In the current climate of tightening financial belts and wavering market recovery, innovation has become a focal point for businesses that aspire to grow. It has been argued by many, including The Harvard Business Review, that “Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation.” Despite this, there is a lingering notion that sustainability will not only fail to deliver financial benefits, but also cost money.
This begs the question, “Why?” Why does this thinking persist among a sea of publically-shared wins for business and the environment? Why have successes, ranging from the startling growth in UPS Logistics to Scott’s tube-free toilet paper, not altered the broader perception of sustainability? Inevitably, the answer to “Why” lies in the “How”.
For quite some time, the prevailing sentiment has been that corporate responsibility represents a series of tasks to be completed, or boxes to be checked. With this mindset defining the path, sustainability programs have a predetermined result. The work will be oriented toward volunteer cleanups, monetary donations or small office recycling programs. The boxes will be checked while the true opportunities remain untouched.
Redefining your “how” begins when you take a step back from the details and look at sustainability objectives and business operations from a systems-oriented point of view. Where is the waste in your operation? What are the recurring challenges your operators face? An excess in plastic waste may lead to a packaging improvement, and a mechanical issue may illuminate an opportunity to reduce energy use. Every company will have its own areas for improvement, and chances are that many of those will lead to both business value and environmental footprint reduction.
Innovation is born from taking what is commonplace and considering it from another point of view. Sustainability offers the lens, and our teams hold the potential to make the transformational change. As we progress forward, and the number of companies experiencing the benefits of a sustainable mindset increases, the approach will no longer be the exception, but the norm. The question is, where will you be on the implementation curve?