This research explores the need to establish new sustainable business models in China and uses multiple objectives to examine in a sample of Chinese companies the reality of the level of sustainable development, environmental awareness and performance, community responsibility, performance barriers and drivers and other sustainability issues. A mixed methodology was adopted, using a questionnaire survey and interviews with 20 manufacturing companies in Guangzhou and Shenzen. Evidence from the small sample of companies demonstrates the lack of significant sustainable development practices in China, although small and medium sized companies appeared to show interest in this area and would like to further contribute to for example triple bottom line objectives. Increasing concerns are found from the company level regarding the need to use renewable energy, source alternative sustainable materials, close the loop of the supply chain, improve the quality of products produced rather than reducing cost, export to Europe and treat employees as an asset. The lack of skills, finance and knowledge are found to be prohibiting the effective embedment of sustainable development within companies and hence cause an under-performance in this regard. The study concludes that the establishing of a new business model for sustainable development in China is needed urgently, and this should be a joint effort with the Chinese government. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.