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The positive financial and sustainability business case (Pos-FSBC)

A tool for small businesses to calculate the financial value and impact assessment of a BMI

Published onJun 20, 2023
The positive financial and sustainability business case (Pos-FSBC)
Albert Kraaij*, Agnes Evangelista, Kim Poldner
The Hague University of Applied Sciences; International Centre for Frugal Innovation
*[email protected]


This paper seeks to contribute to sustainable business model innovation (SBMI) literature. It aims to do so by putting forward a relatively simple tool that simultaneously calculates the financial value alongside sustainability impact based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of a proposed business model innovation. For small businesses to validate the outcome of a proposed SBMI, some form of sustainability measurement will be necessary. Simple tooling specifically aimed at small businesses do not exist. We address this gap in how to predict or create a prognosis of the combined financial and sustainability effect of a proposed business model (BM) in a frugal (easy, time and knowledge effective) and effectual (allowing for iterations, available means and calculating affordable loss) manner. The tool is called the Pos-FSBC (Positive Financial and Sustainability Business Case). The instrument is a calculation model in Excel where users insert a limited number of numerical variables. Alongside financial variables the tool uniquely links the key variable ∆ SDG to the expected quantity sold, it then calculates the contribution to the SDGs in a relevant and measurable unit. By being successful with a sustainable innovation, the tool helps businesses drive out non-sustainable competitors. The tool has been iteratively developed and tested in several students’ projects and in a pilot with practitioners. Based on the findings we propose more iterations to develop an understanding whether the tool inspires business change and if so how.


Sustainability Impact assessment, Business Model Innovation, Innovation Tools, Frugal Innovation, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Small businesses create value for customers, their owners and stakeholders but their decisions also have impact on society. Thus, predicting the impact of entrepreneurial ventures is central to management and entrepreneurship research (Fichter et al., 2022). Sustainability impact can be understood as the effects of entrepreneurial activity on key sustainability challenges defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)(United Nations, 2015). However, the role of small businesses often remains unnoticed (Laurinkevičiūtė & Stasiškienė, 2021). Some small businesses may have a strong commitment to sustainability and actively seek out ways to reduce their environmental impact and promote social responsibility. However, Iqbal & Ahmad (2021) highlight that for small businesses, creating sustainable value is most often not their primary priority. Continuation and financial survival, especially in times of crisis, are key for small businesses (Pisoni et al., 2018).

Therefore, when considering implementing a sustainable business model innovation (SBMI), the emphasis is usually on the projected financial benefits. As Weissbrod & Bocken (2017) emphasise business model innovation in small businesses only emerges when “clear economic benefits” are present. It is often not clear to small businesses how or if they can “create financial value through sustainability” and as such SBMI is predominantly not taken into consideration (Bocken & Geradts, 2020). Further, small businesses themselves often have inadequate knowledge about their environmental and societal impacts. Communicating these impacts to future customers is considered important but difficult (Laurinkevičiūtė & Stasiškienė, 2021). The well-known framework of SDGs is fitting for communicating these impacts.

Not taking positive environmental, social or economic values into consideration leads to suboptimal decisions (Polasky & Binder, 2012). A comprehensive evaluation that considers all relevant factors, including environmental, social and economic values, is therefore crucial for making optimal decisions. This helps to ensure that the potential benefits and impacts of a decision are understood and that unintended consequences are minimized. Ergo, the question emerges how the decisions of small businesses can be influenced to place more value on environmental, social and economic impact? To answer this question, financial value creation and impact creation, in relation to the decision-making process of small businesses, must be understood to be able to create a tailor-made solution that will fit the needs of the target group. This is reiterated by a recent evaluation of small business sustainable decision making with authors highlighting “there is a lack of practical, valid and reliable tools to assess the social and environmental effects of business models” (Laukkanen & Tura, 2020). This study aims to contribute to the few tools that are currently available for small businesses or startups in impact assessment (Shields & Shelleman, 2017).

Theoretical Background

This section elaborates on key concepts for this study: value creation and impact assessment, effectuation and sustainable decision-making, as well as frugality. This is followed by a synthesis of these concepts, explanation of the research gap and the research question.

