Sustainability is a Driver of Innovation

Sustainability is a Driver of InnovationSustainability is now accepted as good corporate practice. It has taken a while but we have all come to understand that the planet is a valuable resource that should be treated with care. It is now recognised that we need to design sustainability into our products from the start, not just add it on as an afterthought.

So how can we do this? Here are some fine recent examples of product and service innovations that incorporate sustainability.

  • Replenish. Most household cleaners consist of a disposable plastic bottle, a detergent and a lot of water. Shipping a product which is 90% water through retail stores does not make a lot of sense. Replenish is an innovative reusable cleaning product. You simply buy a detergent refill and add water.
  • Shwopping. Marks and Spencer launched a project which aims to reduce the volume of clothes that are thrown away to landfill, whilst supporting the charity Oxfam. Customers can bring unwanted pieces of clothing and place them in bins known as ‘Shwop Drops’. The clothes are then given to Oxfam to re-use, recycle or re-sell. In the last year some 4 million items have been Shwopped in over 400 M&S and Oxfam stores. This has helped Oxfam raise £2.3 million for its many good causes.
  • Sustainability is a Driver of InnovationNewlife Paints. What do you do with your unfinished tins of paint? The average household in the UK has 17 tins of partly used paint. These tins typically reside in the garage until they are eventually taken to the tip and then into landfill. Chemist, Keith Harrison, decided to do something about this environmental nightmare by creating Newlife Paints which collects and recycles tins of paint – repackaging them and selling them in a range of 32 colours.

Sustainability is more than just recycling. It is about creative design in products and processes that encourage and reward good behaviour by consumers. And the consumers seem to like it.

With thanks to Chris Sherwin of Seymourpowell for pointing out these examples.

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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

Paul Sloane




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  1. Andrzej K. Moyseowicz on May 29, 2013 at 8:50 am

    You take eco-innovation contests like the #EarthHack plus big businesses like IKEA & Philips who can scale out new ideas and you can get to an amazing mix of innovation and application. Opening up R&D departments to the crowd to tackle climate change is not only inspiring, but a way to rapidly iterate new business value. The #EarthHack and innovation platforms like it can open up the creative playground across design, tech, and business.

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