Sustainability is a catalyst for innovation. Companies around the world are serving as functioning models of the evolving relationship between sustainability and innovation. Sustainable innovations are creating new business models, opening up new markets and providing competitive advantages. Sustainable innovation is also improving profitability.
Companies around the world are demonstrating how innovative sustainable practices are bettering their bottom line. Organisations that seek growth must focus on business operations, shareholders, society and the environment simultaneously. Concentrating on any one of these areas at the expense of the other two could undermine long-term success. A focus on sustainability provides the best means to implement this multi-pronged strategy simultaneously, enabling organisations to innovate, differentiate themselves and succeed.
Although sustainable practices were once dismissed for being too costly, increasing numbers of companies are coming to the realization that sustainable innovations are a gateway to growth.
Sustainable innovation is also known as eco-innovation, this is a term used to describe products and processes that contribute to sustainable development. Eco-innovation is the commercial application of knowledge to elicit direct or indirect ecological improvements. It is often used to describe a range of related ideas, from environmentally friendly technological advances to socially-acceptable innovative paths towards sustainability.
Eco-innovation requires a workforce that can consider problems from multiple perspectives and that can effectively work in cross-functional teams. For example, experience in chemistry and physics is required to tackle things like photovoltaics, polymers and greener chemical production.
Sustainable innovation offers businesses an increasingly important competitive advantage and an integrative approach to innovation often yields the best results. For an integrative approach, research and development need to encompass the entire life cycle, and this information needs to be continuously shared among the various work groups. Green innovation is about maintaining a sustainable focus and this requires continuous project evaluation from idea to commercialization. It is important to ensure that each phase creates a feedback loop that continually informs decision-making.
The common business basics of location, capital construction, and equipment considerations, need to be viewed from a sustainability perspective. Green innovation is a significant challenge, but an integrative approach increases the possibilities for significant rewards.
Developing a sustainable product or process is a complex endeavor with many interrelated concerns. To develop a sustainable product or process, businesses must find ways to assess and reduce their environmental impact.
Sustainable innovation demands ongoing optimization of every aspect of the product or process, including material selection, transportation, manufacturing, energy, product, marketing, distribution, legal, and end-of-life considerations. When evaluating a sustainable product it is important to consider the entire life cycle and employ an integrative approach to innovation.
Businesses are increasingly innovating sustainable products and processes. Visionary business leaders who anticipate the winds of change and creatively develop sustainable products and processes will thrive in the rapidly changing economic landscape.