Business Model Change through Embedding Corporate Responsibility-Sustainability?Logics, Devices, Actor Networks

Student thesis: Phd


'The Company' had introduced 'Being Responsible' a program for the embedding of responsibility-sustainability. Corporate responsibility-sustainability here describes efforts to address entangled cares of responsibility and sustainability. The program showed potential to change the business model, which led to the research problem: 'How can responsibility-sustainability programs change business models?'In this thesis, business models are understood as three dynamically interlinked states: Logics, devices and actor networks. Business model change may happen through the embedding of responsibility-sustainability into any of these states, and through the dynamics between them.Main conceptual lenses are organizational institutionalism and actor-network theory, which are connected through a social constructionist philosophy. Qualitative methods used include an in-depth case study of The Company (104 interviews with 72 interviewees) and thematic analyses of business model descriptions (devices) of FTSE corporations (100 documents).Seven papers study distinct aspects of the research problem: Papers 1 and 2 provide a conceptual basis. Papers 3 and 4 study how the embedding of responsibility-sustainability into the FTSE100s' business model devices changed the logics they described. Papers 5-7 study embedding into The Company's business model actor network.I found how embedding of responsibility-sustainability into the three states of commercial business models happened through three processes: Blending of logics, combination of device elements and translation between actors. Such embedding of responsibility-sustainability led to misalignment and tensions between responsibility-sustainability and the dominant commercial logic. This misalignment in turn fueled the dynamics of change between logics, devices and actor networks.First, this thesis contributes to an emerging literature on the dynamics of business model logics, devices and actor networks. It makes explicit the distinction between these states and illustrates how their dynamics provide novel insight into business model change. Secondly, I showcase how actor-network theory may complement the activity systems study of business models as well as stakeholder thinking in responsibility-sustainability research. Insights into how to use devices to change business models and to embed responsibility-sustainability appear relevant for practitioners.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Dewick (Supervisor) & Sally Randles (Supervisor)


  • actor network theory
  • business model change
  • corporate responsibility-sustainability
  • institutional logics
  • embedding
  • business model devices

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