course + Workshops

Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology

The SBMA Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology helps you MapCheckand Innovate Everything and Everyone that is Relevant and Important for Your Human-CentricSocially JustEcologically Regenerative, and Strategically Sustainable Business Model.

Watch the video to learn more

The SBMA Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology helps you (re-)design your future-proof Sustainable Business Model with a unique and compelling Triple Value Proposition at its core:

1. Human Value Proposition - to describe more clearly what Universal Human Needs your Product/Service aims to satisfy for your Target Audience, now and in the future,

2. Social Value Proposition - to describe how you build Resilient Channels and Trustworthy Relationships with Partners and Stakeholders throughout your Supply Chains, 

3. Ecological Value Proposition - to describe how you develop Circular Activities and rely on Regenerative Resources throughout your Life-Cycle.

4. The 4th Systemic Perspective: Strategic Decision-Making and Prioritization helps you make sure that everything is aligned with your desired organizational Strategic Direction, your vision, purpose, and goals. It also ties in the business bottom line profits, increasing Revenue, decreasing Costs, , and reducing or mitigating Risks.

Overall, the Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology helps you describe and communicate how you create and deliver a compelling future-proof value proposition and business model.

Business benefits and savings come in many forms: growing market share, and access to emerging markets through sustainable branding and leadership; enhanced resilience to sector volatility and legislation changes; improvements in operational efficiencies and employee engagement, collaboration, productivity and innovative capacity; increased ability to attract and retain talent; as well as reduced consumption of and thus expenses for energy, water, materials and waste that can be reduced, reused, recycled, down- or up cycled.

This creates new value propositions and requires new, sustainable business models.

Special Program for Digital Society School Trainees

Here’s Exactly What You’ll Get When You Sign Up
Online Course
  • 5 Modules
  • 30 Video Lessons
  • 12 Templates w/ Trigger Questions
3 Online Workshops (3h)
  1. 1
    October 12th - 14h-17.30
  2. 2
    November 9th - 14h-17.30
  3. 3
    December 7th - 14h-17.30
Full Access to Online Video Course

The Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology online course consists of 5 modules, each divided into chapters and (video)lessons. The videos will be 1 to 1,5h per module, and in total you will need to reserve about 8-10 hours to apply the SBMCM to your own project.

Practical Templates & Trigger Questions

Besides the Sustainable Business Model Canvas, each module includes additional Templates and Trigger Questions to help you deepen your understanding of everything and everyone that is related to your business by getting hands on applying it to your unique situation.

Learn and Apply at your own Time

All modules of the online course are available to you for the whole semester, and at any time of the day. You can determine your own schedule and go at your own pace with applying the templates and trigger questions to your business in preparation of the collective workshops.

3 Online Workshops

We'll have 3 online workshops of 3 hours each to deepen the templates you've worked on, resolve any open standing questions, and most importantly, to share and learn from each thers insights and feedback that will allow you to catalyze your impact even further.

Course Program

There are 5 modules in this course, each building on top of the previous. The first module gives a general introduction into Sustainable Business Model Innovation and the Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology. Modules 2, 3, and 4 each guide you through a step of the SBMCM to Map, Check, and Innovate your business model from 4 Systemic Perspectives for Sustainable Business. And finally, module 5 brings everything together into your own unique Triple Value Proposition and Sustainable Business Model Canvas.

Read more about what's in each module below.

Sustainable Business Model Innovation

Introducing to the SBM Canvas Methodology

In module 1, we introduce you to the concept of Sustainable Business Model Innovation and learn about the 3 elements that make up the Sustainable Business Model Canvas Methodology: 

  • What is Unsustainability and Sustainability?
  • Business Model Innovation for Sustainability
  • 4 Systems Thinking Perspectives:
    Human, Social, Ecological, Strategic, 
  • 3-Step Methodology: Map, Check, Innovate, and
  • Sustainable Business Model Canvas
    13 building blocks to create a Triple Value Proposition

Map your System

Identifying everything and everyone relevant

Module 2 helps you widen your view and apply a systems thinking perspective as you Map and identify everything that and everyone who is important for the sustainable success of your business model.

We'll explore several trigger questions for the building blocks of the Sustainable Start Canvas to Map out your whole business model.

And, you can dive even deeper by using the extra templates included for each of the 4 Systems Thinking Perspectives.

The main question that we'll explore for each of these perspectives is:

  1. Human:
    What are the Universal Human Needs you (aim to) satisfy?
  2. Social:
    Who are the Partners & Stakeholder in your social system?
  3. Ecological:
    What input do you need and which output do you generate?
  4. Strategic:
    Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve?

Check your Impact

Analyzing your (un)sustainability

Module 3 helps you Check and analyze how sustainable or unsustainable your business model is. We will introduce principles and guidelines for each of the 4 Systems Thinking Perspectives: Human, Social, Ecological, and Strategic.