Value Creation and Impact Assessment

Business models are developed and managed to create value. The term value proposition is predominantly used to refer to the bundle of products and services offered to customers to satisfy their needs and to create value for them (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010). If this process is successful, then financial value is also created for the owners of the business (Freudenreich, Lüdeke-Freund & Schaltegger, 2020). The prognosis of this value for the owner can be called the financial business case (Freudenreich, 2020). A financial business case is a management tool connected to a business proposal (Messner, 2013). It provides financial “justification for undertaking a project, program or portfolio". This analytical tool is used for checking the benefits, costs and risks of a series of business scenarios until a preferred solution emerges (the business case) (Murray-Webster & Dalcher, 2019).

Literature on sustainability-oriented business models extends these concepts by highlighting the potential to create other types of value, such as ecological and social (Silvia & Truzzi, 2020).The underlying sustainable value or impact comes through offering a new successful sustainable product or service on the market, one that is more sustainable compared to a relevant industry standard or Base Case competitor. If successful, impact on a macro level is created for society and in the process adding to the SDGs.

The success of the sustainable product causes the failure of the non-sustainable product which triggers a value change for stakeholders but also has an impact on the system level. Albeit, negative consequences can also occur (Dembek et al., 2022). In its positive version, ‘sustainability impact’ refers to changes in social, technical, or natural systems that bring us closer to sustainable development (Dembek et al., 2022; Fichter et al., 2022). A proposed SBMI can create a change (a delta). The impact assessment of this delta can subsequently be called the “green business case” (Esfahbodi, et al., 2023), or as it is often referred to in sustainable literature the sustainable business case (Schaltegger et al., 2019). Thus, it is evident that to create a proper assessment of multiple values, sustainability and economic value need to be considered and measured as a balancing act at the decision-making level to render effective SBMs.

Many impact assessment approaches have been described in both literature and practice Das et al., 2021; Harris2021; Kravchenko2019; Moraga, et al., 2019; Sassanelli et al., 2019). Some approaches are focused on ex-post assessment, or ‘measuring after the event’, while others are specialised for ex-ante assessment, or ‘forecasting’ impact before the event (Das et al., 2021; Kravchenko et al., 2019; Pieroni et al., 2019. Fichter et al., (2022) states that sustainability impacts of incumbent ventures should require a future-oriented assessment that focuses on potentials, not actuals. Further, these approaches do not combine impact assessment with financial measurement which is considered important by small businesses

Research highlights the potential for SDGs to be utilized in communicating impact with stakeholders. This lens affords companies the opportunity to increase revenues by differentiating from their competition as well as improving the morale of employees. Furthermore, the attachment of SDGs facilitates a reciprocal bond between business and consumer (Soonsiripanichkul & Ngamcharoenmongkol, 2019).

Effectuation and Decision Making

Effectuation theory has major implications for how we conceptualize impact forecasting and assessment in small business contexts (Coffay et al., 2022). The theory suggests that under conditions of uncertainty, entrepreneurs in small businesses adopt a decision logic that is different to that explicated by a traditional, more causal model of entrepreneurship. Effectuation processes are those that “take a set of means as given and focus on selecting between possible effects that can be created with that set of means” (Coffay, et al., 2022). The opportunity creation perspective coheres with an effectuated view of entrepreneurial activity. Through engaging in effectuation processes, small businesses do not simply discover and subsequently exploit existing gaps in the market, but rather actively shape these innovative impact gaps (Coffay et al., 2022). Small businesses do not start with a set of sustainable targets, they instead discover possible positive impact along the way.

Effectuation further describes the distinct mindset of small businesses (Sarasvathy, 2001). One of its core principles, affordable loss, is defined as what entrepreneurs can afford and are willing to lose in entrepreneurial investments (Dew et al., 2009). Affordable loss is in line with the logic that effectual entrepreneurs seek to influence or cocreate the future instead of predicting it (Sarasvathy, 2003). This further aligns with stakeholder theory perspective. This dictates that business owners or managers are challenged to avoid or minimize trade-offs in value creation for different stakeholders such as customers and owners (Parmar, 2010). They must include the economic, environmental, and social dimensions in their decision making as part of their ventures’ strategic ambitions (Fischer et al., 2020). In this balancing-act there will always be a trade-off between financial forecasting and sustainability impact analysis to achieve an optimal outcome.


