What is sustainable competitive advantage?

What is sustainable competitive advantage? I have reviewed this post in depth because I thought I could offer a more complete and detailed summary.

Sustainable competitive advantage
Sustainable competitive advantage

Sustainable competitive advantage refers to a unique and lasting advantage that a company possesses over its competitors in the market and that allows it to surpass them and maintain its position over a long period of time. It is a key concept in strategic management and business strategy, as it allows a company to differentiate itself from its competitors and achieve long-term success.

A sustainable competitive advantage is not easily replicable by competitors and provides a company with a superior position in the market, which translates into an increase in market share, profitability and customer loyalty. It is sustainable because it is not easily eroded by changes in the market or actions taken by competitors.

Companies can achieve sustainable competitive advantage through various means, such as having superior technological capabilities, unique and patented products or services, strong brand recognition, access to key distribution channels, economies of scale, superior customer relationships, efficient supply chain management, or a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

Maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage requires continuous efforts to protect and enhance the advantage, adapt to changing market conditions, and invest in innovation and strategic initiatives. Companies must constantly analyze their competitive environment, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and develop strategies to leverage the long-term spread.

Having a sustainable competitive advantage is crucial to a company’s long-term success, as it allows it to establish a strong position in the market, fend off the competition and achieve superior financial performance. However, it is important to note that this achievement can be temporary and erode over time, so companies must be proactive in maintaining and improving their advantage to stay ahead of the market.


Porter’s sustainable competitive advantage is a concept that refers to a company’s ability to maintain its market position over time by creating value for its customers and stakeholders.

According to Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School and renowned expert on strategy, there are two main sources of sustainable competitive advantage: cost leadership and differentiation.

Cost leadership means offering products or services at a lower price than competitors, while differentiation means offering products or services that are unique or superior in some sense. Porter argues that companies should choose one of these strategies and target their activities and resources accordingly. It also suggests that companies avoid falling halfway, meaning they try to pursue both cost leadership and differentiation without achieving either.

Porter believes that sustainable competitive advantage can lead to superior performance and profitability, as well as positive social and environmental impact. It has applied its framework to various industries and sectors, such as healthcare, education and non-profit organisations.


Apple Inc

Apple Inc. It has demonstrated several examples of sustainable competitive advantage that have contributed to its long-term success in the highly competitive consumer electronics sector. Some of these examples are

  • Brand reputation: Apple has built a strong brand reputation over the years, known for its innovative, high-quality products, sleek design, and easy-to-use interfaces. This brand reputation has translated into a loyal customer base who are willing to pay a premium for Apple products, giving the company a competitive advantage.
  • Product innovation: Apple has a history of introducing innovative products that have disrupted markets, such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook. These products have set new standards in the industry, creating a competitive advantage by offering unique features, superior performance and seamless integration across Apple’s ecosystem of products and services.
  • Ecosystem locking: Apple has created a closed ecosystem that includes hardware, software, services, and applications, which are tightly integrated and designed to work together seamlessly. This closed ecosystem makes it difficult for customers to switch to other platforms, as they have invested in Apple’s products and services, which translates into loyalty and repeat purchases.
  • Supply Chain Management: Apple has established a sophisticated and efficient global supply chain management system, which enables the company to secure key components, manage inventory and optimize production processes. This has provided Apple with a competitive advantage in terms of reliable and timely product availability, cost management and operational efficiency.
  • Intellectual property and patents: Apple has a significant number of patents and intellectual property rights that protect its innovations and technologies. This has created a barrier to entry for competitors as it prevents them from easily replicating Apple’s products and features, providing a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Retail strategy: Apple retail stores, known as Apple Stores, have become iconic and are known for their distinctive design, customer experience and personalized service. This has allowed Apple to create a direct relationship with customers, better understand their preferences and showcase their products in a controlled environment, which has provided the company with a competitive advantage.


An example of a company that has managed to stand out through sustainability is Patagonia, a clothing company whose mission is “to manufacture the best product, not cause unnecessary damage, use the business to inspire and apply solutions to the environmental crisis“.

Patagonia has built a loyal customer base by offering high-quality products that are durable, repairable, recyclable and ethically sourced. Patagonia has also reduced its environmental footprint by using organic cotton, recycled materials, renewable energy and carbon offsets.

Patagonia has also committed to social and environmental activism by donating 1% of its sales to grassroots organizations, supporting environmental campaigns and encouraging customers to buy less and reuse more. Patagonia has achieved both financial success and positive impact by pursuing its purpose driven by sustainable competitive advantage.

Definition, various authors

Sustainable competitive advantage Definition, which is
Sustainable competitive advantage Definition, which is

Sustainable competitive advantage is a term that refers to a company’s ability to outperform its competitors over the long term.

Different authors have proposed different definitions of this concept, depending on their perspectives and frames of reference.

For example, Barney (1991) defined sustainable competitive advantage as a situation in which a firm has valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-replaceable resources and capabilities that allow it to outperform its rivals. Porter (1985) defined sustainable competitive advantage as a position that a company can achieve and defend by creating value for its customers through its activities and choices. Grant (1991) defined sustainable competitive advantage as the result of the fit between the external environment and a firm’s internal resources and capabilities.

These definitions highlight different aspects of sustainable competitive advantage, such as resource-based vision, value creation, strategic positioning and fit.


Sustainable competitive advantage Features
Sustainable competitive advantage Features

Sustainable competitive advantage is a company’s ability to maintain its edge over its rivals over the long term. This can be achieved by creating value for customers, stakeholders and society that is superior to competitors. Likewise, it can be improved by reducing costs, risks and negative impacts on the environment and society.

Some of the features are:

– It is based on a clear and compelling purpose that guides business strategy and culture.

– It is aligned with the needs and expectations of customers, employees, investors, regulators and communities.

– It relies on distinctive capabilities and resources difficult to imitate or replace by competitors.

– It is adaptable and resistant to changes in market conditions, customer preferences, technological innovations and social trends.

– It is measured and managed using holistic indicators of performance, impact and value creation.


Porter, M.E. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. Free Press.

Barney, J.B. (1991). Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99-120.

Hitt, M.A., Ireland, R.D., & Hoskisson, R.E. (2018). Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases. Cengage Learning.

Grant, R.M. (2019). Contemporary Strategy Analysis: Text and Cases. Wiley.

Peteraf, M.A. (1993). The Cornerstones of Competitive Advantage: A Resource-Based View. Strategic Management Journal, 14(3), 179-191.

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