Motivational Drivers Of South African Ecopreneurs Business Essay

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Ecopreneurs are those entrepreneurs who start for-profit businesses and who sell green products or services. This is an emerging field where research is still in its infancy, especially in South Africa. Research has been called for to understand the factors that motivate these ecopreneurs to start businesses and that is the focus of this study. The aim of this research report is to compare the findings with results of extant literature on ecopreneurial motivations outside of South Africa.

This research project comprises 10 in-depth interviews of ecopreneurs in South Africa. Participants were interviewed in a face-to-face, unstructured format. Secondary sources such as printed marketing material and company web sites were also collected.

It was found that ecopreneurs in South Africa were motivated by ten factors, in order of prevalence: passion and meaning; identifying a gap in the market; values; money; disruption and change; independence; family-related motivators; dealing with pleasant people; vision and the least prevalent, work-related motivators. Ecopreneurs appear to have quite similar motivations to entrepreneurs in general, aside from their passion and values. Their financial motivations were found to be secondary to other motivations like passion and values. This research report presents a number of contributions to both the ecopreneurship and entrepreneurship literatures.

There was a lack in diversity in the sample and the country context of South Africa influences the results.

This is the first sample of ecopreneurs in South Africa to date. Given the emerging nature of the field of ecopreneurship, this study's conclusions require further research and testing. A total of seven such suggestions for future research are made.


Ecopreneurs, Entrepreneurs, Motivation, Meaning and Values.


I declare that this research project is my own work. It is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Business Administration at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria. It has not been submitted before for any degree or examination in any other University. I further declare that I have obtained the necessary authorisation and consent to carry out this research.


Neville James Bosman

26 September 2012


Thanks to the following people for their support and contribution:

To my children, Ella, Joshua, Ava and Nicholas for their sacrifices and for their love and support.

To my supervisor Judi for her fantastic insights and always believing in me.

To all the interviewees, for sharing their stories, experiences and learning.


List of figures

List of tables


It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts,

but the size of the fight in the dog

- Mark Twain


Background to Research Problem

"The term 'ecopreneurship' is a combination of two words, 'ecological' ('eco') and 'entrepreneurship'. Ecopreneurship can thus be roughly defined as 'entrepreneurship through an environmental lens'. Ecopreneurship is characterised by some fundamental aspects of entrepreneurial activities that are oriented less towards management systems or technical procedures and focused more on the personal initiative and skills of the entrepreneurial person or team to realise market success with environmental innovations."

- (Schaltegger, 2002).

With the growing shortage in electricity provision in South Africa and global warming, the South African Government is increasingly aware of the need for more eco-friendly practices in order to create a low carbon economy as laid out in the National Development Plan Vision for 2030 (National Planning Commission 2011).

Understanding what drivers motivate Ecopreneurs will assist policy makers in creating the ideal environment for Ecopreneurs to thrive (Thompson & Scott, 2010).

Research motivation

Ecopreneurs are a new breed of environmentally conscious social entrepreneurs who seek profits as a by-product of environmental and social benefit (Isaak, 2005). As the green movement grows more and more entrepreneurs are seeing it as a business opportunity, at the same time creating a meaningful existence and impacting on their societies, making for more sustainable business practices. (Isaak, 2005).

Societal norms are changing with a greater emphasis being placed on the environment. Together with the realities of electricity shortage and changes in legislation, more sustainable products and business practices are needed. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable business practices, therefore creating demand for sustainability (King, 2009).

Hart & Milstein (1999, p. 25) predicted that entrepreneurs will consider sustainable development, as "one of the biggest business opportunities in the history of commerce". Therefore, entrepreneurs would do well to embrace this new field of environmentally sustainable business and lead the way to a more sustainable future both to their benefit and to the benefit of their environment and the societies they serve, especially as it allows them to tap into new markets, (Braun, 2010).

By undertaking this research, potential ecopreneurs may learn from the experiences of pioneers in this field in South Africa in order to give their new eco-ventures maximal chances of succeeding.

Academic motivation

"Understanding Ecopreneurs and their practices, distilling recommendations, and adding to the scarce body of academic literature on ecopreneurship, are critical because ecopreneurship, in light of the alarming economic and environmental outlook, is establishing itself as a considerable area of business activity and influence for social change and a sustainable future."

