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European Business Review





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Business model, Canada, Coffee, Composting, Fast food industry, Fast foods, Recycling, Sustainability

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe a Canadian corporation's implementation and application of a sustainable business operation and model. It is based upon a case study of an International Canadian coffee and donut chain: Tim Hortons.

Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected through: extensive publications of corporate documents, observations of actual operations at retail sites and social media sites.

Findings – The paper finds that Tim Hortons has clearly made progress toward greater sustainability. However, its program often lacks specificity, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Within a visibly and highly polluting industry Tim Hortons sustainability program is a step in the right direction but there are areas in need of improvement.

Research limitations/implications – The findings of this study paradoxically suggest that it is difficult for a company in the fast food industry to truly become sustainable given certain characteristics of the industry (disposal food and beverage containers, and drive-thrus for example), yet sustainability is also imperative to business success and competitiveness.

Practical implications – Through a detailed examination of Tim Hortons' sustainable business approach the authors delineate a number of areas where the company can improve its sustainability. The paper also discusses areas of difficulty (e.g. drive-thrus) and areas in need of improvement (e.g. a detailed description of the sources of the company's greenhouse-gas emissions).

Social implications – Tim Hortons' sustainability program was only recently launched, and although the motivations behind the program are not discussed, it was not developed in response to any government subsidies or legislation.

Originality/value – The main contributions are as follows. First, the authors methodically analyze the sustainable business approach of a Canadian fast-food company including but not limited to its value-added process, driving forces, and purchasing policies. This provides a beginning for others who wish to implement sustainability into an industry not known for its environmental responsibility. Second, the authors suggest ways that Tim Hortons could improve its sustainable business approach. Third, the authors provide a case study of how an iconic Canadian company with revenues over $2.5 billion and nearly 4,000 stores across the globe has begun to implement sustainability into its core strategic approach.




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