2nd September 2013

Innovation for sustainability

Viv Alexander

On 12 September Ordnance Survey is hosting the Innovation for Sustainability Conference on behalf of the Sustainable Innovation Lab (SusIN Lab).Link to SusIN Lab Conference agenda

The conference will open with Keynote Speech by Ben Ferrari of The Climate Group, and further inspiring stories will be shared throughout the day, including those of our latest GeoVation Challenge winners. It will conclude with a Keynote speech from entrepreneur, advisor and transformative explorer, Dennis Pamlin.

See the full agenda.

Sustainability has been at the heart of our GeoVation Challenges, which have been focussed on problems such as sustainable transport or food supply and the challenge of business improving its environmental performance.

In the guest post below Bettina von Stamm, Director of the Innovation Leadership Forum explains her passion for innovation intrinsically linked with sustainability and the value of SusIN Lab initiative.

Sustainability-driven Innovation

Innovation without sustainability considerations at its heart is increasingly irresponsible 

Photo of Bettina von StammOver the past year I have had the pleasure of convening the three workshops that formed the first phase of the SusIN Lab, an initiative of the Business School of the University of Exeter, and am now in the final phases of pulling together an exciting conference, hosted by Ordnance Survey at their headquarters near Southampton. This conference concludes the first phase, which was generously sponsored by the University, and is hopefully the beginning of a second, self-funded phase.

Why do I consider myself lucky to have had this opportunity and feel so passionately about sustainability-driven innovation? As someone who comes from the field of innovation I have come to the conclusions that innovation without sustainability considerations at its core is becoming increasingly irresponsible.

Our one planet with so many of its resources finite, demands we take notice of this, as does the irrefutable fact that our ambition has to be to offer the 9 billion population anticipated for 2050 a worthwhile life. Innovation and sustainability belong together; there is no doubt in my mind.

Yet in most organisations these two movements seem to have different homes; they are being driven and looked after by different people – or is this different in your organisation?  Sustainability, understood as taking into consideration an organisation’s impact on planet (environment) and people (society) as well as its profit (economy), is a new and emerging discipline.  More often than not it seems to be coming out of the philanthropy / corporate social responsibility corner.  Innovation activities are separate, most likely to be owned by marketing or R&D, depending on industry context.

Our struggles with embedding innovation into organisations’ DNA have already created an awareness of the importance of diversity.  Indeed, diversity is the life-blood of innovation: bringing together everyone touched or affected by the innovation, at the outset. It is a critical factor in finding the best possible solutions as well as getting wide acceptance once the innovation is introduced.

We are beginning to find ways to work with different people and organisations. In the case of innovation it was different departments, customers and suppliers; However in the context of sustainability the net needs to be cast even wider to succeed. We need different sectors, industries, and players from different countries to come together to find solutions that are sustainable, for profit, planet and people.

This is why the SusIN Lab is such a valuable initiative; it provides the kind of open and low risk space that is necessary to start charting the new territory that sustainability-driven innovation constitutes; the Lab allows us to explore, experiment, understand and engage, and develop the tools, approaches and techniques necessary to support the kind of collaboration that is the key to creating a sustainable future.

Dr Bettina von Stamm, FRSA, Director & Catalyst, Innovation Leadership Forum

For more information contact:  bettina@innovationleadershipforum.org,

Visit the website:  www.innovationwave.com