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How Sustainability Is Catalyzing Innovation Part 2 of 2: Leaders Leading

(Credit: Pexels)

This two-part series highlights the urgent needs driving innovation in sustainability in part one, and leaders leading – examples of companies innovating for sustainability – in part two.

The landscape of organizations innovating around sustainability has increased dramatically over the past few years. Today, we are seeing a broad spectrum of approaches from all shapes and sizes of organizations – from startups to large, established firms, and even countries and think tanks.

In the past five years or so a slate of startups have surfaced focused on specific sustainability themes. For instance, Nori is a carbon removal marketplace creating a new way for anyone in the world to buy carbon removals. Imperfect Foods distributes surplus or less-than-perfect foods that would otherwise wind up in waste to help solve food waste. Lumen Energy is a software company whose mission is to make getting a fully-financed solar system for a commercial building as easy as applying for a credit card. Raise Green is a financial technology company that allows anyone to invest in community resilience using its SEC Licensed and FINRA approved crowdfunding investment portal. Yobroeco has launched an online marketplace offering superior quality, affordable and sustainable goods – a key feature of the site is each product’s transparent Sustainability Rating label based on 8 different sustainability measures. Lieef is an alternative investment platform focused on bridging the gap between venture capital and mature private markets within the world of emerging sustainable infrastructure.

Meanwhile, large enterprises are pursuing their own innovation initiatives focused on sustainability. Matchbox is shifting towards a more environmentally conscious production and business model, beginning with its Tesla Roadster. Kraft Heinz is pivoting to plant-based products as part of transforming its growth strategy. P&G recently launched a new innovation center aimed at improving supply chain sustainability. Orsted has joined the Newlab community of experts and innovators applying transformative technology to launch the Blue Energy Studio, a collaborative initiative designed to drive innovation towards a future powered by renewable energy. West Paw has launched a new eco-venture with a collection of pet toys and feeding accessories that are made with Seaflex, an exclusive blend of reclaimed and recycled ocean-bound plastic and zero-waste Zogoflex material. Diageo has unveiled a plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle, with PepsiCo and Unilever joining the brewer in creating a new consortium for plastic-free packaging. As part of its ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, American Airlines has announced it will invest in Vertical Aerospace, a leading UK-headquartered engineering and aeronautical business developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Walmart, Target, Kroger, and CVS have teamed up on the Beyond the Bag Initiative to fund and scale replacements to the plastic bag.

Even countries, government entities and think tanks are getting more involved in sustainability innovation programs. The Maldives is building the world’s first-of-its kind floating island city to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm has launched the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Earthshots Initiative to accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade. The first Energy Earthshot – Hydrogen Shot – seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in one decade. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) have partnered to spearhead the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI), a 5-year, $100 million research and development initiative with 39 participating companies aimed at identifying and developing commercially viable new technologies and solutions for deep decarbonization of the power sector.

The signals are clear. To ensure sustainable growth, meet changing needs and expectations of sustainably-minded customers, address urgent sustainability issues discussed in part one of this series, and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organizations must continue to shift direction and resources to innovative business models, products and markets. 

For additional insights on how to pursue an innovation journey, I suggest visiting Innovation Management (IM), a premier destination for innovation best practices written by innovation practitioners working in the field.

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