The Expanding Scope of Sustainability and What It Means for Innovation

Aug 18, 2023 7:37:52 AM

AdobeStock_553639062Historically, a primary focus of sustainability has been on green tech and cutting carbon.

This has changed in recent years. The definition of sustainability now includes innovative sustainable technology solutions that improve the quality of life for people, communities and the planet, whether it’s climate action, education, health initiatives, accessibility, human rights, equity access and, of course, green initiatives.

Working Together to Grow Sustainability Efforts

However you define it, widespread impactful sustainability doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To effect real and lasting change, we need to collectively take ownership of sustainability efforts in a number of ways:

Creating a Collaborative Relationship Between Business and Government

Public/private sector partnerships can provide resources, incentives and support for sustainability initiatives that benefit a broad segment of the community. For example, local government leaders could spearhead a “cleaner commute” campaign and partner with local electric vehicle (EV) or EV infrastructure providers to offer incentives and support for the campaign.

Defining Sustainable Development Goals

Responsible consumption and production represent one of the most urgent sustainable development goals for building a resilient future. Businesses of every size across every industry can adopt this goal to drive their commercial practices and develop future growth plans that will have a significant impact on global sustainability efforts.

Supporting the Innovators

Creating a more sustainable future relies on innovators to develop and deploy future-thinking sustainable technology initiatives. Organizations such as LG NOVA are working with startups that are committed to building solutions for a technologically advanced lifestyle and improving the quality of life on this planet.

How Sustainability Can Be Embedded in Every Industry

Building a more sustainable future isn’t the job of any one industry. We all have a role to play in creating a better world for all people—not just the wealthy nations.

The United Nations Global Compact’s Communication on Progress has defined 10 principles for corporate sustainability that provide a framework for how businesses can support key sustainability tenets, including human rights and social justice, and waste and conservation of natural resources :

Human Rights and Social Justice

Understanding the impact your business has on your employees and the larger community enables organizations to operate in ways that improve the lives of the people it affects. Depending on the industry, this could mean creating jobs, providing goods and services that help meet basic needs or adopting more inclusive value chains.

Waste and Natural Resource Usage

Sustainable technology is making it easier for businesses to minimize waste and reduce their impact on the environment. Smart sensors, electric delivery vehicles and intelligent manufacturing are just a few ways innovation creates cleaner, more efficient processes.

From a revenue perspective, business leaders and stakeholders should adopt short- and long-term thinking with regard to their sustainability initiatives. Investing in emerging technology might mean a delay in financial gains in the short term, but there may be significant long-term benefits, including increased sales, improved brand reputation and more efficient, economical business practices.

Sustainability Changes How We Think About Innovation

Sustainable innovation is the practice of “making intentional changes to a company’s products, services or processes to generate long-term social and environmental benefits while creating economic profits for the firm.”

This can be achieved by implementing three core practices:

1. Empowering Sustainable Businesses

When large enterprises and investors support innovative startups that embrace sustainable business practices throughout their supply chain, they are contributing to the larger goal of meeting today’s needs without negatively impacting tomorrow’s goals.

2. Embracing Complete Systems Thinking

Understanding how your business practices impact other industries, the environment, communities and your stakeholders is the cornerstone of innovating for sustainability.

3. Integrating Sustainability into Company Culture

When sustainability is baked in companywide, the focus moves away from short-term profit to long-term, widespread benefit. This culture shift allows innovation to occur outside of siloes, creating an environment where ideas can thrive.

Topics: Cleantech