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Rethinking sociotechnical transitions and green entrepreneurship : the potential for transformative change in the green building sector

O'Neill, Kirstie; Gibbs, David


Kirstie O'Neill


This paper explores the development of green entrepreneurship and its potential role in transformative change towards a green economy. It achieves this through a study of the green building sector in England and Wales, based on qualitative empirical data from fifty-five semistructured interviews with businesses in the green building sector and with support organisations, including banks, financial sources, and business advice and support. The paper both critiques and synthesises two bodies of literature-entrepreneurial research and sociotechnical transitions theories, specifically the multilevel perspective (MLP)-to better understand the role of green entrepreneurs in facilitating a shift towards a green economy. This analysis embeds green entrepreneurs in a wider system of actors, rather than reifying the lone entrepreneurial hero, in order to explore how green entrepreneurs facilitate sustainability transitions. The paper challenges the notion that green entrepreneurs are an unproblematic category. We discovered that individuals move between 'green' and 'conventional' business, evolving over time, such that this is a fluid and blurred, rather than static, state. Moreover, while the green economy and the green building sector are often referred to as coherent sectors, with agreed and consistent practices, our evidence suggests that they are far from agreed, that business models vary, and that there are significant contradictions within so-called green building practices. The paper contributes to the development of sociotechnical transitions theory and suggests that the MLP needs to incorporate complexity and multiplicity within niches, that niches may be inherently co nflictual rather than consensual, and that the concept of 'protection' for niches is problematic. © 2014 Pion and its Licensors.


O'Neill, K., & Gibbs, D. (2014). Rethinking sociotechnical transitions and green entrepreneurship : the potential for transformative change in the green building sector. Environment & planning. A, 46(5), 1088-1107.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 22, 2013
Publication Date 2014-05
Deposit Date Sep 1, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Environment and planning A
Print ISSN 0308-518X
Electronic ISSN 1472-3409
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 5
Pages 1088-1107
Keywords Green economy, Green entrepreneurs, Green buildings, Sociotechnical transitions, Sustainability
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article. Gibbs D, O’Neill K, 2014. The definitive, peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Environment and Planning A, 46(5) 1088 – 1107, 2014, 10.1068/a46259.


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