- Schauch (2009, p 2.)

Although the field of Ecopreneurship has undergone a lot of growth in recent years, it is still a relatively new academic field and it is recognised that much more research is still required (Schaper, 2002), (Gibbs, 2006), (Dixon & Clifford, 2007) and (Thompson & Scott, 2010).

Kirkwood & Walton (2010) suggested 11 additional research questions that could be explored to further their research into Ecopreneurial motivation and this proposal is based on three of those questions.

The primary audience for the study will be policy makers with regard to job creation and economic growth; however, this research may also be beneficial to the body of entrepreneurial research already existing in South Africa and may lead to further research.

Research scope

Kirkwood & Walton (2010) started doing research into the motivations of ecopreneurs in starting businesses. They believe their research could be extended beyond start-ups to determine whether Ecopreneur's initial motivations for starting businesses guide their subsequent decisions within the business, therefore focusing on on-going business decisions.

Others like Shane, Locke and Collins (2003) have suggested motivations influence the transition of individuals from one stage of the entrepreneurial process to another, for instance in decisions such as employing others, growth and choosing to diversify into other markets.

Based on research done to date on this topic it would appear necessary and useful to conduct research into motivational drivers of Ecopreneurs in South Africa both at start-up phase and in on-going businesses in order to establish their motivations for doing so and how their values have affected their decisions along the way and finally how these motivational drivers may differ from other entrepreneurs.

Conclusion to chapter one

This chapter one has provided context and a case and for examination of the motivational drivers of Ecopreneurs in South Africa.

Chapter two presents a critical review of the literature on this topic.

Chapter three sets out the research questions that come about as a result of the gaps left by the existing research.

Chapter four sets out the research methodology that was followed during this research project.

Chapter five sets out the results of the interviews, including relevant quotes as well as the limitations experienced during the research.

Chapter six provides a discussion of the results in light of the rest of this research project.

Chapter seven draws conclusions and offers further areas for research.


[Need to add additional literature as set out in Chapter 5 and 6 and as highlighted in yellow below]


Ecopreneurship is a type of entrepreneurship, the study of which forms part of a growing interest in ethics, entrepreneurship and the environment (Isaak, 1998; Morris, 2002).

Definition of Ecopreneurship

Schlange (2006a), identifies three types of entrepreneurs, the 'traditional' Economically driven entrepreneurs (creating economic value for the owners of business), Socially driven entrepreneurs (creating value for society at large) and Ecologically driven entrepreneurs (creating value for the improvement of the environment) and when all three motives are present he refers to Sustainability-driven entrepreneurs.

Figure 2.1: Sustainability-Driven Entrepreneurship as a Concept of Integration

(Source: Schlange, 2006a, p22)

Whilst Schlange (2006a) recognises that Ecologically driven Entrepreneurs sees environmental aspects as core objectives and competitive advantages he argues that along with having profit driven motives they also have sustainability as a basic motivation as their eco-driven business models addresses human problems ultimately and therefore they can also be referred to as Sustainability Entrepreneurs.

Other writers have also interchangeably referred to and confused Ecologically driven entrepreneurs as Green Entrepreneurs (Schaper, 2005; Allen & Malin, 2008), Environmental Entrepreneurs (Schaper, 2002; Allen & Malin, 2008; Thompson & Scott, 2010), Sustainability Entrepreneurs (Thompson & Scott, 2010; Boyd, Henning, Reyna, Wang and Welch, 2009), Sustainopreneurs (Schaltegger, 2002), Social Ecopreneurs (Isaak, 2005), Values-oriented Entrepreneurs" (Choi & Gray, 2008) and ultimately Ecopreneurs (Bennet, 1991; Schuyler, 1998; Isaak, 2005; Schaper, 2002; Schaltegger, 2002; Dixon & Clifford, 2007; Kirkwood & Walton, 2010).

The focus of this study is on Ecopreneurs, defined by Schuyler (1998) as,

"entrepreneurs whose business efforts are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment".


