Shared value creation and sustainable development

developing a causal model by analyzing energy cooperatives in different institutional contexts

  • Ireen GERRITS University of Groningen
  • Bartjan PENNINK University of Groningen
Keywords: Creating Shared Value (CSV), New Business Models (NBMs), Causal model, Energy cooperatives


Aim: A theoretical understanding of the process, causal linkages, and dynamics of creating shared value (CSV) is largely missing in the field of shared value creation and sustainable development. Hence, this research is explorative by nature and aims to contribute to theory building in this field. First, we collect empirical data and analyze it, to better understand how the shared value creation process in energy cooperatives works. Second, we present a first causal model of the dynamics and relationships between values, actors and cooperation, which needs to be further tested and refined.

Design: First, we collect empirical data and analyze it, to better understand how the shared value creation process in energy cooperatives works. Second, we present a first causal model of the dynamics and relationships between values, actors and cooperation, which needs to be further tested and refined. This research was executed by conducting eight case studies in Belgium and Dutch energy cooperatives. Stemming from different countries, they are all moving towards new business models and provide insights about different institutional contexts.

Findings: The findings show how a variety of values, more actors, and increased cooperation lead to (more) shared value creation. However, these relations are moderated by members’ differing needs, the involvement of the members, and characteristics of the organizational context. Additionally, new influential variables are discovered: professionalization and institutional context.

Limitations: More (experimental) research is needed to exclude alternative causal explanations, as well as and to test and refine the model.

Implications: This study provides a direction for testing the causal linkages found with other research designs and methods or in other organizational contexts. Additionally, the causal model could give practitioners and researchers insights into which variables to manipulate to get more or less shared value.

Contributions: This study uniquely contributes to the knowledge of the concept of shared value creation to ultimately reach sustainable development by combining detailed insights into the value creation process with a comprehensive ready-to-test causal model.

JEL: B55, L10, M21


Amenta E., Ramsey K.M. (2010), Institutional theory. Handbook of politics, Springer, New York.

Austin J.E., Seitandi M.M. (2012), Collaborative Value Creation. A review of partnering between nonprofits and businesses. Part I: Value creation spectrum and collaboration stages, “Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly”, vol. 41 no. 5, pp. 726–758.

Ayub N., Jehn K. (2014), When diversity helps performance. Effects of diversity on conflict and performance in workgroups, “International Journal of Conflict Management”, vol. 25 no. 2, pp. 189–212.

Birkinshaw J., Brannen M.Y., Tung R.L. (2011), From a distance and generalizable to up close and grounded: Reclaiming a place for qualitative methods in international business research, “Journal of International Business Studies”, vol. 42 no. 5, pp. 573–581.

Bishoge O.K., Zhang L., Mushi W.G. (2018), The potential renewable energy for sustainable development in Tanzania: a review, “Journal of Clean Technology”, vol. 1 no. 6, pp. 70–88.

Brewer J., Hunter A. (1989), Foundations of multimethod research: a synthesis of styles, Sage, London – Thousand Oaks.

Brundtland G.H. (1987), Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our common future, United Nations, [10.05.2020].

Charmaz K. (2006), Constructing grounded theory. A practical guide through qualitative analysis, Sage, London – Thousand Oaks.

Charmaz K. (2014), Constructing grounded theory, Sage, London – Thousand Oaks.

Corbin J., Strauss A. (1990), Grounded theory research. Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria, “Qualitative Sociology”, vol. 13 no. 1.

Crane A., Palazzo G., Spence J.L., Matten D. (2014), Contesting the value of ‘Creating Shared Value’, University of California, Berkely, 56 (2).

Doz Y. (2011), Qualitative research for international business, “Journal of International Business Studies”, vol. 42 no. 5, pp. 582–590.

Eisenhardt K.M. (1989), Building theories from case study research, “The Academy of Management Review”, vol. 14 no. 4, pp. 532–550.

Eisenhardt K.M. (1991), Better stories and better constructs. The case for rigor and comparative logic, “The Academy of Management Review”, vol. 16 no. 3, pp. 620–627.

Eisenhardt K.M., Graebner M.E. (2007), Theory building from cases. Opportunities and challenges, “Academy of Management Journal”, vol. 50 no. 1, pp. 25–32.

Esteves A.M., Vanclay F. (2009), Social development needs analysis as a tool for SIA to guide corporate-community investment. Applications in the minerals industry, “Environmental Impact Assessment Review”, vol. 29 no. 2, pp. 137–145.

European Commission. (2011) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Report European Commission, Brussels.

Eversole R. (2010), Remaking participation: challenges for community development practice, “Community Development Journal”, vol. 47 no. 1, pp. 29–41.

Finke B. (2007), Civil society participation in EU governance, “Living Reviews in European Governance”, vol. 7 no. 2, pp. 5–42.

Franklin C., Ballan M. (2001), Reliability and validity in qualitative research, in: The handbook of social work research methods, Thyer B. (ed.), Sage, London – Thousand Oaks, pp. 273–292.