To be frugal means “requiring little expense or few resources” (Pisoni et al., 2018). The term ‘frugal innovation (FI)’ was first introduced in the context of emerging markets, giving non-affluent customers opportunities to consume affordable products and services suited to their needs (Weyrauch & Herstatt, 2017). Frugality can be explained as ‘doing more in less time and with less specific knowledge’ (Dash et al., 2015). The value rendered from FI started as inherently social as the goal was to give the poor access to products and services to empower them. However, the discourse on FI has been extended towards developed countries focusing on using less resources (Tiwari & Bergmann, 2018). Recently De Marchi et al., (2022) stated that current literature on FI has turned attention to sustainability yet paying very little attention to measuring the social, economic and environmental outcomes of such innovations.

FI can be considered as an outcome but also as a process or a mindset (Pisoni et al., 2018). Thus, working with a frugal mindset or applying the lens of frugality could mean using available resources to their full potential also in measuring impact. Small business owners have limited resources of time and knowledge. This paper applies the lens of frugality in developing a tool for this particular group. It should however be noted that the outcomes are based on assumptions that still needs some validation, usually based on the extensive experience of the small business owner.

Literature synthesis

A study from (Das et al., 2021) shows that most businesses do not forecast the future impacts of their sustainable or social business ideas before implementation. Further, small businesses give a lower priority to measuring impact than large corporates. In their strategic decision-making processes companies need some structured guidance – particularly since small business decision making is often based on intuitive judgements and decisions (Konietzko et al., 2020). Tooling that supports effectual and frugal logic (Coffay et al., 2022) in decision-making should support small businesses in four ways. Firstly, in an iterative process tooling must support the balancing act of the small businesses. Current environmental impact assessment tools are not ‘dynamic’; they lack adaptive, reactive, and predictive attributes needed for business models that are constantly changing (Das et al., 2022). Second, the tool should assist in using all existing resources or means to exploit market and sustainability gaps (existing means). Thirdly, it should, next to impact measurement, simultaneously quantify what the possible financial implications of the business decision are (‘Financial & Impact calculation integrated’). Finally, due to the lack of specific knowledge and resources (Lepoutre & Heene, 2006), small businesses that want to conduct impact assessments need an easy to use (simplicity assessment approach) (Hansen & Schaltegger, 2016; Shields & Shelleman, 2017; Das et al., 2022).

Based on the previously mentioned criteria an analysis of already existing impact assessment Tools is presented (based on (Das et al., 2022):

Note: Table 1 Adapted from How do companies measure and forecast environmental impacts when experimenting with circular business models?” Das et al., 2022, Sustainable Production and Consumption, 29, 273–285.

The conclusion from this analysis is that a gap exists. None of the tools meet all the criteria. Thus, the literature gap that this research tries to fill is to create a simple or frugal tool that helps small businesses in their decision-making process regarding future business activities. The lack of practical tooling is a reoccurring theme that emphasizes the gap in business models being able to assess environmental and social effects (Laukkanen & Tura, 2020).

The tool to be developed should consider the financial value for the owner of the small business simultaneously to the social, environmental and macro-economic impact of such activities. The proposed tool is an integrated financial and sustainable business case calculation. Cordova & Celone (2019) “propose innovative solutions for reaching SDGs, not only reacting to the effects of problems, but providing tools”. As such, the tool connects to the SDGs and facilitates a frugal and effectual thinking process for the small business owner.

This paper aims to answer the question: “How can the expected financial value and sustainability impact of a business decision/proposed SBMI be assessed with a frugal and effectual tool?”


This methods section explains the step-by-step development procedure for creating a practical tool. Figure 1 provides an overview of the research methods used in this study, which is structured in four phases: (1) Discovery, (2) Conceptualization, (3) Effectiveness & Improvement and (4) Continuous improvement. An introduction of the implemented approaches for each phase is followed by an explanation of the respective methods and a description of the results per phase. For this paper we are applying a mixed methods approach to benefit from different methods that complement each other (Creswell & Creswell, 2018).

