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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 3 January 20, 2024

Environmental Preservation in Sustainable Entrepreneurship | S N Tripathy

Friday 19 January 2024, by S N Tripathy


With intrinsic value beyond merely a life-support system, nature encompasses the physical world, including the earth, biodiversity, and ecosystems. The preservation of these resources is crucial for the survival of various species, including humans. The impact of environmental degradation, such as the destruction of the ozone layer, is evident in increased exposure to ultraviolet irradiation and higher rates of skin cancer. Conversely, exposure to natural green places has improved human health. Proactive efforts in preserving the earth, biodiversity, and ecosystems can contribute to sustaining nature, and one pathway to achieve this goal is through sustainable entrepreneurship.

Life support involves preserving the environment, natural resources, and ecosystem services essential for human well-being. Water pollution with infectious agents, bacteria, and chemicals causes millions of deaths yearly, particularly in third-world countries. Over-exploitation of natural resources, such as mining and over-fishing, severely affects life support systems. Declining ecosystem services directly impact human life support, leading to a shortage of drinking water and reduced crop yields. Research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of how entrepreneurial action can sustain life support.

Communities, characterized by intricate relationships and shared values, norms, and identities, face threats to their culture, groups, and places. The loss of cultural identity can have significant negative impacts, such as increased alcoholism and reduced physical health and life expectancy. Families and groups, integral to well-developed communities, contribute to individual well-being. However, preserving places is challenging, with tourism and air pollution posing threats. While focused on economic gains, sustainable entrepreneurship should consider non-economic outcomes essential for societal development.

From an economic perspective, entrepreneurship aims to generate economic gains that improve individuals’ socio-economic status and overall well-being. These gains have positive effects on subjective well-being and physical health. Combining economic gains with sustainable entrepreneurship, which considers what is to be sustained, contributes to the acceptance of this approach. Moreover, sustainable entrepreneurship can create non-economic gains for individuals, such as improved child survival, life expectancy, education, equity, and equal opportunity.

Societal gains go beyond individual benefits and include improvements in the well-being and security of national states, regions, and institutions. Entrepreneurship plays a significant role in creating non-economic gains for society, fostering social ties, and enhancing interpersonal relationships. Social entrepreneurship initiatives, like Sekem in Egypt, have demonstrated the positive impact of entrepreneurial action on societal development. By keeping employment locally and acting in socially responsible ways, entrepreneurs contribute to the well-being of their local society.

Sustainable entrepreneurship is a crucial concept that addresses the delicate balance between economic gain and preserving nature, life support, and community. According to Venkataraman (1997), entrepreneurship seeks to understand how opportunities to bring future goods and services are discovered, created, and exploited. Informed by the sustainable development and entrepreneurship literature, Shepherd and Patzelt (2011) define sustainable entrepreneurship as "the pursuit of perceived opportunities to create future products, processes, and services for" gain while focusing on preserving nature, life support, and community.

However, it is essential to clarify what sustainable entrepreneurship is not. This involves delineating boundaries to exclude research that, while valuable, falls outside the proposed scope. Research focused on sustaining without considering development or vice versa does not qualify. For instance, sustainability-focused research that documents changes in global temperatures may be necessary but only qualifies as sustainable entrepreneurship research if it pays attention to the development aspect.

Prior knowledge, particularly entrepreneurial knowledge, is crucial in identifying sustainable development opportunities. Shane (2000) identified three types of entrepreneurial knowledge: knowledge of markets, ways to serve markets, and customer problems that influence the recognition of opportunities. Prior knowledge enhances the ability to evaluate market potential, understand how to serve markets effectively and identify customer problems that can be addressed through innovative solutions.

Motivation is another significant factor influencing individuals’ ability to identify sustainable development opportunities. McMullen and Shepherd (2006) highlight that motivation directs attention to potential opportunities when individuals sense threats to their well-being. Physical and psychological health concerns can trigger emotions, leading to actions that preserve the natural and communal environment. Individuals are motivated to act when their physical health is endangered by environmental decline, and negative emotions drive them to pursue opportunities that address these threats.

Moreover, altruism plays a role in directing attention to sustainable development opportunities. Empathy and sympathy for underprivileged others can motivate individuals to identify and act upon opportunities that alleviate the burdens of disadvantaged populations. Highly empathetic individuals are driven to pursue sustainable development opportunities to improve their emotional state by transforming the situation of those in need.

Entrepreneurial action links sustainable outcomes- preserving nature, life support, and communities-and development outcomes, which provide gain to the entrepreneur and others. Opportunity beliefs, influenced by knowledge, motivation, and threat perceptions, lead to entrepreneurial action. Both expertise and prosocial motivation influence the ability to notice threats to sustainability, generating new knowledge and influencing motivation. Physical health concerns, diminished psychological well-being, and altruism are prime motivators for entrepreneurial action.

In conclusion, sustainable entrepreneurship has the potential to balance economic gain with the preservation of nature, life support, and community. The role of entrepreneurial action in sustaining these crucial aspects requires further exploration. By investigating the mechanisms through which entrepreneurship can contribute to sustaining nature, life support, and community, research in sustainable entrepreneurship can advance our understanding and guide future initiatives for a more sustainable and balanced world.

Thus, sustainability and sustainable development are critical topics, and sustainable entrepreneurship can contribute significantly to preserving the natural and communal environment. There are numerous research questions within and beyond the scope outlined in this chapter, inviting exploration using different theoretical lenses, levels of analysis, and research methods.


  • Shepherd, D. A., & Patzelt, H. (2011). The new field of sustainable entrepreneurship: Studying entrepreneurial action linking "what is to be sustained" with "what is to be developed." Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(1), 137-163.
  • Venkataraman, S. (1997). The distinctive domain of entrepreneurship research: An editor’s perspective. Advances in entrepreneurship, firm emergence, and growth, 3(1), 119-138.
  • Shane, S. (2000). Prior knowledge and the discovery of entrepreneurial opportunities. Organization Science, 11(4), 448-469.
  • McMullen, J. S., & Shepherd, D. A. (2006). Entrepreneurial action and the role of uncertainty in the theory of the entrepreneur. Academy of Management Review, 31(1), 132-152.

(Author: S N Tripathy is Former Professor of Economics, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, currently at Berhampur, Odisha)

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