Fung A. (2015), Putting the public back into governance. The challenges of citizen participation and its future, “Public Administration Review”, vol. 75 no. 4, pp. 513–522.

Gertler M. (2001), Rural co-operatives and sustainable development, Paper for the X World Congress of Rural Sociology.

Gertler M. (2004), Synergy and strategic advantage. Cooperatives and sustainable development, “Journal of Cooperatives”, vol. 18 no. 3, pp. 33–46.

Gerrits I. (2021), From process description of shared value creation to taking the first steps in developing a causal model by means of analyzing energy cooperatives. A comparative study between the Netherlands and Belgium, Master thesis, master IB&M, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen.

Gerrits I., Pennink B.J.W. (2021), Shared Value Creation and sustainable development. From insights into the process to developing a causal model. Analyzing energy cooperatives in different institutional contexts, paper presented at the NBM Conference, June 2021, Sweden.

Gill P., Stewart K., Treasure E., Chadwick B. (2008), Methods of data collection in qualitative research: interviews and focus groups, “British Dental Journal”, vol. 204 no. 6, pp. 291–295.

Golafshani N. (2003), Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research, “The Qualitative Report”, vol. 8 no. 4, pp. 597–607.

Gustafsson J. (2017), Single case studies vs. multiple case studies: a comparative study, FULLTEXT01.pdf [01.05.2020].

Harrison J.S., Freeman R.E. (2004), Is organizational democracy worth the effort?, “The Academy of Management Executive”, vol. 18 no. 3, pp. 49–53.

Harvey-Jordan S., Long S. (2001), The process and the pitfalls of semi-structured interviews, “Community Practitioner”, vol. 74 no. 6, pp. 219–221.

Huijstee M.M., Francken M., Leroy P. (2007), Partnerships for sustainable development: a review of current literature, “Environmental Sciences”, vol. 4 no. 2, pp. 75–89.

Hentschel M., Ketter W., Collins J. (2018), Renewable energy cooperatives. Facilitating the energy transition at the Port of Rotterdam, “Energy Policy”, vol. 121 no. C, pp. 61–69.

Heslin P.A., Ochoa J.D. (2008), Understanding and developing strategic corporate social responsibility, “Organizational Dynamics”, vol. 37 no. 2, pp. 125–144.

HIERopgewekt (2018), Lokale energie monitor 2018, [06.05.2020].

Husted B.W., Allen D.B. (2007), Strategic corporate social responsibility and value creation among large firms, “Long Range Planning”, vol. 40 no. 6, pp. 594–610.

International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) (1995), Cooperative identity, values & principles, [10.04.2020].

International Labour Organization (ILO), International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) (2014), Cooperatives and the sustainable development goals. A contribution to the post-2015 development debate, [02.04.2020].

Johnson R.B. (1997), Examining the validity structure of qualitative research, “Education”, vol. 118 no. 2, pp. 284–292.

Rotmans J., Horsten H. (2012), In het oog van de orkaan. Nederland in transitie, Aeneas Media, Boxtel.

Johnson H.L. (1971), Business in contemporary society: framework and issues, Wadsworth, Belmond CA.

Jonker J., Pennink B.W. (2010), The essence of research methodology, Springer, Berlin – Heidelberg.

Jonker J. (2012), New Business Models. An exploratory study of changing transactions and creating multiple value(s), working paper from Nijmegen School of Management and Radboud University Nijmegen.

Jonker J. (ed.) (2015), Nieuwe Business Modellen. Same Werken aan Waardecreatie, Drukkerij Wilco, Amersfoort.

Jonker J., Stegeman H., Faber N. (2017), THE circular economy. Developments, concepts, and research in search for corresponding business models, working paper from Nijmegen School of Management and Radboud University Nijmegen.

Jonker J., Kothman I., Faber N., Montenegro Navarro N. (2018), Circulair organiseren: werkboek voor het ontwikkelen van een Circulair Businessmodel, [12.10.2020].

Jonker J. (2018), New business models: sustainable, circular, inclusive, oration at University of Brussels.

Koster M. (2014), Bridging the cap in the Dutch participation society. New spaces of governance, brokers, and informal politics, “Etnofoor”, vol. 26 no. 2: “Participation”, pp. 49–64.

Kotler P., Lee N. (2005), Best of breed. When it comes to gaining a market edge while supporting social cause, “corporate social marketing” leads the pack. “Social Marketing Quarterly”, vol. 11 no. 3–4, pp. 91–103.

Klijn E.H., Teisman G.R. (2010), Governing public-private partnerships. Theory and practice in international perspective, Routledge, New York.

Langley A. (1999), Strategies for theorizing from process data, “The Academy of Management Review”, vol. 24 no. 4, pp. 691–710.

Mason J. (2002), Researching your own practice. The discipline of noticing, Routledge Falmer, London – New York.

Mathison S. (1988), Why triangulate?, “Educational Researcher”, vol. 17 no. 2, pp. 13–17.

