AGRIFOOD START UPS AND THE ROLE OF THE TERRITORY: FOSTER MUTUAL BENEFITS THROUGH SUSTAINABILITY. EARLY INVESTIGATION IN PIEDMONT
Contributor(s)Demetris Vrontis, Yaakov Weber, Evangelos Tsoukatos
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AbstractBusiness sustainability refers to the sum of environmental, social and ethical practices, programmes and concerns in processes design, as well as goods and services development. Nevertheless, sustainability of business is necessarily linked to the economic dimension. Therefore, profits generation is also functional for investing in the society, in the reference environment, and for serving multiple interests of external and internal stakeholders. That is why when considering a sustainable business, the social and economic aspects stand at the same level of priority and meet businesses and communities’ expectations simultaneously. This is what Porter and Kramer (2011) point out as a set of policies and practices that can buster companies’ competitive power meanwhile improving communities’ economic and social conditions. Sustainability is nowadays a strategic lever for redesigning business models with the aim of making the best use of innovation, research and development and face the competition through differentiating factors whilst benefiting the society as a whole. This is often defined as the capacity of managing the “triple bottom line” (Elkington, 1994): a process through which companies are involved in financial, social and environmental issues and opportunities, with implications in terms of profits, people and planet, given that industrial, social, and ecological systems are interrelated (Fiksel, 2006). Therefore, businesses conducted according to responsible, environmental and social concerns create economic value and contribute to create healthy ecosystems, more effective interactions and stronger communities. Moreover, this social and environmental involvement represents a strategic lever and a driver also to improve the value and the image of a certain territory – where the benefits from businesses’ involvement are both tangible and intangible – and, as a consequence, to decrease the foreign investors’ perceived risk and augment its attractiveness. Although, in recent years, the academic literature has been focused on the concept of creating value for the Region and on its integration with local companies, to the extent of our knowledge, little has been written about the way through which a territory can facilitate the activation of sustainable practices, by leveraging on local factors and resources and, can, therefore, affect and shape the nature and the evolution of its start ups. In particular, it appears that agribusiness start ups are relevant to the topic because of their high interaction and synergy with their territory, mostly based on sustainable drivers. This can improve consumers’ perception of the area in terms of innovation, services and physical well-being of citizens, as well as enhancing the image and the identity of agribusinesses themselves. The purpose of this study is to investigate which sustainable and innovative strategies both start ups and their territories can activate to favour social and economic growth in a logic of constant interaction and mutual benefits, by considering agribusiness start ups located in the Italian Piedmont Region. In particular, the authors have identified two research questions: 1. How can a territory contribute to favour the start-ups creation and development, by securing cooperation among businesses, fostering innovation and sustainability? 2. Which innovative and sustainable strategies adopted by start-ups can enhance territory identity and stakeholders’ perception?