The Social and Ecological Sustainability Principles (Broman, Robert, Missimer 2015) are the scientific definition for sustainability and outline the minimum requirements to build a sustainable society within the boundaries of the planet.

The main question that we'll explore for each of these perspectives is:

  1. Human: 
    Do we offer any negative type satisfiers?
  2. Social:
    Do we contribute to any structural unsustainable obstacles?
  3. Ecological: 
    Do we contribute to any systematic increases or decreases?
  4. Strategic: 
    Which impacts should we focus on (first?)

Innovate for Sustainability

Rethink your business model design

In Module 4 we focus on the power of creativity to rethink the design of your business model and all its building blocks. To do so, we introduce trigger questions grounded in the Human, Social, Ecological, and Strategic perspectives.

This will help you refine the Value Propositions you offer to your customers, as well as review the systemic value you offer to society as a whole and the ecological systems you interact with. The strategic perspective ensures you prioritize the right things.

The main question that we'll explore for each of these perspectives is:

  1. Human:
    How might we improve sinergy and satisfaction?
  2. Social:
    How might we improve trust, adaptivity, and resilience?
  3. Ecological:
    How might we improve circularity and regeneration?
  4. Strategic:
    Which innovations/actions should be prioritized?

Your Sustainable Business Model

Bringing All the Building Blocks Together

Finally, in module 5, it's time to bring everything back together in the Sustainable Business Model Canvas. After going through the Map, Check, and Innovate steps you will have a much better idea how to make your project sustainable.

We'll start with revisiting your Triple Value Proposition, and then go through each of the building blocks around it to clearly describe and effectively communicate how your project creates and delivers value to the world, while boosting profitability.

Overall, this will give you'll a better understanding how to serve your customers in today's fast-changing time, build social resilience and adaptive capacity, decrease dependence on unsustainable resources and activities, and ensure that your project strategically contributes to achieve a sustainable vision of success.

Look at what past participants have to say about applying the Sustainable Start Canvas Methodology.

Pascalle B.

Innovation Specialist

I hope the SSCM becomes a reference for sustainable business modelling.

I am a fan of the Sustainable Start Canvas Methodology and I really hope it will become a method of reference on the complex topic of sustainable business modelling. 

Robert de G.

Digital Transformation

The SSCM offers several ways of mapping different parts of your business model with specific templates and trigger questions.

The Sustainable Start Canvas Methodology explains the broader topic of sustainability very well through several ways of mapping different parts of your business model with specific templates and trigger questions. Getting hands-on, I found the SSCM quite useful and applicable.

Franziska W.

CSR Expert

I can't wait to apply it to the company that I work at.

It was a really insightful event learning about sustainable business models. It was especially fun to work on a real-life example and hear other people's views. I can't wait to apply the Sustainable Start Canvas and see where the company I work at stands.

About the course instructor

Thomas van der Molen

Thomas is an intuitive and analytical systems thinker specializing in strategic sustainability, business model innovation, multi-stakeholder process facilitation and (inter-)personal leadership development.

He has close to 10 years of experience working with sustainable (business) development projects The Netherlands (where he is from), Sweden (where he studied), Brazil (where he lived for 2 years), and online with people from many other countries.

Thomas started the SBMA (as Sustainable Start) shortly after completing his thesis research for the Master in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability in 2016.

With his background in business management and strong interest in innovation, Thomas focused his thesis research on how to integrate a Strategic Sustainable Development approach into the Lean Startup Methodology and the specifically improve the assumptions captured with the Business Model Canvas. 

Thomas loves to work with people of diverse places and paths, always suporting to:

- See things from a different perspective and develop a strong sense of shared purpose and vision,

- Understand the current context and our position in it,

- Spark creative ideas and innovative solutions, and 

-  Strategically rethink value creation and delivery to design, build, and communicate a sustainable, just, and regenerative business model.

Here’s what people say about the course instructor

Boshra J.

Technology student

It is clear that Thomas is an expert in this field.

He was very enthusiastic and it was clear that Thomas is an expert in this field. He communicated very clearly, explaining things in his own words and making sure the point was understood.

Helena M.

Innovation student

Great build up and interesting examples and exercises.

The build up of the workshop was great with a good pace and interesting examples and exercises. Thomas does a great job! 

Florence L.

Digital Transformation Agent

Good balance between theory and practical exercises.

I like how Thomas clarifies and explains stuff. The workshop flow was very good,  starting with some more theoratical basics to then dig deeper into various topics through conversation and sharing amongst the participants.

"We depend on the whole as the whole depends on us."

On a personal note,

I sincerely hope you will join and enjoy this course. Over the past 4 years I have regularly given workshops at DSS, and it has always been enormous fun! After some time of online interactions only, I'm happy you were all able to make it here from all across the world, and grateful that we're able to come together again in real life. I look forward to continuing to make  sustainable impact and create a better world together, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be part of your semester once again.

Thomas van der Molen