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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Sustainable Business Models for Informal Charcoal Producers in Kenya

Mutta, Doris; Mahamane, Larwanou; Wekesa, Chemuku; Kowero, Godwin; Roos, Anders


The sustainable business model (SBM) concept requires enterprises to integrate sustainability aspects in their planning and operations. Although 60% of the global working population make their living in the informal sector mostly in low-and middle income countries, the potential for SBMs has rarely been analyzed for this category. This study explores the SBMs of informal charcoal-producing enterprises in coastal Kenya. It describes key business-model components: value proposition, value creation and delivery, and economic value capture. Impact and dependency on sustainability-related indicators were also studied. Data were obtained through individual interviews, focus-group discussions, and workshops for charcoal producers and other relevant stakeholders. Findings demonstrated that charcoal enterprises, despite their informal status, adopt elaborate business models. The incomes positively affect several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by reducing, if not eradicating, poverty and supporting basic livelihood needs. Examples of negative impacts on some SDG include the activity’s contribution to forest degradation. Feedback impacts, where SDG status influence the informal enterprises’ opportunities were also identified. The SBM model contributes to the development of a balanced sustainability transition of the charcoal sector. We suggest further analyses of the role of informal enterprises in the bioenergy sector for sustainable development and how their SBMs could be improved.


bioenergy; business strategy; green business; livelihoods; value chain

Published in

2021, volume: 13, number: 6, article number: 3475

Authors' information

Mutta, Doris
African Forest Forum
Mahamane, Larwanou
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Wekesa, Chemuku
Kenya Forestry Research Institute
Kowero, Godwin
African Forest Forum
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Economics

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere
SDG8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
SDG17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

UKÄ Subject classification

Business Administration
Economic Geography
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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