Prevailing theoretical approaches predicting sustainable business models: a systematic review

João J. Ferreira*, Cristina I. Fernandes, Pedro M. Veiga, Mathew Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This study aims to map scientific publications, intellectual structure and research trends in the sustainable business model (SBM) field. Specifically, it attempts to (1) identify the fundamental contributions of research in this area of knowledge; and (2) determine the research lines that constitute the most prominent intellectual structure. We leverage these insights to formulate and propose a future research agenda for SBM. Design/methodology/approach: The authors made recourse to the bibliometric, co-citation and cluster analysis techniques. To evaluate potential patterns among articles, we analysed how articles are jointly cited. We further applied hierarchical cluster analysis to the articles and used co-citation analysis to group the interrelated articles into distinct sets. Findings: The results enable the identification and classification of the prevailing theoretical foci in the domain of SBM: (1) SBM implementation; (2) SBM challenges; (3) institutional SBM; (4) circular SBM; and (5) emerging SBM. Originality/value: This study identifies, explores, analyses and summarises the main theoretical approaches and themes surrounding SBM research to date, contributing to deepening the literature by identifying the priority areas concerning sustainable business models and encouraging future research of an internationally excellent standard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-813
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022


  • Bibliometrics
  • Circular economy
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable business models
  • Systematic literature review


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