The Sustainable Business Canvas

53% of startups* stated sustainability is essential for their business model to be viable. By designing the Sustainable Business Canvas, we want to propose a toolbox for entrepreneurs to embrace sustainability as a core for their business model. *Study made by Akzente and TechFounders
The Sustainable Business Canvas Goal
The Sustainable Business Model enriches the original Business Model Canvas with 3 additional sections:

1. A list of UN sustainable goals

The main objective here is to let the business owner check the sustainable goals targeted by the business. For startups, it’s also a good way to reminde that your impact can be as important as your revenue stream.

2. Negative externalities

This block ask the business owner or startupper to imagine what would be the negative impact of its business.

For example: SaaS companies, by using Cloud computing power, use a lot of energy to provide its solutions. IT solutions also might have a negative impact on jobs.

An extra question is asked to see how business can compensate this.

Negative externalities can be seen as hidden opportunities that could generate new revenue.

3. Positive externalities

Positive externalities are important. It creates adhesion from customers, employees and shareholders. In a worl where people are the most valuable assets, positivie externalities can have a huge impact on keeping this asset onboard.

The Sustainable Development Goals

are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. This section let the business owner check the goals his/her business addresses

Example: when you develop energy efficiency product, you might have a positive impact on the CO2 emissions.

Value proposition

defines what you want to bring to your customers and what make this proposition unique. Sustainability can be one of the most important aspect of your business model. This is also the key driver for positive externalities.

Example: when you energy efficiency product, you might have a positive impact on the CO2 emissions.

Value propositions

What value do we deliver to the customer?

Which one of our customer’s problem are we helping to solve? What bundles of products and services are we offering to each customer segment? Which customer needs are we satisfying?

  • Characteristics
  • Newness
  • Performance
  • Sustainability
  • Customization
  • “Getting the job done”
  • Design
  • Brand/Status
  • Price
  • Cost reduction
  • Risk reduction
  • Accessibility
  • UX

Key Partners

are crucial for successful business model. They can help you to get faster on market or complement your value proposition. Key Partners can also help you compensate your negative externalities.

Key Partners

Who are our Key partners?

Who are our key suppliers?

Who can help in negative externalities?

Which key resources are we acquiring from partners?

Which key activities do partners perform?

  • Motivation for partnerships
  • Optimization & economy
  • Lower risk and uncertainty
  • Acquisition of particular resources and activities

Key Activities

lists all the activities you will undertake to build your value proposition, customer service, create your channels, etc. You need to think what negative externalities your activities may cause.

Key Activities

What key activities do our value propositions require?

Our distribution channels?

Customer relationships?

Revenue streams?

Externalities management?

  • Categories
  • Production
  • Problem solving
  • Platform/Network

Key Resources

lists all the resources you need for your key activities and business (skills, employees, natural resources, etc.). You might take into account sustainability in the resources you need.

Key Resources

What Key Resources do our Value Propositions require?

Our Distribution Channels? Customer Relationships?

Revenue Streams?

  • Types of resources>
  • Physical
  • Intellectual property
  • Human
  • Financial

Customer relationships

define the type of relation you want to build with the customers. Do you want to build tailor made services or self-service approach? Channels represent all the ways you will use to get in touch with your customers in all the phases of your business cycles.

Customer relationships

What type of relationship does each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them?

Which ones have we established?

How are they integrated with the rest of our business model?

How costly are they?

  • Example>
  • Personal assistance
  • Dedicated support
  • Self-service
  • Automated services
  • Communities
  • Co-creation


represent all the ways you will use to get in touch with your customers in all the phases of your business cycles.


Through which channels do our Customer Segments want to be reached?

How are we reaching them now?

How are our channels integrated?

Which ones work best?

Which ones are most cost-efficient?

How are we integrating them with customer routines?

  • Channel phases>
  • 1. Awareness: how do we raise awareness about our company’s products / services?
  • 2. Evaluation: how do we help customers evaluate our organization’s value proposition?
  • 3. Purchase: how do we allow customers to purchase specific products & services?
  • 4. Delivery: how do we deliver a value proposition to customers?
  • 5. After sales: how do we provide post-purchase customer supports?
  • Bonus: how do you evaluate the sustainability in each of the phase?

Customer segments

define the type of customer you want to address. Are you in B2C business or B2B? Which type of businesses and customers?

Customer segments

For whom are we creating value?

Who are our most important customers?

  • Mass market
  • Niche market
  • Segmented
  • Diversified
  • Local

Cost structure

defines the different costs your business will need to support your key activities & resources as well as all the delivering of your value proposition. Sustainability can represent also a cost for example to create carbon footprint reports.

Cost structure

What are the most important costs inherent in our business model?

Which Key Resources are most expensive?

Which Key Activities are most expensive?

  • Is your business more: cost driven or value driven?
  • Sample characteristics
  • Fixed costs (salaries, rents, utilities)
  • Variable costs
  • Economies of scale
  • Economies of scope

Revenue streams

are all the way you have a generate revenue from your value proposition. Don’t forget, revenue streams need to generate more than the cost you will have.

Revenue streams

For what value are our customers really willing to pay?

For what do they currently pay?

How are they currently paying?

How would they prefer to pay?

How much does each Revenue Stream contribute to overall revenues?

  • Types>
  • Asset sale
  • Usage fee
  • Subscription fees
  • Lending/Renting/Leasing
  • Licensing
  • Brokerages fees
  • Advertising

Negative externalities

occur when delivering your value proposition (product or service) causes a harmful effect to a third party. Many businesses have negative externalities. Listing them offers a unique opportunity to better position your business and unleash new business opportunities.

Negative externalities

How does your Value Proposition impact negatively your environment?

Your Partners?

Your Ressources?

Your Channel?

  • Types>
  • Social
  • Environmental
  • Economy

Positive externalities

are all the positive aspects of your business. Which third parties will benefit from your business. Example: when you energy efficiency product, you might have a positive impact on the CO2 emissions.

Positive externalities

How your Value Propositions will positively impact your environment?

In what manner your Value Proposition target one or multiple UN sustainable goals?

  • Example
  • Decrease CO2 emissions
  • Improve water quality
  • Lower pollutions
  • Improve global health
  • ...

A brief piece of history

Loïc Bar is the CEO of Opinum, a software company active in Energy & Environmental sector. A few years ago, Loïc was asked to think about a new version of the Business Model Canvas. The Sustainable Business Canvas (SBC) is a toolbox to help entrepreneurs to build resilient business models by taking into account externalities businesses have on the society. The SBC is a free initiative. Loïc Bar shares exclusive content (video & blog posts) on his Patreon profile. You can pledge to support him and get access to all the content around the Sustainable Business Canvas.
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Loic Bar