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Sustainability: A Key Driver of Innovation
Christina Herden Global Head of Sustainability | March 10, 2021
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The global economy is exhausting earth’s natural resources and generating waste at an alarming rate. It is increasingly important for businesses to introduce and establish sustainability strategies and new designs. The idea is to regulate the utilization of key resources to reduce or eliminate the impact on our ecological systems and communities. Sustainable innovation practices address all three aspects of running a business: social, environmental, and economic. They also incorporate new sustainability strategies or technological improvements that contribute to high diffusion rate and help businesses generate more margins, profitability and sales.

Worldwide IT leaders are adopting and integrating a sustainable approach to their business models. With the development of a new design for a connected workplace, organizations can expect a reduction in the utilization of key resources, which improves efficiency and an increase in the space utilization by a significant margin. With further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increasing dependence on renewable sources of energy, organizations are gradually adopting sustainable innovation practices.

Why is sustainability a key driver of innovation?

A sustainable model reassesses the customer value proposition and puts constraints on how the key natural resources are utilized. Supported by the creation of new designs and strategies, the integration of an appropriate sustainable framework in organizational structures can lead to innovation. Sustainable innovation recognizes the importance of entrepreneurship. Along with developing new concepts and technologies entails the adoption of new processes and systems, allowing the business to boost its performance and the return on investment.

A sustainable model is built on an entrepreneurial approach to collaboration and building together while making sure that the impact on the ecosystem is reduced steadily. Adopting sustainable innovation practices demands a change in the outlook and the organizational culture of the company, including the current services and practices. In order to realize social and environmental value and the degradation business operations can cause, businesses need to adopt a sustainable model mindset. This fosters an environment for collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation and integrate these ideologies into the core business strategy.

What steps can organizations take to integrate sustainability in their operational practice and processes?

Viewing Compliance as Opportunity

Compliance regulations vary among different geographical boundaries. Businesses might feel the need to follow the lowest standards of compliance regulations in terms of measuring their impact on the environment. But compliance to the regulations set by the state or the country can provide a significant opportunity for sustainable innovation and revenue generation. Global compliance regulations also allows companies to optimize their supply chain operations and penetrate their respective markets without any additional local standards to follow.

Revaluating the use of natural resources

Businesses must establish an internal baseline that evaluates the use of key natural resources and measures the impact of the overutilization of these resources. Businesses need to put constraints on how the natural resources are used that can degrade the environment. Abandoning the use of resources that degrade the environment and replacing them with their sustainable counterparts can help meet the guidelines for regulations and generate enormous revenues.

Reassessing the customer value proposition

Businesses need to integrate a sustainable customer value proposition as the key driver in their operations strategy. There is a need to bridge the gap between what is considered a ‘sustainable choice’ and ‘value’ for money. Analyzing the past behavior of the customer can help businesses understand their pressing needs, develop value-centered services built on a sustainable framework, and construct propositions that resonate with the ‘value for money’ customer.

There is a need to bridge the gap between what is considered a ‘sustainable choice’ and ‘value’ for money.

Identify the areas of improvement to create more business value

It is evident that while some operations require a heavy investment, the profit it generates is marginal. Analyzing their grid of operations and processes can help identify the key areas for improvement that can deliver the highest return on investment. Identifying the areas of improvement also entails the recognition of meaningful targets in terms of resource utilization and scaling of operations.

Collaboration

Sustainability is rooted in a cross-disciplinary approach to innovation. It facilitates the development of services through an effective collaboration unit that cuts across multiple departments and envisions new possibilities in business models. Sustainable innovation positions entrepreneurship in its core and demands a collaborative approach. Businesses are setting up partnerships with non-government organizations, new customers, and policy making bodies in pursuit of new designs and strategies. These satisfy their emerging entrepreneurial needs and address the operations with a sustainable mindset. Collaboration with other stakeholders reduces the initial investment and improves compliance regulations.

The Future of Sustainable Innovation

With entrepreneurship at the center of their functioning, businesses are reassessing their operations, strategies, and services to encompass the social and environmental parameters into their economic models. A sustainable approach to innovation can help companies extend their operations, enhance brand value, and amplify their revenue by effectively engaging and collaborating with the respective stakeholders.

The inherent connection between sustainability and innovation is more prominent now. Businesses are abandoning the traditional methods and adopting a sustainable approach to innovation. With environmental degradation at its peak, business models need to address a range of sustainability concerns. They must ensure that the social and environmental impact is reduced or eliminated.