Where sustainability and innovation meet profitability

The title of this blog could also have been “What can we learn form family farming in the South East of Spain?” as this blog is based on a recent study that came online last week by Piedra-Muñoz et al. (2016). This study shows that in the case of family farming in the South East of Spain there is no inherent contradiction between improving profit and improving sustainability, but rather the exact opposite. In fact “local socio-economic and environmental-innovative components of sustainability are drivers of profitability”.

For me the findings are interesting where they show a positive relation between sustainability, innovation and profitability. Especially where the study shows:

  • The importance of education;
  • Younger decision-makers are more aware of the profitability-sustainability link;
  • The more decision-makers there are, the more complicated it will be to make decisions on investing in improvements to increase profitability.

Ronda, Spain
Although the study of Piedra-Muñoz et al. (2016) is focussed specifically on family farming in the South East of Spain and the study has its limitations, the findings can help us to be more successful in sustainability-oriented innovations that are profitable.

When it comes to education it is interesting to ask ourself the question: Do we educate ourself enough about sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship? Education in this respect is not only about learning but also about unlearning of old fashioned unsustainable ideas and habits. In the case of the Spanish family farmers young decision makers were more aware of the profitability-sustainability link. Perhaps they are more educated and are less troubled with traditional business views besides the fact that they have a longer life expectancy and a longer time ahead of them to be earning income.

Traditional business views can prevail also when there are too many decision makers, because sustainability has a very broad range of social and environmental issues that can easily lead to indecisiveness. When it comes to entrepreneurship, it is primarily about chossing direction and solving problems. When there are too many decision makers it often creates too many views and possible directions.

So if we want to be more successful in sustainability-oriented innovations that are profitable, we must choose a direction, solve the problems that are in the way and (un)learn permanently. For me personally I have created a clear direction with these Strategy Blogs, but also in my daily work I have created more focus on sustainabilty and innovation to #sustainnovate.

Have a great day!

Norbert Bol


Piedra-Muñoz, L., Galdeano-Gómez, E., & Pérez-Mesa, J. C. (2016). Is Sustainability Compatible with Profitability? An Empirical Analysis on Family Farming Activity. Sustainability, 8(9), 893.

Photo creditCalda estate/Hot summer, Alhendín (Granada), Spain by Giacomo Costagli

Photo credit: Ronda, Spain by Hazel Owen

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