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Sustainability and innovation
Sustainability and innovation

Sustainability and innovation

It is generally agreed that sustainability can bring many benefits to businesses and their network. Amongst these benefits is sustainability’s strong link with innovation.

Innovation has been described by Klewits and Hansen (2014, p. 58) as:

“the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (e.g. change in product properties), process (e.g. changed delivery methods), marketing method (e.g. new product packaging) or organizational method (e.g. changes in workplace organization) in business practices, workplace organization, or external relations.”

When an organisation starts thinking green, it has to rethink its products or services, business models and operations. In formulating the best ways to reduce harmful impacts while creating positive impacts, businesses are pushed to deliver new features that bring new benefits. They then need to think ahead, to forecast their markets as well as changes in client behaviours and values.

If sustainability leads to new ideas, innovation implies a need to think differently. For some, this can be an uncomfortable step, as they need to distance themselves from more traditional approaches (such as short-term framework and goals), and move towards dynamic and flexible environments, processes, and people. In pursuing this step-by-step change, collaboration with internal and external stakeholders is seen as a powerful approach. By involving a wide range of stakeholders, an organisation will benefit from broad contributions and build its ability to maximise opportunities to innovate and gain competitive advantage.


Should innovation be seen as a goal,or as an ability that assists organisations to reach their sustainability goals?

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Futures: Sustainable Business Through Green HR

RMIT University