Understanding sustainable business model: A framework and a case study of the bike-sharing industry

Ping Gao, Jiaying Li

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Supported by the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, bike-sharing services have become increasingly popular in recent years. For example, in China, by the end of 2017, the number of service users had doubled in half a year to reach 221 million users (28.6% of the country's Internet users); the market for bike-sharing services equated to £1.18 billion, an eightfold increase from 2016. In this research, we focus on the sustainability of the dockless bike-sharing industry, and analyze how firms achieve sustainability through innovating on business models to adapt to business environments. We have developed a framework of sustainable business model analysis that links business model innovation with the business environment. The sustainable value proposition dimension of the framework includes social-environmental benefits as an element. Applying this framework to analyze the case of Mobike, a leading dockless bike-sharing operator, we disclose the paths of its business model innovation in China and the UK determined by the business environment. The proposed framework can be used in future research of sustainable business model analysis and design. The case study findings extend knowledge about the emerging dockless bike-sharing industry. Practical implications are drawn from the case study for firms within the sharing economy to achieve sustainability through business model innovation, and for the government to support the sharing economy to achieve sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122229
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2020


  • Business environment
  • Business model innovation
  • Dockless bike-sharing
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Sharing economy
  • Sustainable business model
  • Sustainable value proposition

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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