Figure 1 Overview of Phases, Research methods and Results

Phase 1; Discovery

The first phase of discovery unveils the idea’s origin and necessity for the tool that calculates the financial and sustainability business case (Pos-FSBC). This initial phase of discovery was utilized to garner an understanding of the decision-making process of small businesses. A study was conducted to gain insight in the decision-making process of small businesses to determine where to intervene in the process. This was done to allow for a decision that generates sustainable and/or social commitments by the business owner for their respective small businesses.

Phase 2; Conceptualization

Phase 2 focused on designing the Pos-FSBC Tool. The conceptualization was based on identifying the relevant variables and combining this into a first version of the tool in Excel. A minimal set of variables necessary to measure and assess the financial value, sustainable and social impact based on the SDGs were determined. The predetermined variables were then inserted in a spreadsheet model. Specific attention was given to the needs of small businesses, simplicity, minimal use of time and connection to the effectuation principles. Based on the results of the first iteration, the authors developed an initial version of the Pos-FSBC Tool. To explain and visualize the Pos-FSBC Tool an example of an integral calculation is presented based on a real-life example but adapted for confidentiality purposes.

Phase 3; Effectiveness and Improvement

The third phase comprised of testing the developed tool with two separate groups: students and the target group of small businesses. The tool was evaluated for gaps and improvement possibilities. Such improvements were subsequently incorporated. The main method employed in this phase was testing the concept by conducting workshops for students and a pilot workshop with small businesses. In the workshops, participants were given the assignment to come up with a business model innovation that will both increase the financial value created by the organisation and have an impact through adding to one or more of the SDGs.

The Pos-FSBC tool was first tested in an educational environment. The tool was subsequentially tested in a workshop with 10 small business owners representing seven small businesses from the agribusiness industry in the Westland region in the Netherlands. All businesses employed less than 50 people. They were recruited through local agribusiness associations and social media.

During, and after the workshops, data was gathered. First, students and participants of the workshops were asked to give feedback using a semi-structured questionnaire with just three questions (What’s your impression of the tool?; Which improvement do you see?; Which SDGs you impact with your BMI). Table 1 highlights the perception (n=23) of tool effectiveness as well as point of improvement for the next iteration of the tool.

Secondly, the workshop with practitioners was analysed in-depth. The outcomes of their Pos-FSBC Tool were placed into a table with an overview of the participants in the workshop, their BMIs alongside related SDGs. From previous steps, conclusions could be drawn on the effectiveness and possible gaps and improvements. Based on these findings, improvements were made to the tool. Table 2 highlights the results from the second iteration of workshops (n=7).

Phase 4; Continuous improvement

Finally, the fourth phase aims to create perpetual feedback on how the tool can be refined. Although evaluation has occurred in previous phases, this evaluation should be reiterated to measure effectiveness, emerging benefits, the gaps in the tool as well as any other possible improvements. These measurements should be systematically reviewed and incorporated in the tool design until all major improvements have been considered. The degree of relevance will be reviewed through the lens of a Circular BMI tool development checklist created by (Bocken et al., 2019). This checklist (found in section 4 of the results) constitutes ten criteria points that help researchers and practitioners to develop tools specifically aimed at sustainability.


This section presents the findings per phase. This illustrates the idea’s origin and endorses its necessity, the conceptualization of the Tool, evaluation by the students and practitioners, with suggestion for continuous improvements.

Phase 1; Discovery

The idea to create a tool that simultaneously calculates the financial value for the owners and the sustainability impact of business decisions emerged from education projects for business students. Students were separately taught financial decision making and subjects regarding social and sustainability impact. In a lecturer’s meeting, the question was raised if these two could be combined but based on a quantitative approach preferred by businesses. As a UNESCO associated school (THUAS, 2022; United Nations, 2015), the university wants to embed the SDGs in its teaching to train students as future decision makers and in research. The tool was dubbed the positive financial and sustainability business case (Pos-FSBC ) since you only commit to a decision if you expect a positive outcome.

