A woman in a suit holding up a sign which illustrates sustainable innovation

The Responsibility of Sustainable Innovators

If we look at the state of the world today, life seems chaotic. The pandemic has exposed inequities around the world, but times of great change are also times of great opportunity. Humans need to develop a sustainable life for all, or none will be stable. And that makes sustainability a focal point for innovating.

In order to innovate, we need to think about the environment as well as the people who inhabit it. There are many ways to approach this topic from a scientific standpoint as well as from a social and cultural standpoint. But the Three Pillars of Sustainability by the Brundtland Commision of 1987 are a good starting point. From sustainable agricultural practices to renewable energy solutions to social and economic parity, there are many opportunities for change that can be made in order to improve our quality of life-both now and in the future! Here are a few ideas to think about. It’s up to you now.

A new way of thinking needs to be created that will ensure that future generations can live sustainably, which means that current innovators must provide the tools and resources necessary for everyone-businesses, communities, governments and other stakeholders-to create a global ecosystem that will ensure the needs of all humans are met without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.

Where does it start?

Sustainable ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, as it is all about thinking differently and thinking outside the box; the possibilities are endless. An idea doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering idea or product that changes the entire world, but rather a small step in the right direction.

For instance, a company may implement a recycling initiative or an energy-efficient product to help reduce their carbon footprint and material consumption. It makes the world a better place for generations to come, while also making companies’ bottom line look good.

What is innovative sustainability?

An innovative idea that is sustainable is a product, technique, idea or initiative that:

  1. Solves an environmental problem and simultaneously drives new economic opportunity. It needs to be eco-efficient, that means it has to generate business value while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts (it should also ideally maximise social benefits).
  2. Positions a company as the ‘clean’ leader in its industry space; showcasing them as progressive and future facing.
  3. Looks for new opportunities to build revenue by partnering with clients on initiatives that incorporate clean changes into new products and services or into their business model (e.g. greening existing products/services; opening new revenue streams).

It is sustainable if it has both economic and environmental benefits for the company, its customers, suppliers, employees and society as a whole. It may also be called an environmentally friendly or eco-efficient idea (Eco-efficiency is also known as Cleaner Production).

The new holistic view of sustainably innovating

SI is about more than just finding new ways for businesses to make money. It’s an entire shift in the way companies think and act; it’s about having a holistic view of the world and what you can do to help not only your own business but society as a whole. People want to buy from a company that is doing its part in making the world a better place for everyone, while still generating revenue and being profitable.

For example, Tesla has become one of the biggest electric car companies in the world by focusing on innovating and building their brand into a household name. The US company now offers the world’s first premium electric sedan, as well as an SUV and a high-performance sports car.

Tesla has used environmentally sustainable materials such as recycled plastics and bioplastics to make their cars lighter, which not only decreases fuel emissions but also increases their overall efficiency.

Tesla has also installed solar panels at numerous locations in the US to take advantage of renewable energy, which helps them generate more power than they need to run the factory. This provides a cost advantage over other automakers that have to purchase electricity from outside sources, thus helping it achieve superior economic performance while being environmentally responsible.

They have also made a conscious effort to reduce the environmental impact of their cars, including removing heavy metals from their vehicle’s batteries and advocating for recycling rare earth minerals. Tesla has backed up this up by winning numerous awards.

How does it help sustainability?

When people read or hear the word “innovation,” they may think of new technology, business ideas, and social change. As the world population increases and economies grow, we will need more food, energy and other natural resources than ever before. Developing countries will also want higher living standards and economic opportunities for their people. This is why it is so important: only through it can we meet today’s aspirations and ensure a better quality of life for future generations.

The world needs ideas to adapt to demographic, economic and social changes in society. This has become more important than ever considering the increased rate of climate change occurring in our time. Our environment is changing so much faster than it used to, due mostly in part because of human activity. We are essentially using up our resources much faster than the earth can replenish them.

What are some ideas which are sustainable?

Here are just a few examples of SI’s that have made their way to the market:

  • The use of clean energy in day-to-day life, such as solar panels on roofs and wind turbines.
  • Electric cars.
  • Retrofitting homes for insulation, smart appliances and better lighting.
  • Awareness campaigns about recycling.
  • Sustainable supply chains that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.

