Innovations are needed in order to develop new products and services and renew ways of operating. We believe that Innovating is an activity that ideally brings about sustainable innovations, i.e. innovations which promote a good life and wellbeing. Such innovating views wellbeing also from environmental and social perspectives, and not merely from an economic one.

Authors: Kati Peltonen, Taina Vuorela, Anna Pajari & Heidi Myyryläinen

Some key issues

The economy of wellbeing depicts an economy where economic activity and growth are pursued in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for sustainable development (United Nations 2015; Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2019). This approach highlights the idea of sustainable growth that can be achieved through measures which benefit people’s wellbeing and does not happen at their expense, nor of that of the environment (ibid); this is based on a viewpoint that wellbeing and economic growth reinforce each other and profit society as a whole. Thus, discourses on sustainable growth are associated with the discussions on the development of social sustainability, which covers a broad spectrum of topics from tangible matters, such as housing problems and issues of water and food shortage, to more intangible issues like unemployment and societal inequality (Vallance et al. 2011).

Responding to such wicked problems challenges the traditional view of entrepreneurship. The notion of sustainable entrepreneurship has been launched when discussing how entrepreneurial activities and new innovations could contribute to sustainable development (Lubberink 2019; Schaltegger & Wagner 2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship pursues a triple approach of economic, social and ecological goals through business activities (Belz & Binder 2015); the scholars have developed a convergent process model with two pathways and made thus theoretical contributions to the emerging fields of sustainable entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. Their model includes phases such as a/ recognizing a social or ecological problem and related opportunity; b/ developing a double or triple bottom line solution; c/ funding and forming a sustainable enterprise and creating or entering a sustainable market (ibid). They claim that the triple bottom line of ecological, social and economic goals is integrated sequentially, not simultaneously (ibid), which helps to make the task less daunting for innovators.

Social Enterprises play an important role in sustainable innovation

Sustainable development challenges all businesses to take part in the mission of solving local – or worldwide economic, social and environmental challenges. Social enterprises play a crucial role in such innovation, as this is their core activity. In social enterprises, a particular social or environmental mission is the reason for economic activities. Social enterprises strive to solve social or environmental challenges through their business activities and such companies can operate within any field, just like traditional companies (Koskela et al. 2015). Additionally, their aim is to produce social ‘good’ for the environment or communities within which they operate (ibid).

Social enterprises are naturally at the core sustainable innovation, because their main aim is social impact. From a value creation perspective, orientation to people can be a significant competitive advantage, as well. People-orientation of social enterprises means treating customers first and foremost as human beings (see Koskela et al. 2015). People-orientation in social enterprises can also refer to democratic or participatory governance models (ibid).

Economics of wellbeing explores the economic factors that contribute to the development of economics with human wellbeing at the centre (Pouw & McGregor 2014). The idea is to build economic models that bring researchers closer to people’s realities (ibid). Future entrepreneurs and business employees need to learn up-to-date methods and tools for sustainable innovation via approaches and tools, such as future foresight, co-creation and experimenting (see Koskela et al. 2015).

LAB University of Applied Sciences furthers the economy of wellbeing by developing sustainable innovation know-how through curriculum development in Higher Education

Central Baltic project Innovating Social Enterprise Education (iSEE) and Erasmus+ -project Developing social entrepreneurial skills in higher education (SEinHE) are instrumental for developing sustainable innovating through social entrepreneurship education at the LAB University of Applied Sciences. The objective of the iSEE project is to innovate aligned professional, higher education in social entrepreneurship in Degree Programmes in four Central Baltic area countries, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. The objective of the SEinHE project is to raise awareness about social entrepreneurship by developing training methodologies and training programs with partners from Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Cypros and Belgium. LAB has also recently received funding by EDUFI and the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme for the RISE Project where the aim is to extend the sustainable entrepreneurship education activities to India, namely, four Indian Higher Education Institutes: Arch College of Design and Business; École Intuit Lab; Lappeenranta University of Technology; Goa Institute of Management; Indian School of Development Management, through collaboration with Thomas More University of Applied Sciences and Århus University.


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Kati Peltonen works as RDI Director (Health) at LAB University of Applied Sciences and directs the RISE project.

Taina Vuorela works as Senior Lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences and expert in RISE and SEinHE projects.

Anna Pajari works as Senior Lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences and expert in RISE, ISEE and SEinHE projects.

Heidi Myyryläinen works as RDI Specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and project manager in ISEE and SEinHE projects.

Illustration: (CC0)

Published 7.12.2020

Reference to this article

Peltonen, K., Vuorela, T., Pajari, A. & Myyryläinen, H. 2020. Ethics are a Key Element of Innovation in Sustainable and Social Entrepreneurship. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: