Ecosystem servitization: Looking at nature as a service business

Jan Konietzko, Nancy Bocken, Erik-Jan Hultink

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherOther research output


Purpose: Nature provides services such as fresh water, food and clean air. This article takes a bold perspective on ‘nature’ as an advanced services business. The analogy enables a structural comparison between the field of ‘ecosystem services’ on the one hand, and an advanced services business model on the other. This is guided by the following questions: How can nature’s business
model and service patterns be described? How can the analogy of nature as a service - “ecosystem servitization” - contribute to achieving greater levels of sustainability? What are the negative consequences of increasingly ‘servitizing nature’?

Approach: This article uses an analogy, i.e. a structure mapping between two domains. As a first step, it briefly introduces the two domains: ecosystem services and an advanced services business model. It then maps their structural relationships in order to build the analogy and describe how nature creates, delivers and captures value.

Findings: Nature can be described as a highly servitized and efficient business. The way it has designed its services reveals some valuable insights for how companies might decide to design their services. In particular, three core insights for (sustainable) business are identified: diversity, locality and adaptability.

Originality: By linking the concept of ‘ecosystem services’ to ‘servitization’, this article provides a new perspective of how the latter can be framed to include environmental considerations. For the purpose of implementing the circular economy concept, which is inspired by the workings of ecosystems, the proposed analogy can help businesses and policy makers to reconsider the role of
nature as a stakeholder in design and future business model decisions to achieve greater levels of sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe Spring Servitization Conference (SSC17): Internationalisation through servitization - Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Lucerne, Switzerland
Duration: 15 May 201717 May 2017


ConferenceThe Spring Servitization Conference (SSC17)


  • ecosystem services
  • business models
  • servitization
  • circular economy


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