Business Week – Sustainability Is the New Driver of Innovation

22 05 2007

Business Week

If you’ve been reading our earlier posts on social responsibility as a source for innovation, you know that we suggest that social responsibility can be used strategically to create new compelling value for the industries and professions associations represent.

This is not simply about the greening of business. You miss the point. This is about “rethinking and redesigning how to enhance business efficiency, productivity, and profitability” that will improve the external costs created by wasteful practices and grow business.

For instance, if you would like to reduce your costs budgeted to combat or comply with regulations and plow the savings into product development that adds member value, you’ll be particularly interested in using a sustainable business strategy to redesign your business. So this could possibly affect association operations and how we manage besides the companies or professions we represent.

Please read the earlier posts on this site on Cradle to Cradle and Interface Carpet to understand. Use the search function to the right.

BW columnist Bruce Nussbaum posted a new article today entitled Sustainability Is the New Driver of Innovation.”

He writes….

“I’ve been talking to the Nike folks lately and learning a lot about viewing sustainability as an energizer of innovation and a growth engine for corporations. This is important because however much people want to perceive sustainability in terms of “limits to growth” and “restraint on excess,” we need to link it to economic expansion and business development if it is ever going to have any chance of succeeding in the US. Harnessing sustainability to change the WAY we grow–Bill McDonough’s cradle-to-cradle paradigm–is critical.

With the political election season starting to heat up, I would like candidates to begin moving beyond yakking about global warming as a threat to a conversation about the kind of solutions that make sense for us. Promoting sustainability as a business enterprise offers enormous opportunities for new products, new processes and new profits. We have all been critical of the corporate community in the US for being so far being Europe on the sustainability issue. But, frankly, it has only been the last year or two that the culture at large has tipped green. Now everyone from IBM and GE to a whole slew of startups such as bio-clothes maker Nau, are piling. This is a very good thing.

And stay tune to Nike. It has a big announcement on sustainability coming up. Marketers and brand managers should watch what Nike is about to do. There is a real, but small market for what I call “hairshirt” environmentalism, which asks for people to do less. I myself fall into that category, believing that we should live lightly on the land (who really needs 30,000 square feet McMansions?) and “consume” by way of having great experiences in our natural environment, not gobbling up more stuff.

But most folks want “more,” as Seth Godin puts it and you can have that “more” in a much better, planet-friendly way (as McDonough points out, forests grow and they grow fast–but they’re not polluting). The US and European cultures want this kind of growth. Corporations have to follow or fail.”

Association executives must take advantage of this opportunity or risk watching your industry or profession innovate you into irrelevance. Be part of this process, promote the innovators in your market. Learn from them and apply this knowledge in your own business.

Because one day, how associations operate today will not be viewed charitably by your board members who are innovating today.




2 responses

24 05 2007
Bruce Nussbaum

This is cool. Check out the numbers for GE that show how it is using sustainability to drive its profit growth. They are truly amazing. “Green” sales of wind turbines, water purification systems and high-efficiency appliances and engines are up to $12 billion.

We are moving quickly from putting sustainability into a “corporate responsibility” box to a “driving economic growth–innovation” box that is crucial. As we make green issues central to our lives and well-being and our economy, we make certain that they will be accepted throughout society and marginalized.

24 05 2007
Peter Turner


Question about Nike announcement…

Anything to do with their efforts to align their products according to the C2C product lifecycle discussed in the MBDC case study posted on the latter’s site?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: