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Published: 2022-05-04

RiseB’s thesis prize 2022

NEWS This year we have two thesis that are awarded the prize. The winners are: Martina Reppen, Södertörn University, and Henry Müller and Felix Pahl, Stockholm School of Economics. The prize will be handed out at the USBE graduation ceremony on June 3.

Text: Maxim Vlasov

Double thesis prize to students at Södertörn University and Stockholm School of Economics

This year it is not one but two theses that are awarded RiseBs annual thesis prize in sustainability and business ethics. The winners are Martina Reppen, Södertörn University, and Henry Müller and Felix Pahl, Stockholm School of Economics. Each thesis receives the full prize and the scholarship worth 25,000 SEK from Umeå Energi.

The decision to award a double prize is unique and it is the result of a close tie between the two theses. Together, they map out opportunities and challenges for accelerating sustainability transitions across the public and private sector.  

From siloistic to holistic implementation of sustainability policy

In the first winning thesis, Martina Reppen examines key factors, conditions, and barriers in the work with sustainable transition in the public administration. Reppen interviewed civil servants working strategically with implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 on the municipal level, and she found a gap between ambitions and actual policy integration in most municipalities. Agenda 2030 was often treated in isolated programmes for social, environmental, and economic sustainability, and there was a lack of vertical coordination both within the organisation and between different governmental levels.

Reppen makes a compelling case for holistic implementation of sustainability policy in the public sector.

– Agenda 2030 is a complex framework for integrated and horizontal issues that must be managed with regard to potential synergies and goal conflicts. An important question for me was how to attend to such holistic frameworks in the public sector that often separates and compartmentalizes issues in its organisation.

– My study shows that the traditional organizational logic may counteract long-term sustainability goals. There is a risk that Agenda 2030 or sustainability simply become a “political sprinkle” on top, rather than a real force for change from the bottom-up.

Title: From siloistic to holistic? – Integration and coordination to implement the 2030 Agenda on the Swedish municipal level

Supervisor: Steffi Siegert

Startups drive transition towards a circular economy

Another winning thesis, written by Henry Müller and Felix Pahl, sheds light on the important and multifaceted role that startups play in circular ecosystems. The study builds on impressive empirical data including 33 interviews with entrepreneurs, established organisations, experts, and support structures, with a special focus on construction, fashion, and packaging industries.

Müller and Pahl find that startups introduce new business models, develop digital platforms that connect actors in the value chain in new ways, and employ a wide range of strategies to drive innovations despite challenges like high uncertainty and lack of funding.

– This prize is a great reward for the efforts that we invested into this research project. Being aware of intensifying environmental and social issues stemming from a “take-make-waste” economy, we aspired to contribute to promoting circularity.

– We hope that the study will provide practitioners, both entrepreneurs and established organizations, with strategic insights into transforming ecosystems from linear to circular. Ultimately, we show how seemingly insignificant startups with marginal sphere of influence may initiate, steer, or facilitate ecosystem-level changes.

Title: Driving a better future: The role of startups in circular ecosystem innovation

Supervisor: Per Andersson

Honourable mention

The jury also gives honourable mention to Sofia Gudmundsson and Anaïs Andréa Marie Lachini, Linnaeus University, for their high-quality thesis “Designing Business Models of Tomorrow: Exploring the Expansion of Cleantech-as-a-Service through an Agile Approach”.

Important collaboration

The prize, which this year is handed out as two scholarships worth 25,000 SEK each, has been made financially possible through RiseB´s collaboration with Umeå Energi.

Umeå energi wants to be a positive force in sustainable development of the Umeå region. With this scholarship, we want to encourage students in business administration to deeply engage in sustainability.

The jury

RiseB expresses sincere gratitude to this year’s jury that consisted of Professor Satu Teerikangas (University of Turku), Maira Babri (Örebro University School of Business), Maxim Vlasov (Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics), and representatives from Umeå Energi: Maria Mårtensson and Marcus Larsson

Read more about the thesis prize and the criteria underpinning the jury’s decision at RiseB’s homepage.