Sustainability as an innovation magnet

“A magnet for Innovation”

A Magnet for Innovation

Sustainability is as simple as being able to provide good quality of life for all, now and in the future. This short video clip is a nice summary of the basic concept of sustainability.

The current innovation and sustainability path is focused on cutting costs and efficiency, but society in general is not moving towards better standards on a societal level. When you step back and look at the global sustainability challenge, you see a  systematic decline in the availability of natural resources and ecosystems while the demand  increases from a growing population. More effort needs to be made to understand sustainability on a global level so that systematic improvements can be made. In order to continue to thrive, society as a whole must innovate towards sustainability.

Many organizations and businesses have already developed tactical sustainability programs.Our goal is to help companies and organizations take their efforts a step further, zooming out from the tactical,  tostrategically integrate sustainability into every aspect of their (business) plans, designs, decisions and daily activities based on their improved view on how to capture, deliver and create value.

It all boils down to creating understanding in order to influence worldviews and create change. This is what we focus on during our course at La Salle Almere, based on robust science and practical, proven organizational case studies. When you understand how to think strategically about sustainability, you will be able to lead and implement valuable and meaningful improvements throughout your entire organization and lifestyle. You will also seek to innovate and collaborate with likeminded partners, encouraging others to move and accelerate in the same direction. This becomes an iterative process in which people can learn from each other and create new business cases for sustainability. In essence, you will leverage sustainability as a magnet for innovation.

Magnet for Innovation - ImageThe region of Eindhoven is already experiencing this strategic shift. Two years ago, we began working with Eindhoven’s municipality to create a common language for sustainability. Once the municipality began communicating about sustainability and innovation, they were able to garner more support from stakeholders: residents, businesses, the educational system,  and encouraged others to follow suit leading to increased collaboration between all parties.

Regional businesses, such as Philips and ASML, developed their own sustainability and innovation programs which led to increased collaboration between all parties. Furthermore, as we – our TNS team together with the municipality – have begun focusing on neighborhoods and residents, we have found that people are very inspired by what they witness in their region and are enthusiastic about integrating sustainability into their daily lives. Innovation and sustainability has become a strategic goal for the Eindhoven region as a whole.

Many professionals work on sustainability and innovation, but our focus view on systematic change and use of the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD a.k.a. The Natural Step Framework) to frame other tools and concepts is unique. We believe that by starting with information, building a common language  and understanding, we can inspire individuals, businesses and other organizations to work together strategically, each with their own vision on how to progress. That will have the greatest positive impact and will draw other leaders to future-proof our common future.

By Berend Aanraad, Executive Director of The Natural Step Netherlands and Edwin Janssen, Founder of FUTURE-PROOFinc. Berend and Edwin are Sustainability Course Coordinators for La Salle Almere.

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