Sustainability – A driver for innovation?

The demand for sustainability and environmental-friendly conditions have gathered more attraction over the last years. Especially the “Fridays for future” campaign has attracted the public attention over the last weeks. With their strike, they demand more awareness for the environment in every political decision. In general, it is not only the politic who should or can do more. But the politic can be a starting point by implementing stronger environmental guidelines. Moreover, companies have to deal with sustainability as well. For example, the chemical industry with the exploration of oil and gas need this raw materials for their basic products. So, to stay in the market, the chemical industry has to rethink their products and processes. This leads us to the question, how can sustainability be a driver for innovation?

Many companies see in sustainability and environmental-friendly activities disadvantages for their business. They fear that the costs they have to implement sustainability won’t be covered. Meaning, if customers won’t pay more for a sustainable product, the companies can’t be competitive in the market. Thus, their commitment yield in no benefit. Another point is the additional pressure through companies who haven’t to face sustainable developments now. For example, companies from other countries might face less strict rules. as already mentioned above, the customers have to be taken into account as well. They have to be encouraged specially to buy this kind of green products.

What is sustainability?

The words which are often used in definitions for sustainability are for example “environment”, “social” “economic” or “development”. In the following we would like to show you some quotes about sustainability.

“(…) Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development (1987): Our Common Future.

“(…) a vision of the future (…).”

White, Mark A. (2013): Sustainability: I know it when I see it, in: Ecological Economics, 86, 213-217.

The two definition and the fact that different words are used to define sustainability shows that the term is widely spread. The two quotes touch also the point of the personal position. They describe sustainability as a vision and that sustainability allows all generations to have the same chance to meet their requirements. So, sustainability has to cope with the dimensions of environmental, economic ans societal aspects.

How can sustainability be a driver for innovation?
The three dimensions to think about sustainability.

What next?

Legislation, technical and societal aspects have been found as a driver for sustainability and force companies to rethink their products, processes and even business models to remain competitive. As we have seen, there is a need to consider sustainability as an economic force as well as for example costs, inflation, employment, and politics. We will revert back to sustainability in our future posts, whenever it is suitable.

Further reading

If you like to read more about this topic, we have here a list of links for you.