How can we use new innovations and technology to be more sustainable? [Green Fingers]

We face the challenge of meeting the growing needs of a larger, more prosperous global society while not undermining the natural systems on which we all rely. For business, that challenge is an opportunity: to combine profit from creating a sustainable future. New innovations and technologies are one of the ways that leading businesses are grasping that opportunity.

This first appeared as the Green Fingers column in Chartered Secretary magazine in July 2008. The material is based on Leader Business Strategies.

Companies are improving their production methods, up and down the supply chain. With oil and other commodities at record prices, now is a good time to cut costs and improve environmental performance. New technologies allow you to: rethink whether you need a particular input; reduce how much you use per product; and, re-use by-products (either in your own processes, or as a new revenue stream). 3M’s Pollution Prevention Pays programme has initiated over 6,000 innovations that saved a cumulative $1 billion in their first year.

New technologies can be new products and services to clients. The Toyota Prius made green cars cool, and helped Toyota become the largest car company in the world. GE’s Ecomagination uses an environmental lens to improve current technologies (like its gas turbines) and for more radical innovation, for instance in alternative energy, all the while creating revenues of $12 billion in 2006. In both cases, they are innovating to better meet customer’s needs, not just for greenery.

To become more sustainable, leading businesses also to create the right sort of demand in their market, and engage with the wider context, to tackle issues that transcend a single company. But, innovation is the foundation of a company’s competitive advantage. New innovation and technologies will give us the means to be more sustainable.

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