Date: 1 March 2022By

Why is Sustainable Innovation Important for the Future?

Sustainable Innovation is Essential for Economic Development, Environment-friendly Business and Prosperous Societies

Sustainability and innovation are key concepts for many companies and businesses nowadays. But what is sustainability or innovation? And why are they so important?

According to the United Nations (UN), sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Even if this definition was already discussed in the 80s, climate change and environmental crises have accentuated the importance of changing the way we produce and consume new products.

Sustainable Energy2

Along with environmental problems, social and economic issues hit many countries worldwide. One way to face these challenges is using knowledge to create new technologies that solve specific problems. Indeed, in 2020 the WAITRO members INECOL and TISTR designed a project to clean water in small communities using phytotechnologies. Knowing that polluted water is a huge issue in different areas worldwide, the application of this technology contributes to better management of water, health, and economic resources. This is what we call sustainable innovation.

Innovation plays a key role in national and international markets. It provides creative solutions to critical problems while contributing to economic growth.

Sustainable Innovation at the Core of Economic Development

Sustainable innovation integrates environmental protection to the ability of creating new products that satisfy our needs in the long term. Designing better and more sustainable technologies can bring many uncertainties in terms of usability, application or costs. However, in the last decade it is been clearer that we can only achieve economic development by focusing on the creation of technologies that do not harm natural ecosystems.

Being environment-friendly does not only contribute to decelerating climate change, but also to having prosper businesses. According to this article from the Harvard Business Review: “in the future, only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage”. If we take energy as an example, it is evident that societies cannot afford living from non-renewable sources in the long term. Changing energy systems is not only a necessity, but also an opportunity to innovate the markets. Solar energy is becoming, for instance, more and more popular. We can see in the following graphic from Our World in Data the drastic reduction of solar panels.

solar pv prices vs cumulative capacity 1988x2048 1

Why is Sustainable Innovation Important to Business?

Business Growth

One of the great benefits for companies is that sustainability lowers costs as companies reduce the inputs they use. Among other advantages are:

  • Building credibility and trust
  • Improvement of the relationship among investors, customers, researchers and stakeholders
  • Efficiency improvement
  • Opens the way for innovation
  • Customer needs are better understood

How to become sustainable?

It is not easy but it is worth it. Although many companies fear the change and requirements to produce more sustainable products, sustainable innovation is the only way to be competitive in the markets. Here are some tips:

  • Start from the future: The actual approach to business would only show an optimistic extrapolation, but once you establish how products are to be shaped, it is easier to bring that into the present.
  • Collaboration capacity is key: Producing new products that meet quality standards and competitiveness is almost impossible if you do it alone. Nowadays, it is essential to create partnerships with research centers, enterprises, stakeholders, funders, etc.
  • First learn then invest: The key is to understand how to execute sustainable projects. Follow the three phases rule: experiment and pilot, debrief and learn, then scale.
  • Go global: There are emerging markets that are stuck with traditional settings. That is a great opportunity for multinationals to offer sustainable and innovative products.
  • Be open to tactical flexibility: While direction is important, there will be few challenges along the way. It is essential to adjust changes where needed.

Find out more

WAITRO is commited to building a better future through science, technology and innovation. Since those are key features to sustainable development, WAITRO dedicates completely to increasing the impact of research and development towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Connect with us to know more about our programs and services.

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About the Author: Karla Garcia

Karla joined the WAITRO Secretariat- Office Germany, in March 2021. The main task of Karla is communication on the website. She's currently doing her master on "History, Economics, and Philosophy of Science" at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. Her passion for knowing how science and research work brought her to be part of the world's largest network of Research and Innovation - WAITRO.

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