In order to influence the actual decision an ex-ante tool is necessary (forecasting impact before the event) instead of ex-post (measuring after the event) (Das et al., 2021). Determining the right place of the ex-ante assessment tool in the decision-making process was necessary and is done so below, based on the research from Jocumsen (2002). It is evident that small businesses follow a less complex process than larger companies (both in terms of steps followed and the methods used to carry out these steps) in making their strategic decisions.

The Pos-FSBC Tool is positioned as an addition to the financial analysis and assessment.

Small business decision makers believe they act in highly rational and objective ways. They use (simple) analytical financial tools (Jocumsen, 2002) usually a spreadsheet analysis. In this tool, the emphasis is on making do with resources on hand and to only invest what they can afford. Less attention is given to the accuracy of the predictive information (Sarasvathy, 2001; Dew et al., 2009). Hence, in order to intervene in this decision-making process and achieve a more sustainable and social commitment, a simple analytical tool that adds sustainable and social impact analyses would likely result in a more balanced result.

Phase 2 Conceptualization

Introduction of the relevant variables

The tool consists of two integrated parts. The financial part of the tool is based on cash flow forecasting (CFF). CFF is an important prognostic financing tool that estimates the amount of cash that will be coming in and going out of the business to predict future cash balances and financing. Cash flow forecasting can help a business to identify opportunities and estimate whether an entrepreneur may be required to finance this activity (Linares- Mustarós et al., 2013). The sustainability part of the tool is developed by the authors. The tool is a prognostic tool that quantifies, the financial value and the expected impact of a business decision based on the SDGs. The P-SFBC Tool is a predefined calculation model in Excel where users insert relevant numerical variables related to the proposed solution(s). The inserted values should be validated based on a combination of minimal research and experience and network of the business owner. These relevant variables are:

Financial business case calculation:

  • MVPr; The minimum profit that must be generated by the business for it to be viable and sustainable;

  • P; Price of the new product/service;

  • ∆Q: Expected additional quantity sold in a period due to the BMI;

  • ∆Costs: Additional expenditures divided in initial investment and recurring cost after start;

  • ∆F: Financing. The additional amount and timing of financing.

Sustainability business case calculation:

  • SDG: The impacted SDG(s);

  • UN Targets related to SDGs (United Nations, 2015);

  • Impact Indicator: Unit of measurement that captures contributions to a specific SDG;

  • ∆Q: Expected additional quantity sold in a period (as above) or additional driver;

  • ∆SDG; The positive/negative net effect per product/service on a relevant SDG based on the impact Indicator compared to the initial BM or an industry standard (base case).

The tool supports practitioners in conceptualizing the consequences and interrelatedness of their business decision. The key variable is ∆ SDG (Delta SDG). This value connects the Financial Business Case and the Sustainability Business Case. By linking this value to the expected quantity sold, the sustainability case or contribution to the SDGs is calculated in measurable units. The logic behind this reasoning is that by being successful with a new sustainable BM you drive out a non-sustainable competitor. This is what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction”(Hart, 2005). The variable ∆Q acts as the driver creating a linear relation of the two calculations. Therefore, increased sales means increased sustainability performance of the newly proposed BMI.

Case study of retailer CLOTHES

To visualize the Pos-FSBC Tool, an example of an imaginary successful retailer in fashionable clothing, called CLOTHES, is introduced. Next to the existing shop a small space is up for rent. The owners of the shops consider themselves social entrepreneurs and are aware of the damaging effects that the fashion industry has on the environment. The owners wish to seize the opportunity of opening an additional store next to their own business and therefore calculate their projected financial and sustainable business case in order to decide whether to open this second shop.

To complete the financial calculation information was gathered on the relevant variables. An average price level was decided on EUR 45, - per item of second-hand clothing. Since their motives are more than financial, the owners decide that the MVPr can be zero if a reasonable salary for the owners is added. For other variables (except the Financing, which is calculated by the model) the small business owners gathered relevant data based on their experience and inserted this in the model.