And these are just the most obvious ones that we see on a daily basis. Other lesser known changes include:

  • A better, more energy efficient way of growing crops so they can stop using up valuable natural resources.
  • A new type of gasoline that doesn’t contribute to smog and improves gas mileage by 10%.
  • An initiative where companies pay for their employees’ public transportation costs to encourage the use of public transit instead of cars, which reduces emissions from vehicle traffic and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant-based plastics instead of plastic made from petroleum, since oil reserves are limited and pollute the environment when they are burned or leaked into rivers or oceans.
  • Removing heavy metals from car batteries and advocating for recycling rare earth minerals.

It can be found everywhere and by everyone, not just large companies who have the resources to invest in it. People who create solutions that solve environmental problems and drive economic opportunity are true innovators – and they make the world a better place for everyone! By doing this we show our children what can be accomplished by thinking outside of the box, which will hopefully encourage them to do the same in their own lives.

Why is it important for business sustainability?

Innovating is important for all businesses and entrepreneurs because, as the world population grows, the demand for products and services will grow as well. The increase in demand can be met by opening new markets and developing new technologies. If companies do not innovate to meet this growing need, they risk becoming obsolete. According to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), companies that focus on innovating outperform companies that do not by 219% in the long term.

What are the two main types of SI’s?

Sustainable innovation is the process of developing new products and business models, while enhancing environmental and social value. There are two main types: negative innovating and positive innovating. Negative sustainable innovating such as “the miner’s canary” reduce pollutants or waste, while positive ones create greener products. Sustainable innovating can be classified as either incremental or discontinuous innovations.

What are incremental innovations?

Incremental changess are typically low-risk, low-cost solutions that create small environmental or social improvements in existing products. They are usually designed to fit into existing systems, with few investments by manufacturers. Incremental innovators typically work within the current system, making gradual changes rather than radical ones.

What are discontinuous innovations?

Discontinuous changes are extremely high-risk, high-cost prevention of environmental and social deterioration. These usually require a complete overhaul of systems to adopt new approaches rather than incremental ones. Disruptive green technologies often propose worldwide changes to energy use, resource availability and economic growth.

What can sustainable innovators accomplish through their work?

Creativity has been the driving force behind technological growth for hundreds of years. From the invention of the wheel to modern day smartphones, improving society has always been at the heart of advancement. Because environmental degradation is becoming an ever-more apparent problem, sustainable innovators are working to mitigate future damage through their work.

What does it mean when business leaders take responsibility for creating solutions?

As more businesses become aware of the problems surrounding environmental issues, many are taking responsibility for their role in creation. This means that business leaders are becoming more responsible for finding sustainable solutions to future problems.

What are the business models for sustainable innovation?

There are many different business models that can be applied to drive innovation. Here is a look at five of the most common.

“Green Lighthouse” certification – provides an external endorsement of “green” or environmentally responsible products, helping companies demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract environmentally conscious customers.

“Greenwashing” – a term used when companies make misleading claims about their environmental responsibility in attempt to appear more environmentally friendly.  A company can avoid being accused of greenwashing by practicing due diligence, being transparent and honest about what they know and do not know, and being willing to admit limitations.

Creating an internal market for trading emissions – Making emissions-reduction investments in one part of the company can create a cost savings when overall emissions are reduced. For example, if investment in energy efficiency reduces power consumption in one area, that frees up capacity to be used elsewhere.

Carbon offsetting – carbon offsetting is a way companies and consumers can “neutralize” the effect of their carbon emissions by investing in emission-reduction projects elsewhere. This can be a good option for individuals or companies that are unable to reduce their own energy consumption or draw down their own carbon footprint, but it is important to understand that offsets do not equal investment in permanent solutions.

Verifying the sustainability of a company’s products – there are many companies that will verify the sustainability of a company’s product. For example, if a company produces organic cotton shirts, an independent organization can verify that those shirts have been produced without chemicals.

What can companies do to be sustainably innovative?

