What Sustainable Innovation Might Look Like in 2021

What Sustainable Innovation Might Look Like in 2021

To tackle some of the biggest challenges we face today, like climate and health, we’ll need to fundamentally rethink our approach to innovation.


With individuals and businesses becoming more concerned about and involved in sustainability issues, innovation has embraced sustainability more fully in recent years. But what does sustainable innovation mean? In many ways, it means traditional innovation boosted and driven by concern for resources and the environment. Businesses are embracing the idea that resources shouldn’t be used faster than they are replenished, and that waste generation shouldn’t exceed the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. This belief is driving new innovations across industries.

Compared to most types of innovation, sustainable innovation is more disruptive, fueled by a better rationale, and is more collaborative. In other words, it is more disruptive because it is creating entirely new and better business models that make it harder for corporations to defend the status quo.


Rethinking innovation?

People are increasingly looking for entrepreneurs to drive the changes the planet needs. Two-thirds of researchers and academics believe tech entrepreneurs will make a bigger contribution to solving social challenges in the years to come than governments in Europe, according to Atomico’s State of European Tech report.

That’s a huge responsibility. But passion, drive, and creativity alone are not enough to make this a reality. To tackle these challenges we need to fundamentally rethink approaches to innovation, business models, and the relationship between entrepreneurs and corporate organizations.

Time and time again, startups and entrepreneurs come undone when they try to scale up their transformative ideas into a sustainable and impactful business model. Why? Because they lack the necessary muscle (in terms of finance and resources) and networks (to navigate legislative and regulatory requirements).

Corporate enterprises have a lot of the ingredients necessary to drive innovation and deliver real impact. They have the assets, resources, and networks. But they often have the wrong corporate governance structure in place, limited board involvement in the innovation process and are missing the talent needed to not just conceive, but to execute and scale digital business ideas successfully as well.


But how can we achieve this?

The answer we quite clear, but not the easiest one to implement. No single venture or individual can address the wide range of sustainability concerns. It is the combination of large and small efforts across sectors and industries around the world that will create an alternative future.

We need to shift our collective thinking on to which investment types create the right framework for innovations to scale and become sustainable. The true transformative power lies in moving beyond building new products and services, and towards creating newly sustainable, impactful and digital business models.

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