In order to complete the sustainable calculation information was gathered on the relevant variables. The result can be seen in the figure 3 below. Exchanging clothes means producing less new clothes. CLOTHES has a net positive effect on several SDGs (SDG3/6/11/12/15). Below the sustainability calculation of SDG12. This calculated effect on the SDG can be measured in reduced waste generation in kg’s. The Delta SDG or ΔSDG in this case is the average weight of a piece of clothing sold at CLOTHES (0,36 kg). This ΔSDG is multiplied by the expected quantity sold (Q).

Figure 3 Outcome of the financial and sustainable business case of selling pre-owned clothes by CLOTHES.

The conclusion of the integral financial business case and the sustainability case is that both are positive. This means that after two years, the expected net cash inflow is positive and the enterprise, by being successful, is adding to 5 different SDGs (of which one is quantified).

However, the financial business case is only positive with a marginal amount of just under EUR 10.000, - after two years. This exceeds the MVPr which was set at zero. In the calculated model financing is needed to cover the start investment and initial losses in the first periods. In period 3 the expected cash-balance is at its most negative at EUR 18.700. This amount needs to be financed preferably through own savings, or soft loans from family/friends or if not possible external parties (commercial loans or equity). This peak negative cash balance can be seen as the “affordable loss” that the owners should be willing to lose. The value of the variables is based on assumptions only supported with limited research due to knowledge and time constraints. So, the question for the owners is whether they are willing to take on the financial risk (affordable loss) in order to achieve the social and sustainable effects of the selling pre-owned clothing.

The owners can decide to further iterate the BMI using the Pos-FSBC tool to see if the financial value for the owners can be increased and still capture the SDG contribution. For instance, using already available means, like selling unsold stock.

Phase 3; Effectiveness and Improvement

The results of the semi-structured questionnaires of participants from both workshops in education and practitioners can be found below.

Semi-structured interview feedback

Table 2 feedback using a semi-structured questionnaire.

From this first round of workshops, through questionnaire feedback, some conclusions can be extrapolated. First, the Pos-FSBC Tool generally receives positive feedback from both students and practitioners. The tool was even dubbed an “eye-opener”, showing the clear impact the tool had on perception of decision making. Although points of improvement, discussed below, were indicated, more than half of the respondents say the tool provided a simple and clear oversight that helped them. Many respondents were able to obtain the intended results of the tooling, for instance “higher yield with less resources” after completing the workshop predicated on the Pos-FSBC. Thus, positive feedback was provided. This is perhaps most clear from the fact that over 85% of participants emerged with a calculated positive business and sustainability case.

Despite a clear element of effectiveness present from the first round of workshops, clear areas of improvements also emerged. The most prominent attributes mentioned were in adding elements, providing the tool outside the project as well as some students requesting more explanation, in particular in the calculation of the SDG value. Moreover, one of the underlying goals of the frugal tool is to make it even more simple, it is clear some work needs to be done in this phase of improvement.

Pilot practitioners’ workshop

The second round of workshops with practitioners in the agribusiness sector resulted in another round of measuring effectiveness/ application of the tool. The table below features participants’ overview, including the created innovations and classification of these innovations based on whether a positive financial business case and positive sustainability case was calculated. After financial validation, using the Pos-FSBC tool, the participants were asked to present their decision whether or not to continue with their developed innovation. The predominant proportion decided to continue implementing the BMI that resulted from the workshop.

Table 3 table on innovations and classification of innovations related to financial and sustainable business case.

Participating businesses in the workshops came up with a product (6) or a process (1). All participants were asked to determine the financial business case and sustainability case based on the contribution to the SDG. The outcomes varied greatly, most likely because of the limited amount of time and knowledge. Based on the financial calculation, one BMI did not pass the financial threshold (Minimal Viable Profit) set by the business owner. One participant calculated a positive effect on one SDG and a negative effect on another SDG. This is acknowledging the fact that sometimes trade-offs need to be made. Moreover, out of the eight BMIs in total, two participants decided to not further proceed with the innovation. One based the decision on the financial analysis and the other referred to internal matters (see fig. 3). The other participants all decided to further pursue the project outside the scope of the workshop.

The interviews and the results of the workshop confirm that the participants experienced the Pos-FSBC Tool as useful. However, the assumptions on which the tool was based- that adding impact information to financial information would result in different decisions - could not be confirmed. Some interviewees state that the model provided them the opportunity to iteratively change the BMI so that both financial and impact outcome were satisfactory. For instance, the fern grower was able to reduce transportation needs with a frugal solution that created both positive cash flow and less greenhouse emissions.