Kirkwood & Walton (2010) found five common drivers of Ecopreneurial activity:

Environmental values;

Having seen a gap in the market for their product or service;

Earning a living for them and their families;

Autonomy - working for themselves;

Passion for their business.

All of the abovementioned values were found to be in common with economically motivated entrepreneurs, except for the environmental values (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010, p.215).

According to Linnanen (2005), it may be overly simplistic to refer to all Ecopreneurs as being driven by profit and environmental goals to the same extent, instead he provided four different types of Ecopreneurs, depending on the environmental and commercial goals driving their behaviour:

Figure 2.2: Drivers of Eco-Business Sectors

Source: Linnanen (2005, p78)

Parker, Redmond and Simpson (2009) provides the matrix below, distinguishing between ecopreneurial firms driven by performance orientation and firms driven by environmental commitment:

Figure 2.3: Typology of SME types for analysing environment improvement

Source: Parker et al (2009, p.6)

Isaak (2005, p.81), is of the opinion that there are certain ideal types of ecopreneurs, which create businesses that are green from the outset, so called 'green-green' businesses, which brings about radical changes in their chosen economic sectors.

Thomson & Scott (2010, p.18) identified Ecopreneurs in four categories depending on their levels of environmental achievement and their focus on risk versus opportunity when it comes to Environmental legislation:

Figure 2.4: Ecopreneurial Categories

Source: Thomson & Scott (2010: p18)

Thomson & Scott (2010) is of the opinion that in the United Kingdom the Government policy to be committed to a low carbon economy is one of the principle drivers of Ecopreneurship. Furthermore they also found that new environmental knowledge and technology, eco-regulatory changes, changes in societal values and perceptions as well as occupying a special niche, all lead to success for those ventures who chose to see ecological constraints as opportunities rather than constraints (Thomson & Scott, 2010).

Isaak (2005: p.81, p.88), had several suggestions for driving ecopreneurship, for instance "governments could target the creation of high-technology development centres to build serial ecopreneurship and to attract 'blended value' venture capital" they could, "Change tax incentives to reward the creation of green jobs and to punish resource use; Build creativity and ecopreneurship incentives into standards for public-sector management; Use ecopreneurship as a strategy for boosting civic competence and social capital; Start a public campaign to de-legitimatise non-sustainable business results"


Introduction to Motivation

Allen & Malin (2008), conducted case studies of several green businesses to learn how they incorporate their businesses into environmental and social justice causes and some of the themes that emerged from in-depth interviews with these ecopreneurs included a high degree of awareness of the impact that these business had on the environment, high levels of concern for social justice, personal motivation and mission, locality, and a forward-thinking orientation about sustainability and innovative models for incorporating green business into environmental causes and natural resource management. In addition Allen & Malin (2008) also found low levels of interest in economic success.

In contrast, Thomson & Scott (2010, p.13) found, "There is some evidence that environmental entrepreneurs may [emphasis added] be disinterested in 'economic success'", suggesting that they disagree with this finding to some extent.

Thomson & Scott (2010) also found that Ecopreneurs demonstrated a desire to improve the world as well as an ability to see green as a competitive advantage.

In contrast, (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010), find that Ecopreneurial motivation goes much wider than simply exploiting niche environmental markets, rather they see Ecopreneurs as representing a whole new way of doing business in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Previous research into Entrepreneurial motivation has predominantly focussed on push and pull factors (McClelland, Swail, Bell and Ibbotson, 2005 and Segal, Borgia and Schoenfeld, 2005). Push (external) factors are predominantly external and seen as negative as they push people into starting new businesses, for example being dismissed from work, economic or other necessity (McClelland et al., 2005 and Segal et al., 2005). Pull (internal) factors draw people to start businesses, for instance a desire to work for oneself and be ones own boss (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010).

Pull factors have been found to be more prevalent than push factors (Segal et al., 2005). Entrepreneurs who have been pulled into starting new businesses have been found to be more successful than those that have been pushed (Amit & Muller, 1995), which is important as Ecopreneurs have been found to be predominantly motivated by pull factors, for instance their green values and being their own boss (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010).

Legislation and Technology and have similarly been found to be push and pull factors as legislation forces new, environmentally friendlier businesses and business practices whilst technology enables more environmentally friendly products (Thomson & Scott, 2010).