Miles M.B., Huberman A.M. (1984), Drawing valid meaning from qualitative data. Toward a shared craft, “Educational Researcher”, vol. 13 no. 5, pp. 20–30.

Misztal B.A. (1996), Trust in modern societies. The search for the bases of social order, Polity Press, Cambridge.

North D.C. (1990), Institutions, institutional change and economic performance, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Patton M. (2002), Two decades of development in qualitative inquiry, “Qualitative Social Work”, vol. 1 no. 3, pp. 261–283.

Peng M.W. (2003), Institutional transitions and strategic choices, “Academy of Management Review”, vol. 28 no. 2, pp. 275–296.

Pennink B.J.W. (2014), Dimensions of local economic development. Towards a multi-level, multi-actor model, “Journal of Business and Economics”, vol. 5 no. 1, pp. 249–256.

Pennink B.J.W. (2016), Local economic development and new business models. How to combine (new) actors and (new) values, abstract from the NBM conference in Toulouse, June 2016.

Pondy L.R. (1967), Organizational conflict: concepts and models, “Administrative Science Quarterly”, vol. 12 no. 2, pp. 296–320.

Porter M.E., Kramer M.R. (2006), Strategy & society. The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility, “Harvard Business Review”, vol. 84 no. 12, pp. 78–92.

Porter M.E., Kramer M.R. (2011), Creating shared value, “Harvard Business Review”, vol. 89 no. 1/2, pp. 62–77.

REScoop Vlaanderen (2021), Wat als we de energiemarkt nu eens radicaal vernieuwen?, [25.12.2020].

Runyan W.M. (1982), In defense of the case study method, “American Journal of Orthopsychiatry”, vol. 52 no. 2, pp. 440–446.

Saldaña J. (2013), The coding manual for qualitative researchers, Sage, London – Thousand Oaks.

Scherer A.G., Palazzo G. (2007), Toward a political conception of corporate responsibility. Business and society seen from a Habermasian perspective, “The Academy of Management Review”, vol. 32 no. 4, pp. 1096–1120.

Sedlacek S., Gaube V. (2010), Regions on their way to sustainability. The role of institutions in fostering sustainable development at the regional level, “Environmental Development Sustainability”, vol. 12 no. 1, pp. 117–134.

Selsky J.W., Parker B. (2005), Cross-sector partnerships to address social issues. Challenges to theory and practice, “Journal of Management”, vol. 31 no. 6, pp. 849–873.

Sinkovics R.R., Penz E., Ghauri P. (2008), Enhancing the trustworthiness of qualitative research in international business, “Management International Review”, vol. 48 no. 6, pp. 689–713.

Spencer J., Gomez C. (2011), MNEs and corruption. The impact of national institutions and subsidiary strategy, “Strategic Management Journal”, vol. 32 no. 3, pp. 280–300.

Stoecker R. (1991), Evaluating and rethinking the case study, “The Sociological Review”, vol. 39 no. 1, pp. 88–112.

Tabellini G. (2008), The scope of cooperation. Values and incentives, “The Quarterly Journal of Economics”, vol. 123 no. 3, pp. 905–950.

Tuomela R. (2006), Joint intention. We-mode and I-mode, “Midwest Studies in Philosophy”, vol. 30 no. 5, pp. 35–58.

UN General Assembly. (1972) United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Available from: [30.10.2020].

United Nations (UN) (2002), Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August – 4 September 2002, [30.10.2020].

United Nations (UN) (2015), Transforming Our World. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, [15.05.2020].

United Nations (UN) (2014), The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet, [17.10.2020].

United Nations (UN) (2018), Maximizing the impact of partnerships for the SDGs. A practical guide to partnership value creation. Working version for consultation.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (1997), Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, [20.10.2020].

United Nations (UN), Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) (2016), Report of the Conference of the Parties on its twenty-first session, held in Paris from 30 November to 13 December 2015, [16.05.2020].

Huijstee M.M., Francken M., Leroy P. (2008), Partnerships for sustainable development. A review of current literature, “Environmental Sciences”, vol. 4 no. 2, pp. 75–89.

Von Liel B. (2016), Wirtschaftsethik in der globalisierten Welt, Springer Nature, New York.

Wieland J. (2017), Creating Shared Value. Concepts, experience, criticism, Springer International Publishing AG, New York.

Yildiz Ö., Rommel J., Debor S., Holstenkamp L., Mey F., Müller J.R., Radtke J., Rognli J. (2015), Renewable energy cooperatives as gatekeepers or facilitators? Recent developments in Germany and a multidisciplinary research agenda, “Energy Research & Social Science”, vol. 6, pp. 59–73.

Yin R.K. (2011), Qualitative research from start to finish, The Guilford Press, New York.

Yin R.K. (2013), Validity and generalization in future case study evaluations, “Evaluation”, vol. 19 no. 3, pp. 321–332.

Zeuli K., Radel J. (2005), Cooperatives as a community development strategy. Linking theory and practice, “The Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy”, vol. 35 no. 1, pp. 43–54.