Motivations for environmental alliances: Generating and internalising environmental and knowledge value

Eva Niesten, Albert Jolink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental alliances are a common response to societal sustainability demands. In environmental alliances, firms collaboratively exploit and explore environmental technologies to address market opportunities while simultaneously generating positive environmental impacts. A striking idiosyncrasy is that in addition to economic value, environmental alliances generate two types of external value: environmental value from positive effects on air, water, land, and biodiversity, and knowledge value from innovations in environmental technologies. Research on motivations for environmental alliances is dispersed and underdeveloped compared to the well-established literature on motivations for strategic alliances that emphasise economic value. This study therefore develops a classification of motivations for environmental alliances by combining the literature on strategic alliances and that on environmental and knowledge value. The resulting classification includes motivations for environmental alliances to generate environmental and knowledge value as well as motivations to create economic value by internalising environmental and knowledge value. A systematic review of 123 articles on environmental inter-firm alliances identifies specific motivations to populate the new classification. We show that alliance partners are motivated to share sustainable resources, reduce sustainability risk, respond to stakeholders, or invest in specific sustainable assets to generate external value. They collaborate to reduce costs or enhance competitive advantage, reputation, or legitimacy to internalise external value. The resource-based view, resource-dependence view, institutional theory, and transaction cost economics have not previously distinguished between motivations to generate and internalise external value. We extend their area of application from strategic alliances to environmental alliances and, thus, beyond the exclusive pursuit of economic value.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Early online date28 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2020

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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