As the external environment is the same for Entrepreneurs and Ecopreneurs, Schlange (2006a) concluded that the real difference is the internal mindset of the Ecoprepreneur self while Kirkwood & Walton have found green values to be the distinguishing factor.

The interrelation between the various push and pull factors are illustrated well by Rubik (2005) in the following figure:

Figure 2.5: Ecopreneurial Push and Pull Factors

Source: Rubik (2005)

Identifying Gaps in the Market

According to Kirkwood & Walton (2010) and Frederick & Chittock (2006), New Zealand is a country of small to medium enterprises and who are very open to entrepreneurship as further supported by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report referenced below, leading to them being pulled into entrepreneurship by opportunity rather than being pushed through necessity.

"People launch businesses for a variety of reasons. They may be led into entrepreneurship out of necessity: the pursuit of self-employment when there are no better options for work. In contrast, their efforts may be powered by the desire to maintain or improve their income, or to increase their independence. GEM therefore assesses the motives of entrepreneurs."…"Recognizing that entrepreneurs are driven not only by their own perceptions about starting a business, but the attitudes of those around them, GEM considers the attitudes representing the climate for entrepreneurship in a society. Entrepreneurs need to be willing to take risks and have positive beliefs about the availability of opportunities around them, their ability to start businesses and the value of doing so. At the same time, they need customers who are willing to buy from them, vendors willing to supply them and families and investors ready to support their efforts. Even positive societal perceptions about entrepreneurship may indirectly stimulate this activity."

- (accessed 13 September 2012)

The GEM Report measures amongst other things, Perceived Opportunities, being the percentage of 18-64 year old respondents who see good opportunities to start a firm in the area where they live (Google Public Data - Perceived Opportunities, 2012). As illustrated in the graph below, New Zealanders are more aware of gaps in the market than South Africans. Although New Zealand did not participate in further GEM studies after 2005, a clear differential can be seen. Interestingly in 2005, New Zealand held the 7th highest position in Perceived Opportunities, whilst South Africa was number 34 out of a total of 47 participating countries (Google Public Data, 2012). By 2011 South Africa had improved to position 26 although the sample size had dropped to 34 participating countries, also excluding New Zealand.

Figure 2.6: GERA Perceived Opportunities Graph (2012)

Source: Google Public Data - Perceived Opportunities, (2012)

Furthermore, the GEM also measures Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity ("TEA"), being a percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business (Google Public Data - Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity, 2012). As illustrated in the graph below, New Zealanders have significantly higher TEA than South Africans. Although New Zealand did not participate in further GEM studies after 2005, a clear differential can be seen. Interestingly in 2004, New Zealand held the 7th highest position in TEA, whilst South Africa was number 29 out of a total of 44 participating countries (Google Public Data, Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity, 2012). By 2011 South Africa had improved to position 25 although the sample size had increased to 54 participating countries, also excluding New Zealand.

Source: Google Public Data - Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity, (2012)

Disruption and change

In terms of the Product Life Cycle model industries develop along a growth curve in four phases, from introduction, through growth, maturity and ultimately decline and each of these stages last for different periods of time, depending on the nature of the product or the industry (Golder & Tellis, 2004). Arguably the green industry in New Zealand is in the mature phase. This view is supported by Kirkwood & Walton (2010), Bruin & Lewis (2005) and Coyle and Fairweather (2005) who argue that the clean green image of New Zealand is well established as a strong part of the culture and national identity of New Zealand. In contrast, the green industry in South Africa is arguably still in the growth phase, leading to lots of change and disruption.

According to Schwartz & Rock (2006), people fear change and the reason for that lies in our past as our brains are designed to become efficient at tasks over time as change and new tasks requires activation of the prefrontal cortex, which requires significantly more energy than we used to have at our disposal in the past. Therefore, people are not wired for change.

Furthermore, according to Schwartz & Rock (2006), when looking at this problem in the context of how one goes about changing people's behaviour and the culture of an organisation is of the view this is done through abandoning past problem behaviours and focussing deliberately on creating new behaviours through routine, therefore by making the process of change conscious and visible.

