Emerging Technologies: A Catalyst for Sustainable Business Model Innovation


  • Davide Moiana Politecnico di Milano
  • Jacopo Manotti
  • Antonio Ghezzi
  • Andrea Rangone




business model innovation, blockchain, tokens, DAO, global challenges, emerging technologies


Grand Challenges are global problems requiring coordinated effort from stakeholders at different levels. For-profit businesses, as loci of innovation, can play a pivotal role in advancing Grand Challenges by fostering social impact collaboration. Business Model Innovation is a useful mean to combine the possibilities offered by emerging technologies with the needs of sustainable challenges. Blockchain is widely recognized as an emerging technology, rapidly growing, highly novel and with a prominent impact on different sectors. We adopt a Comparative Case Study in the field of the Voluntary Carbon Market, unregulated markets where organizations can offset their impact by compensating their negative externalities on the environment by buying carbon credits generated through certified mitigation projects following international standards. As climate change is a main Grand Challenges and a threat to humanity, as recognized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this research aims to explore the role of blockchain as a catalyst for Sustainable Business Model Innovation. This study makes two significant contributions to the field of business model innovation, emerging technologies and Grand Challenges. First, it highlights the importance of Business Model Innovation to address Grand Challenges and overcome their managerial problems, including valuating, coordination, trust, access and reach. Our study presents a novel conceptual model anchored in the Business Model as an activity system view, revealing three actionable characteristics of blockchain that can help to design novel activities configurations able to advance managerial problems encountered by for-profit organizations while advancing effort towards Grand Challenges: asset enabler, trust machine and coordinated and collaborative action enhancer. Second, from a technology-oriented perspective, it offers insights into how an emerging technology can be leveraged to foster complementarity by converging with existing assets and technologies, thereby generating new value. For practice, our findings provide a framework for both startups and established companies to leverage blockchain technologies to create meaningful and lasting impact.