Study explores barriers of sustainable entrepreneurship in protected areas

10 June 2022 - Published by Annika Bostelmann
Sustainable entrepreneurship is often mentioned as the necessary driver towards change in times of the climate crisis. However, there are significant barriers that sustainable entrepreneurs face in their endeavors to contribute to social, economic or environmental challenges as part of their business models.

The recently released online publication “Sustainable entrepreneurship and legitimacy building in protected areas: Overcoming distinctive barriers through activism” investigates the barriers that local sustainable entrepreneurs need to overcome in the North Sea region. Special to this area are the UNESCO World Heritage sites, where certain specific regulations and conditions are in place for entrepreneurs to conform to.

As the authors, Hellen Lillian Atieno Dawo, Tom B. Long and Gjalt de Jong, argue, sustainable entrepreneurs in the Wadden Sea protected area need to build trust and legitimacy among local communities, businesses and stakeholders in order to perform their business activities. These are often different from traditional, already existing businesses. Thus, some sustainable entrepreneurs face negative attitudes towards their way of working from locals.

The publication highlights different responses by sustainable businesses to gain legitimacy, such as telling their stories and missions in the news to explain the urgency of their way of running a business for the environment.

“Through legitimacy building, sustainable entrepreneurs are able to create understanding within the locality for their decisions that are at times contrary to existing social and institutional norms. In these semi-remote and fragile contexts, ‘sustainability’ alone was not enough justification to operate differently. Sustainable entrepreneurs had to explain their intentions and be consistent in their behaviour in order to be even accepted by neighbours at their location” (Dawo, Long & De Jong 2022, pp. 19-20).

For the study, the researchers interviewed 22 sustainable enterprises from the entire Trilateral Wadden Sea World Heritage region. The paper was produced by the University of Groningen - Campus Fryslân and funded through the Interreg VB project PROWAD LINK.