Add further literature on: Disruption: Clayton Christensen "the innovators dilemma"; 'crossing the chasm' by Geoff Moore.


Dealing with pleasant people

Add literature

Differences between motivation of Ecopreneurs and other Entrepreneurs in South Africa

Add literature

Family-related motivators

Add literature

Work-related motivators

Add literature


Add literature


Kirkwood & Walton (2010) have found green values to be the distinguishing factor for ecopreneurs, however, they also found very little research had been done to date on values in ecopreneurial businesses and accordingly suggested more research needs to be undertaken to explore the effect of founder's green values on starting and running of ecopreneurial businesses.

Ecopreneurs have been found to have distinct ecological values from other entrepreneurs (Thomson & Scott, 2010). Furthermore, changes in societal values regarding the environment have been found to have a major influence on ecopreneurship (Anderson, 1998).

However, neighbouring disciplines like sustainability entrepreneurship has undergone more research in values and accordingly this literature review will borrow from those disciplines.

Choi & Gray (2008) did research into values-oriented entrepreneurship and found prevalent in the 21 businesses that they studied that founders of these businesses established them with their own values reflected deeply entrenched in these organisations and deliberately promoted their values in order to differentiate themselves from other businesses. However they also found many of these organisations had difficulty in maintaining these values during subsequent growth phases (Choi & Gray, 2008), a view supported by Hockerts & Wüstenhagen (2010).

Levinsohn & Brundin (2011) suggests that the discussion in the literature of motivation and passion, such as the literature review above, inherently includes a discussion of values, based on the psychological perspective of motivation, passion and cognition in the study of sustainability entrepreneurship (Shepherd & Patzelt, 2011).

Parrish (2010) undertook a case study of four ventures that embodied social and environmental values in their core business activities and found that the pursuit of profit, people and planet created tensions within those organisations and the only organisations that were successful in overcoming these tensions were those where the skill and practical experience, for instance of perpetual reasoning and guiding principles of placing people and the planet before profits, was used to keep the organisations functioning effectively, especially during the growth phases and subsequent decision making.

In a case study of an individual green business that has been running for over 20 years, Holt (2012) explored the owner's balancing of economic, environmental, and social demands on their business and found personal values to have played a major role in the evolution of this business.

Petersen (2010, p.223), did a case study of 64 ecopreneurial enterprises in Austria, Germany and Switzerland to investigate what gave these firms their competitive advantage and they found they were all leaders in their segment of the environmental products and services they chose to operate and their core business was solving environmental problems.

In addition, Holt (2010) also found of the five prevalent values found in these businesses, technical ability, customer centricity, exclusivity, innovation and reputation, it was reputation and exclusivity that was the most important to these ecopreneurs in developing a niche for their businesses.

Kearins & Collins (2011) researched one case of an ecopreneur who sold his business after 20 years and found a number of value-related challenges that arose during that period relating to maintaining the founder values, growth of the business, dealing with undercapitalisation problems, deciding who to sell the business to, deciding if the founder will stay or leave and finally how to keep the values after the founder leaves. Ultimately Kearins & Collins (2011) concludes that it may be possible to sell an eco-brand and maintain the original founder values.

Add reference and discussion of Tragedy of the commons:

"The 'tragedy of the commons' arises when it is difficult and costly to exclude potential users from common-pool resources that yield finite flows of benefits, as a result of which those resources will be exhausted by rational, utility-maximizing individuals rather than conserved for the benefit of all. Pessimism about the possibility of users voluntarily cooperating to prevent overuse has led to widespread central control of common-pool resources. But such control has itself frequently resulted in resource overuse. In practice, especially where they can communicate, users often develop rules that limit resource use and conserve resources." (Hardin, 1968; Ostrom, 2008)

Add literature on Sustainability: Business is there to support the community, not the other way round - contrast with literature on green business and using the earth as resource - sustainability in the long run???


Add literature

Passion and meaning

Add literature

South Africa

Limited research has been done to date on the motivational drivers of environmentally sustainable businesses in South Africa and this concept has been met with some criticism as to its value for businesses in South Africa (Ras & Vermeulen, 2009). This is not surprising as this is a relatively new academic field (Dixon & Clifford, 2007) and South Africa does not demonstrate a culture of environmental sustainability (King, 2009).