The impact evaluation seems effective in getting participants to change their decision-making process to an extent. Some ideas for improvement were further proposed by the workshop participants. Suggestions included adding more functionality and a demand for more instructions meaning that some still find the tool not simple or frugal enough.

Phase 4; Continuous improvement

After each iteration the tool needs to be evaluated using observations, discussions and questionnaires to determine benefits, remaining gaps and possible improvements. However, to be considered ‘validated in practice’, the P- FSBC Tool must be empirically tested. When applying Bocken’s checkbox for Circular BMI tool development (Bocken et al., 2019) not all criteria have been met.

Table 4 Checklist for CBMI tool development (Bocken et al., 2019)

The above checkpoints need to be accomplished in the coming period. This should be done with a special focus on gathering data for improvements in future iterations, creating transparent procedure and guidance and increasing the role of the sustainability impact in the decision making of small business. The latter could be attained, by adding relevant questions to the questionnaire and adding longitudinal data collection to the data gathered. Ultimately the goal of the tool is for small business owners to create a more balanced decision.

Discussion and preliminary conclusions

The concluding section of this paper summarises the key findings and addresses the key research question. This is followed by limitations, recommendations and important implications.

Key findings & policy implications

A plethora of literature highlights the need for tooling in both innovation and sustainability efforts. Ebolor et al., 2022 emphasize the need for innovation tools in order “To make the critically urgent changes needed in the transition from unsustainable to sustainable development and societal patterns”. Schaltegger & Johnson (2019) further iterates this posturing that “the need to develop SME-specific sustainability management tools that consider the heterogeneity among SMEs has been expressed”. The Pos-FSBC Tool has potential to make an impact on small businesses adopting more sustainable practices.

This article sets out to garner an answer to the research question; “How can the expected financial value and sustainability impact of a business decision be assessed with a frugal and effectual tool?”. The answer that emerges is the Pos-FSBC Tool. It is evident from feedback from first and second iterations of testing that there is a sufficient level of positive feedback to infer that this tool is helpful and useful for small businesses. However, there is a need for further testing with owners of small businesses to validate the assumption that including impact assessment renders different decisions. Furthermore, the tool could be further frugalized or simplified to be even more accessible for the intended users. However, this comes with another set of actions in making the tool user friendly and simple enough that the same effect can be had without in-depth explanation and guidance.


Although relative success from the tool has been achieved in the first couple of iterations there are several limitations that need to be addressed. The largest limitation lies in more and broader data needing to be collected to validate the tool. Currently, data points are relatively limited as the tool has only had extensive testing in educational courses. It has only been tested in workshops with actual practitioners once. Moreover, the forecasting in the Pos-FSBC Tool is not an exact science, the predictions are based on assumptions that may not have been validated. Due to time and knowledge constraints outcomes will not be precise nonetheless will, it is assumed by the authors, lead to more sustainable and social decisions, as hypothesised.

Recommendation and Further implications

Based on the above finding and limitations, a series of recommendations for future research emerges. From the continuous improvement results, there are a few elements from the sustainable tool checklist that have not yet been reached and should be the focal point of future iterations and research. Firstly, the final tool should, according to the checklist (Bocken et al., 2019) “be used by practitioners, preferably multiple times and an evaluation of this process is done to assess Pos-FSBC Tool usefulness?”. Although the tool’s efficacy has been measured to an extent, improvements still need to be made, thus future research should focus on multiple iterations. Moreover, the checklist highlights the need for a “transparent procedure and guidance”, although this has been achieved to a large extent within the tool, some of the results from phase 3 highlight that this area could be ameliorated, moreover a platform outside the workshop for practitioners that want to use the tool still needs to be developed. Further, incorporation in other frameworks such as the Business Model Template (Jonker & Faber, 2021) can be considered. Lastly, the checklist highlights that sustainability tooling should “inspire or trigger” business change. However further validation for the Pos-FSBC Tool is needed in understanding the impact the tool has on changing businesses decisions.


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