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Research Highlights—Exploring Environmental Entrepreneurship: Identity Coupling, Venture Goals, and Stakeholder Incentives


(posted on behalf of @Seham Ghalwash)

Jeff York’s article, titled "Exploring Environmental Entrepreneurship: Identity Coupling, Venture Goals, and Stakeholder Incentives," delves into the world of sustainable entrepreneurship, and its significance lies in its contributions to two key areas of research.

At the heart of this narrative, the paper uncovers the world of sustainable entrepreneurship, investigating why some thrive while others stumble in environmental entrepreneurship. It classifies these eco-entrepreneurs into two distinct categories. The first group is propelled by business acumen, accommodating diverse stakeholders regardless of their motives. The second group is fervently committed to environmental causes, often distancing themselves from the entrepreneurial label and industry stakeholders misaligned with their environmental values. The key takeaway from this research is that the most effective approach for aspiring environmental entrepreneurs is to maintain a balance, with a foot in both the business and environmental worlds. Rather than presenting a different image to different stakeholders, it is advisable to let stakeholders perceive what they want to see and understand about the venture, thereby ensuring harmonious interaction and relationship-building.

Beyond its significance in the realm of environmental entrepreneurship, Jeff highlighted that his article makes a valuable contribution to the broader literature on entrepreneurship. It enhances our understanding of how personal identity influences entrepreneurial activities. In recent years, a limited number of papers have explored the connection between passion and entrepreneurship, and this work builds upon that foundation by examining how various identities can shape entrepreneurial ventures. This study extends the idea that individuals may possess multiple identities and perspectives that influence their approach to entrepreneurial endeavors. It introduces the concept that individuals may be deeply rooted in diverse identities, drawing from ideas in the hybrid organizing literature. This fresh perspective on entrepreneurship can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of how identity and diverse competencies can affect the success of entrepreneurial ventures. The key emerging message is the wisdom of balancing business and environmental perspectives for aspiring environmental entrepreneurs. Rather than projecting different personas to different stakeholders, harmonizing the dual identity of eco-entrepreneurs ensures fruitful interactions.

As the tale unfolds, we journey with Jeff as he establishes connections with eco-entrepreneurs, especially those in renewable energy. Through interviews and long-term observation, valuable qualitative data emerges, forming the paper's cornerstone. Realizing the research's potential, Jeff seeks the wisdom of Isobel O'Neil, a Nottingham-based qualitative researcher who plays a pivotal role in refining the paper. The collaborative efforts yielded substantial improvements and even a Best Paper Award at the NYU Social Entrepreneurship Conference.

Yet, the voyage to publication was not without its trials. The paper faces initial rejection by the Academy of Management Journal, a disheartening setback. Nevertheless, Jeff's unwavering commitment to see the research through led to its eventual acceptance in the Journal of Management Studies. Rigorous rounds of revision follow, guided by reviewer feedback and the astute editor, Mike Russo.

Through this voyage, Jeff reveals the challenges inherent in qualitative research, which demands multiple iterations to uncover critical insights and bridge the gap between data and theory. It's the delicate dance between letting the data speak and illustrating the theory that presents the most daunting challenge in qualitative work.

Finally, the story concludes with Jeff's reflection on the most rewarding aspects of the journey. Collaboration with his advisor, Saras Sarasvathy, and working closely with Isobel O'Neil both emerge as fulfilling and enlightening experiences. This laborious process culminates in the satisfaction of turning countless hours of interviews with environmental entrepreneurs into a published piece of work, a fulfilling tribute to their dedication and a valuable contribution to the academic world.