Although research of a similar nature has been undertaken in other parts of the world like New Zealand (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010), Australia (Braun, 2010), United Kingdom (Dixon & Clifford, 2007), Switzerland (Schlange, 2006) and various European countries (Schaltegger, 2002), those researchers have concluded that motivational factors of Entrepreneurs differ from one country to the next.

Accordingly it would desirable for policy makers in this country to base their decisions on case studies undertaken in this country, hence the localisation of this study to South Africa.

Conclusion to Chapter Two

Based on the literature review set out in this chapter two and the gaps that exist in the literature on ecopreneurs and specifically in South Africa, this research project will set out to answer the research questions set out in chapter three below.



Based partly on the further research to be undertaken as suggested in (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010, p.204), the following research questions are posed:

Research Question One

What motivates people in South Africa to become ecopreneurs and how does that differ from ecopreneurs in New Zealand?

Research Question Two

What is the impact of founders' values on starting and running green businesses?

Research Question Three

To what extent are South African ecopreneurs motivated by money?

Research Question Four

What role does passion and meaning play in Ecopreneurial motivation in South Africa?



Research methodology experts like Tharenou, Donohue and Cooper (2007), Saunders Lewis and Thornhill (2009) and Malhotra (2010), are in agreement that the underlying purpose of the study must determine which research design to use. The purpose of this study is to understand the sub-conscious, underlying motivations and values that drive Ecopreneurs in South Africa to pursue both economic and ecological goals in their businesses.

Research Method

The research method that was followed was a direct approach, having done exploratory research, having obtained primary data through qualitative research, specifically by way of depth interviews.

Rationale for Research Method: Exploratory Research

According to Malhotra (2010), this type of research is used when the researcher seeks to gain insights into and understanding of the research question.

Due to the limited understanding of Ecopreneurs in general and specifically in South Africa, it was still necessary to develop theories regarding motivation and values of Ecopreneurs, rather than testing theories and therefore it was believed exploratory case study research was the appropriate research method for this topic. Refer also to Kirkwood & Walton (2010) in this regard.

Research Process: Direct approach

According to Malhotra (2010), this approach is used when the purposes of the research are either explained to the participant, or if it is obvious from the nature of the interview. Given that open questions were asked, it was believed to be beneficial to provide some context of this study to the participants in order for them to provide the best contribution they can.

Primary data

According to Malhotra (2010), that is when researchers do direct research themselves, in order to answer specific research problems.

Given the lack of availability on this topic in South Africa, as illustrated in 2.6 South Africa, above, primary research was done in South Africa in order to gain specific insights into the minds of South African Ecopreneurs for the purposes of answering the research questions posed in this study.

Qualitative research

According to Denzin & Lincoln (2011), qualitative researchers are concerned with social constructs, with values, with how social experiences create meaning and they recognise relationships between people and that which is being studied, while quantitative researchers are concerned with measurement of relationships between variables and processes.

According to Malhotra (2010), Qualitative Research is a research methodology that is unstructured and exploratory, based on relatively small samples, which are intended to gain understanding and insight into the subject matter being researched.

As limited data existed on this subject matter, qualitative research was believed to be most appropriate in this case. This approach was supported by previous research into this field, for instance in the cases of Kirkwood & Walton (2010), Thompson & Scott (2010), Schlange (2006) and Shaltegger (2002).

Depth interviews

Depth interviews are a form of direct, personal interview during which unstructured questions are asked of participants in order to probe their underlying motivations, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings on the research topic (Malhotra 2010).

"people may be unable to provide accurate answers to questions that tap their subconscious. The values, emotional drives and motivations residing at their subconscious level are disguised from the outer world by rationalization and other ego defences… In such cases, the desired information can be best obtained through qualitative research"

- (Malhotra, 2010, p.172)

Population and Unit of Analysis

Start-ups and established Ecopreneurial ventures were selected - both ventures that have started green from the outset and those that have gone green at a later stage. The focus was on the Ecopreneur as an individual and where the founder was still involved in the business the founder was in most cases interviewed, otherwise a senior representative of the firm was interviewed.

