5 reasons why sustainability can drive innovation

Innovation is about doing something better and doing good is good business. We list 5 ways in which sustainability can drive innovation (and perhaps some entrepreneur out there will see an opportunity hidden between the lines).

1. Sustainability-driven innovation is about more than just creating green products. It includes improving efficiency and reducing waste in business operations and activities. Examples include industrial symbioses: These are approaches that promote an integrated industrial economy, where industries cooperate with each other to optimally use available resources. This can be achieved by leveraging resources such as materials, energy, water, capacity, expertise and assets among others.

2. Innovation does not necessarily mean an overhaul of a business of expensive technology, changing one aspect of the production process can result in significant cost savings and reducing input requirements. An example could include replacing input material with more environmentally friendly and reusable options, or material that require less water and so on.

3. Innovations that allow companies to be connected to their customers to influence their behavior in the use of their products can be very useful. The focus here is for the producer to take responsibility in the management of their waste. The aim of take-back strategies is to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste disposal, increasing recycling rates and prevention pollution at source.

4. Circular management which aims to promote more efficient resource use, by encouraging  firms to adopt cleaner production, recycle more of their products and cooperate with others (Giurco et al 2014). The key drivers of circular management are the growing demand for raw materials, growing populations, increased waste generation and associated costs, and significant progress in the development of recycling technologies. (Giurco et al 2014).

Innovation targeting the supply chain can reduce a company’s carbon footprint outside the ‘factory fence’To achieve a green supply chain requires significant engagement outside of a company’s ‘factory’ fence, by partnering with suppliers, local communities and environmental organizations, to help companies manage the risks associated with their supply chains.

About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.