The sustainable innovator is aware of his/her own impact on the world, and works to make it a better place while still meeting their bottom line. Sustainable innovators are innovating for good while securing profits. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set several targets that businesses and innovators can contribute to in order to help meet the goals. It consists of twelve goals with 169 associated targets, divided into two groups: the social, economic and environmental dimensions.

A business can be innovative in three ways which are responsible consumption, responsible production, responsible innovation.

  1. Responsible consumption is anytime we use a product or service, we need to be sure that it has been created and used in the best way possible.
  2. Responsible production is ensuring that what you create does not negatively impact the world around you.
  3. Responsible innovation takes everything into consideration — from how your business operates to how your products are made.
  4. It is important to make sure that you take all three of these into account in order for your business to be sustainable. Your everyday choices can contribute to the betterment of society and the planet while still maintaining profitability. Being a responsible innovator goes hand in hand with being environmentally friendly, efficient, social and compliant. As companies and innovators work to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we all must do our part as citizens and consumers. Together we can create a world that works for everyone.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are categorized as:

The Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the Global Goals) are a set of seventeen interrelated global objectives intended to be “a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all.” The UN General Assembly established the SDGs in 2015, with the aim of reaching them by 2030.

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world:

GOAL 1: No Poverty

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

GOAL 13: Climate Action

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

GOAL 15: Life on Land

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Innovation and environmental problems

While we may not think of innovation as a solution to our environmental problems, it has the potential to help solve some of them.  For example:

  • More efficient use of resources – SI’s often lead to more efficient and effective use of resources. For example, LED lights can last around 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 70% less energy.
  • Overcoming resource limitations – SI’s can also help overcome resource limitations and vulnerabilities. For example, solar panels allow us to generate electricity from the sun instead of having to rely on fossil fuels.
  • Reducing harmful environmental impact – SI’s have a positive effect on our environment in several ways:
  • Conserving energy
  • Reducing carbon emissions from transportation
  • Recycling water and other resources
  • Reducing the use of harmful materials, such as heavy metals that can leach into our soil and environment.
  • Harnessing renewable energy sources – SI’s often lead to a reduction in carbon emissions. Renewable energy sources – such as solar, wind

How can I be a sustainable innovator in my everyday life?

Sustainability means to not use “up” natural resources and to prevent further harm to the environment. It’s vital we all do our part in sustaining the Earth. The responsibility of a sustainable innovator is an important one. In order to be a sustainable innovator you have to think creatively about how you can affect the environment around you. A few common things we can all do are recycling, turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, carpooling, and using more alternative methods of transportation like biking or walking. By taking simple steps each day you can ensure that the Earth is here for us to enjoy later on!

Being a sustainable innovator goes hand in hand with being environmentally friendly, efficient, social and compliant. As companies and innovators work to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we all must do our part as citizens and consumers. Together we can create a world that works for everyone. It’s vital we all do our part in sustaining the Earth. The responsibility of a sustainable innovator is an important one. In order to be a sustainable innovator you have to think creatively about how you can affect the environment around you by doing things like recycling or using more alternative methods of transportation such as biking or walking daily so it will be here for us later on!

Caveats and Disclaimers

We have covered many topics in this article and want to be clear that any reference to, or mention of innovation sustainability, business model, innovation management, business models, environmental benefits, carbon emissions, carbon dioxide, sustainable innovations, sustainable development, solar energy, technological innovations, consumer demand, economic performance, carbon footprint, green innovation, environmental concerns, sustainability initiatives, natural bee population, smog free tower measures, sustainable products, green alternative, market segments, high labor pollination tasks, natural gas, plastic recycling, identify pipe leaks, key factor, fossil fuels, organic counterparts, resource efficient, next decade, polluted air, status quo, crop yields, south korea, plastic cutlery, several industries, climate change, b droid’s mission, market share, lower cost, pipe leaks, pollinate crops, sustainability, robotic bees, business, innovation, environment, solutions, energy, process, technologies, practices, customers, services,  in the context of this article is purely for informational purposes and not to be misconstrued with investment advice or personal opinion. Thank you for reading, we hope that you found this article useful in your quest to understand ESG.