The combined phenomenon of entrepreneurship with the pursuit of sustainable development goals is commonly referred to as sustainable entrepreneurship (SE) (Shepherd and Patzelt, 2011 ; Anand et al., 2021). As an increasingly important subfield of entrepreneurship research, SE is gaining importance (Muñoz et al., 2018; Gast et al., 2017).
However, there is no common ground as to whether SE is opportunity or necessity driven. While Pinkse and Groot (2013, p. 436), for instance, define SE as: “the discovery, creation, and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities that contribute to sustainability by generating social and environmental gains for others in society “, or Schaltegger and Wagner (2007, p.32) as “an innovative, market oriented and personality driven form of value creation by environmentally or socially beneficial innovations and products exceeding the start-up phase of a company.”. Others, such as Cavaleri and Shabana (2018, p. 9), argue that “necessity, however, may require a firm to engage in sustainability initiatives […]. This type of necessity arises from the firm’s dependence on its environment.” Climate change at large can also be seen as a necessity factor.
This lack of a common view, as well as the dichotomy between push and pull factors, may be simply due to the fact that SE is an entrepreneurial phenomenon, and that the discussion about opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship in the field of entrepreneurship in general is still not resolved (Dencker et al., 2021; O’Donnell et al., 2021).
Necessity entrepreneurship is based on the assumption that people are pushed into self-employment by negative conditions to secure their livelihood (O’Donnell et al., 2021). On the contrary, opportunity entrepreneurship is focused on the recognition, discovery, identification, or creation of market opportunities (Hansen et al, 2011). Opportunity entrepreneurship and the related processes have been deeply studied in the last decades and the word “opportunity” is often cited in the entrepreneurship literature since it has been recognized as a central component of entrepreneurship (Gaglio and Katz, 2001). In this sense, necessity entrepreneurship could be seen as a reactive behavior, while opportunity entrepreneurship is often considered as a proactive conduct.
However, recent research on opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship (e.g., Dencker et al., 2019 ; Dencker et al., 2021 ; Dheer and Treviño, 2021) call for a new discussion of this view that seems to be “oversimplified, and unable to account for the wide array of antecedents, processes and outcomes that occur” (Coffman and Sunny, 2021, p. 823). In this perspective, Coffman and Sunny (2021), using motivational theory, demonstrate that depending on the theoretical lens that has been chosen, the same entrepreneurial situation may be interpreted as opportunity or necessity entrepreneurship. Several other studies have also questioned the separateness of opportunity and necessity drivers and argued that they co-exist in entrepreneurs’ motivations (Aidis et al., 2006 ; Williams, 2008);i.e., both opportunity and necessity drivers co-exist among reasons for starting up business.
Yet, the debate on opportunity and necessity entrepreneurship is not closed and further research is needed. New contexts are especially promising to deliver new insights. In this sense, SE represents an interesting field to explore, because motivational aspects play an important role in the decision of an entrepreneur to enter that field.
The purpose of this Special Issue is to offer new research directions on opportunity and necessity behaviors in the special context of sustainability entrepreneurship. Research questions may include:
- Is SE opportunity or necessity driven?
- Under what contexts and/or conditions?
- Are sustainable entrepreneurs able to transform a necessity into an opportunity?
- When, how or under what conditions?
- What are the processes behind opportunity and/or necessity driven SE?
- Is climate change the most important entrepreneurial necessity driver?
- Other related topics are also welcomed.
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