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, the children, students, and most of the younger generation 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 act as a starting point by implementing stronger environmental guidelines.

Moreover, companies have to deal with sustainability as well. For example, a part of the chemical industry deals with the exploration of natural oil and gas reservoirs. They need this raw material for their production of basic chemicals. So, to think about sustainability, the market and the chemical industry have to rethink their products and processes. This leads us to the hypothesis, that sustainability can be a driver for innovation.

Many companies see in sustainability and environmental-friendly activities disadvantages for their business. They fear that the implementation cost for sustainable solutions won’t be covered. Meaning, if customers won’t pay more for a sustainable product. As a result, the company is not competitive in the market. Thus, their commitment yield in no benefit.

Another point is the additional pressure through companies who don’t face sustainable developments now. For example, companies from other countries might face less strict rules. As a consequence, those companies could follow an aggressive price campaign to gain more market share or even remove the others from the market.

As already mentioned above, the customers are a key factor and must be taken into account. Their decision-making process has a high relevance and needs to be encouraged especially to buy 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 definitions and the fact that different words are used to define sustainability shows that the term is widely spread.

The two quotes also touch the point of the personal position. They describe sustainability as a vision and that all generations should have the same chance to meet their requirements. Therefore, sustainability has to cope with different dimensions of environmental, economic, and 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 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.