A collection of improved business model canvases that expose environmental & social costs and assumptions with the goal of designing more sustainable business models.

About this tool

Given the popularity of the Business Model Canvas, several improved versions that highlight social and environmental aspects of the business have been developed. Following are some of our favorite alternative business model canvases with varying levels of complexity that companies and teams of different sizes can use.

The Sustainable Business Model Canvas

Recommended for companies and teams of all sizes looking for simplicity & modularity.

Threebility created a set of tools for sustainable innovation, including The Sustainable Business Model Canvas. The canvas puts sustainability front and center in each building block (e.g., Sustainable Value Proposition) and adds four new blocks to the Canvas. End of Life and Subsidization – are inserted into the main canvas layout, while Positive Impact (Maximize) and Negative Impact (Minimize) sit on top of the canvas. Companies can use the Sustainability Impact Canvas to dig deeper into direct, indirect, and systemic effects when filling in the two impacts boxes.

In addition to the improved business model canvas, the Threebility toolkit offers The Digital Product Ethics Canvas, which highlights various ethical risks of digital products. This makes the Threebility toolkit an excellent modular choice for different types of companies and teams.

A preview of The Sustainable Business Model Canvas described above, placed on a orange background.
The Sustainable Business Model Canvas.
Source: Threebility

The Responsible Business Model Canvas (RBMC)

Recommended for companies and teams looking for a single-page canvas that covers a wide range of issues.

The Responsible Business Model Canvas (RBMC) was developed at Laval University and includes additional questions in existing boxes (e.g., partner motivations) and five new boxes: Users and Beneficiaries (who else uses or benefits from the product), Mission, Vision and Values (exposing the guiding purpose, aspiration, and principles of the team), Governance (company’s legal status, structure, profit sharing), Negative impacts (known or potential negative economic, social, ecological effects), and Positive impacts (known or potential economic, social, ecological benefits). The RBMC is a simple but effective improvement that should be easy to understand and adopt in different contexts.

The Responsible Business Model Canvas (RBMC) as described above.
The Responsible Business Model Canvas (RBMC).
Source: Laval University

The triple layered business model canvas

Recommended for companies that want to dig deep.

The triple layered business model canvas by researchers at Concordia University Montreal (full article PDF) keeps the original 9-box canvas layout but proposes two additional environmental and social layers while keeping the familiar layout on all three layers. The proposed approach might take more time and effort to learn, but it does dig deeper into both environmental and social issues.

The triple layered business model canvas includes three layers: the top one shown in blue is the economic layer, the bottom left shown in green is the environmental life cycle layer, and the bottom right one shown in yellow is the social stakeholder layer.
The triple layered business model canvas has the basic economic layer and two additional layers: the environmental life cycle and social stakeholder layers.
Source: SustainableBusinessModel.org

Lean Green Canvas

Recommended for larger companies looking to change internal processes.

The Lean Green Canvas is a part of Sustainable Design Tools and looks fairly simple at first glance with its additional Environmental & Social Impact box. However, the entire set of tools go rather deep into examining various aspects of sustainability. Given the complexity of the toolkit, this canvas version might be easier to adopt by larger companies with more resources.

Screenshot from the Sustainable Design Tools collection, showing the Lean Green Canvas and how the canvas fits into internal processes.
The Lean Green Canvas as presented in the collection of Sustainable Design Tools.
Source: #SDFY

Sustainable Innovation Canvas

Recommended for lean startups looking for a basic Lean Canvas update.

The Sustainable Innovation Canvas by Maplebloom builds upon the Lean Canvas. It includes several reminders for sustainability considerations in existing boxes and draws explicit attention to the negative impact in the Metrics box. The most significant addition is the two boxes on top of the canvas: WHY? and Objectives, which draw attention to the intention behind the business idea and define the next milestones. While relatively basic, this version is still an improvement over the original Lean Canvas and should be reasonably easy to adopt even by small startup teams.

A preview of the Sustainable Innovation Canvas that is described above.
Sustainable Innovation Canvas.
Source: Maplebloom