In selecting Ecopreneurs, it was important to screen them objectively to ensure that they will be appropriate for this study. In the multiple case studies undertaken by Schlange (2006), 120 potential firms were selected as potentially relevant, they then underwent rough screening, reducing the list to 20 and after that they applied a matrix of sustainability criteria that further reduced the list to 10 firms, which were eventually interviewed.

In this case study a similar method was used as the one used by Schlange (2006), as a list of potential firms was compiled by making use of contacts from personal networks, as well as making use of websites like, and

Selection criteria was then developed to further reduce the list. However, in the end, access to these Ecopreneurs ultimately determined which of them were interviewed. As most of the Ecopreneurs identified were from all over the country it would not have been feasible to do face-to-face interviews with them due to the time and cost of travel. Therefore, interviews were arranged with them while they attended the Sustainability Week Exhibition ( in Sandton, Gauteng where they had the time and the inclination to grant interviews for this thesis. This approach applied to participants 2 to 9. Participants 1 and 10 were interviewed based on personal networks.

Size and nature of the sample

Size of sample

In other studies of similar nature, similar themes emerged over a number of interviews, for instance in the case of Kirkwood & Walton (2010) they found that they had enough data to draw useful conclusions after 14 case studies. In the case of Schlange (2006), they found 10 case studies to be sufficient and in the case of Schaltegger (2002) seven case studies were undertaken.

Therefore on the basis of previous studies of a similar nature, 10 Ecopreneurs were targeted for interviewing and after 10 interviews it was found to be sufficient as similar themes emerged over these interviews.

Unit of analysis

According to Tharenou et al. (2007) a unit of analysis can be divided into many different criteria for analysis, being individuals, dyads, groups, organisations and industries. For case studies the unit of analysis is the phenomenon that is being studied (Tharenou et al. 2007). In this study the focus was on individuals, the Ecopreneurs themselves, either as founders or as current business owners and/or executives.

During this process very limited secondary data was also gathered regarding the Organisations established by these Ecopreneurs, so that the organisations then become the unit of analysis. Only publically available data like websites and brochures was used.

One of the major benefits of gathering secondary data, as was the case in this study, was to triangulate the depth interview data, which helps with reliability and validity of the data (Malhotra, 2010)

Data collection - Instrument and Design

Similar to Kirkwood & Walton (2010), multiple case studies were undertaken using interviews. However, different from Kirkwood & Walton (2010), who used semi-structured interviews, unstructured depth interviews were used in this research.

Rough outline questions were used, based on the actual research questions, which were restated as follows:

a) What motivated you to become an ecopreneur?

b) What impact has your, or if applicable, the founder's green values had during the start-up phase of your business?

c) What impact has your, or if applicable, the founder's green values had to date during the growth phases of your business?

d) Do you believe you are different to other entrepreneurs? If so, in which way?

Data collection

As depth interviews are unstructured only open-ended questions were used in order to effectively explore the interviewees underlying thoughts and feelings regarding each research question (Saunders et al., 2009).

The principle was to use rough outline questions in a general manner and then further probing questions, for instance complex probes, reflective probes and cross-checks, story-telling and verbal cues, depending on how the interviewees respond (Tharenou et al. 2007). The wording and the order of the questions were dictated by the situation.

According to Malhotra (2010: p186), other techniques that were useful during these depth-interviews were:

"Laddering - A technique for conducting depth interviews in which a line of questioning proceeds from product characteristics to user characteristics;

Hidden issue questioning - A type of depth interview that attempts to locate personal sore spots related to deeply felt personal concerns; and

Symbolic analysis - A technique for conducting depth interviews in which the symbolic meaning of objects is analysed by comparing them with their opposites."

Secondary data sources, for instance company websites, media reports and promotional material, were also gathered to supplement the interviews (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010) and to develop a more in-depth understanding of the individual cases within their context (Schlange, 2006), (Tharenou et al. 2009) and to aid triangulation of data to improve reliability and validity of the data gathered through the depth interviews.

Data Analysis

According to Denzin & Lincoln (2011) it is necessary for researchers to seek out both the common themes between multiple cases as well as the unique characteristics of each case. To overemphasise the common characteristics would be to loose the depth and richness of each case (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).

