Innovating for sustainability
PA Consulting’s Steve Carden, a sustainability and circular economy expert, talks to Disruption magazine about how businesses can successfully – and cooperatively – innovate for sustainability.
The article looks at the challenges companies face in the sustainability sphere and how organisations are recognising that innovation doesn’t always have to come from internal sources.
Thanks to the scope of information now available about products, it’s possible to track every stage of the journey from design to delivery. And, with consumer awareness on the rise, it’s not just industry bodies that want to know where products and services have come from.
Steve says: “Sustainability is at the heart of what consumers want. This means that all organisations that currently exist are going to need to innovate to come up with more sustainable services and practices.”
The article goes on to say that disruptive technologies like blockchain are also influencing sustainability efforts by building a chain of confidence in transactions.
Steve explains: “There’s a natural link between blockchain and supply chains. However, when it comes to trust, if you went into a supermarket and saw that an item had been ‘blockchain certified’, I’m not sure how much members of the general public would understand what that means. Blockchain is also tied to cryptocurrencies, and I’m not sure that the trust element is there yet.”
Another interesting enabler is the shift to Product as a Service (PaaS). Products that are sold as services have a much longer lifecycle, and need to be built to last. “If I can make a product but deliver it over a service model, then I am incentivised as a manufacturer to make it last longer and be more reliable and robust,” explains Steve.
Steve goes on to talk about how he has observed that one of the key things in the last 18 years is a shift away from the old way of doing things: “Success is not the ability to internally develop things because the questions are too complex. It’s not feasible.”
The article goes on to look at growth through collaboration. Steve notes that sustainability is also something that new employees see as important: “We are constantly bringing in recruits and graduates who feel passionately about science and engineering. The first question people used to ask was ‘how do I make it work?’” he says. “I’m particularly struck by how they now ask ‘how do I make it work sustainably?’ The first place they start from is sustainability, and then they think about cracking the material problem.”
Steve concludes by explaining how sustainably minded and collaborative companies are more likely to nurture a healthy internal culture: “Excellence is not the ability to create new things, but the ability to access the best of ideas outside and combine them with the company’s uniqueness. Organisations need to innovate now, and the ones that do will be the ones that succeed.”