Diffusion Dynamics of Sustainable Innovation - Insights on Diffusion Patterns Based on the Analysis of 100 Sustainable Product and Service Innovations

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Klaus Fichter
Jens Clausen


There is a growing consensus about the urgent necessity to green the economy and to decouple economic growth from environmental pressure. Against this background, the article explores three questions: (1) What are key factors influencing diffusion dynamics of sustainable product and service innovations? (2) To what extent do diffusion processes of sustainable product and service innovations differ from each other, and can different groups of diffusion processes be identified? (3) Which factors, actors, and institutional settings are characteristic of different groups of diffusion processes?
While diffusion research on sustainable innovation so far has been limited to case studies with just one or a small number of cases or has been focused on individual sectors, the empirical data presented here cover a large number of cases from a broad variety of product fields. This allows for generalizations as well as relevant insights and conclusions for sustainability, environmental and innovation policies.
The empirical investigation of 100 sustainable product and service innovations revealed that diffusion processes of sustainable innovations differ substantially: The cluster analysis showed that five groups of sustainable innovations can be differentiated which differ significantly in terms of the factors influencing the diffusion process. The empirical results thus both support the assumption that different types of diffusion paths do in fact exist and also permit characterization of the various types of diffusion paths. The evolutionary concept of diffusion paths develops significant explanatory power on the basis of which faster or slower cases of diffusion and the success or failure of sustainable innovations can be better understood.

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Author Biographies

Klaus Fichter, University of Oldenburg Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law Innovation Management and Sustainability

Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law
Professor for Innovation Management and Sustainability

Jens Clausen, Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability Clayallee 323 D-14169 Berlin Germany

Senior Researcher