Whilst subsequent quantitative research could be undertaken to test and confirm theories developed as a result of the initial qualitative research (Malhotra, 2010), it was decided not to do so in this case due to the inherent constraints of this type of thesis it is therefore proposed for future research in Chapter 7.

The interviews were transcribed and the transcripts were organised around themes emerging from the interviews. In the case of Kirkwood & Walton (2010), NVivo software was used to establish an indexing system and to code and label each paragraph and sentence in the transcripts according to themes that appeared to be important to the participants and to continuously review the data and refine this process.

Richards (2009) provides useful guidance on the selection and Jemmott (2008) on the use of qualitative data analysis software and based on this guidance and previous experience of researchers at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), Atlas.ti 7 Qualitative Data Analysis Software, was selected for this research project. Further information regarding this software can be found at

As suggested by Silverman (2011), a systematic data reduction was undertaken on the data collected as part of this research project, in order to simplify and reduce the data by organising it into themes and clusters in order to combine, relate and diverge the ideas that attach to each of these themes.

During the data analysis section of the thesis, quotes were selected on the basis that they are representative of the themes discovered during the research process.

This is the same process that was followed by Kirkwood & Walton (2010), which helped to illustrate the depth and richness of this qualitative research method.

Data Reliability and Validity

Reliability is concerned with the extent to which the data could be duplicated if the same methodology was followed by someone else (Tharenou et al. 2009). Reliability was achieved in this study through triangulation, for instance by also having applied secondary data sources and verification as was done in Kirkwood & Walton (2010).

Validity consists of internal and external validity (Tharenou et al. 2009). Internal Validity in this case was achieved by attributing the correct cause and effect, therefore interpreting the results of the study correctly, without bias [Check if this is true] (Tharenou et al. 2009). This could also have been achieved by way of triangulation, by using multiple sources of data (Tharenou et al. 2009).

External validity is concerned with the extent to which findings drawn from one group may be generalised to other groups (Tharenou et al. 2009). The primary way that this study overcome external validity concerns was to undertake multiple interviews of multiple Ecopreneurs, as was also the case in the related cases of Kirkwood & Walton (2010), Schlange (2006), and Schaltegger (2002).

Confidentiality and anonymity

Different from Kirkwood & Walton (2010), the ethics approval that was obtained from the GIBS Ethics Committee for this research required that the names of such interviewees be withheld in these quotes to ensure their anonymity and accordingly this was done.

In order to maintain anonymity of the interviewees throughout the research process, the publication of this dissertation and any articles that may follow thereafter, no names or identifiers of interviewees were recorded in the digital audio recordings of such interviews or in the transcriptions thereof.

Furthermore, the digital audio recordings of interviews and the transcriptions thereof are kept confidential.

During the writing of the dissertation, confidentiality was ensured by restricting access to the data to as few people as possible and by ensuring that anyone who had access to this data was under legal obligation to keep such data confidential by means of a Non Disclosure Agreement that was signed by such parties.

As this dissertation has now been completed, all records of the data will be destroyed except for one archival copy, which is being kept in the GIBS archives.

Limitations and conclusion to chapter four

Depth interviews are susceptible to the interviewer's influence or bias and quality and completeness of the results depends heavily on the skill of the interviewer and the data can be difficult to analyse and interpret (Saunders, 2009).

The researcher gained support from other researchers as the interviews progressed by having others listen to the transcripts in order to understand whether bias was present and how this could be improved. This approach was further supplemented by having a professional external party transcribe the recordings, ensuring no bias entered the transcription process either.

Furthermore, due to the large amount of time that was needed for each interview, it inherently limited the number of interviews in the project (Malhotra, 2010). However, as mentioned above, in similar case studies, 14 (Kirkwood & Walton, 2010), 10 (Schlange, 2006) and even seven case studies (Schaltegger, 2002) were found to be sufficient to draw conclusions. Therefore the 10 interviews that this research is based on, inherently minimises the bias of the researcher.

Finally, it is difficult to generalise the findings of the particular cases to other cases (Tharenou et al. 2007), however, generalisability was improved in this case by using more than one case as was done in this study.