8 Reasons Why Sustainability Drives Innovation

Innovation is about ‘doing something better.’ – leading executives from organizations such as Oracle, Symantec, MCI and GMIC agree that incorporating sustainability as a design principle creates better and more innovative meetings. We list eight reasons that explain how sustainability drives innovation.

1. Sustainability-driven innovation goes beyond designing green products and packaging. It entails improving business operations and processes to become more efficient, with a goal of dramatically reducing costs and waste. It is also about insulating a business from the risk of resource price shocks and shortages. Taken together these enhancements can deliver business benefits that go far beyond the bottom line—whether it’s improving your overall carbon footprint, enhancing your brand image or engaging your employees in a more profound way.

2. Sustainability-focused innovation does not have to mean an overhaul of the entire organization. Even the small ideas can have a big impact. Many examples exist where a small change led to bigger changes and bigger savings, for the company as well as for the planet. For example, UPS’ no left turn policy resulted in a savings close to $20 million a year. 3M’s 3P program (Pollution Prevention Pays)encourages employees to rethink products and processes. 3P saved 3M nearly $1.7 billion, and eliminated more than 3.8 billion pounds of pollution as a result. The list goes on.

3. Very often, there are significant opportunities for organizations to use sustainability to drive innovation and improve how they do business. A methodical analysis can highlight areas ripe for attention. That analysis may yield even greater benefits if it is extended beyond the company’s own walls through collaboration with suppliers, customers and alliance partners.

4. The reality is that the societal and environmental challenges we face are bigger than we all are, and we cannot successfully address them alone. We need to look beyond our own business operations. Future meetings will highlight the need for collaboration between venues, businesses and the general society. These collaborations will not only help companies establish sustainability-related goals, but can also provide new opportunities for customer engagement and the development of new corporate capabilities.

5. The meetings industry is worth millions and has the potential to reach multiple audiences. By integrating sustainability into your events, you have the opportunity to engage both the public and millions of industry professionals on the importance of the environment, communicate the need to change, demonstrate the benefits and highlight innovations.

6. The future is changing, and still more organizations are gaining a competitive advantage by using sustainability as a lens through which they can design better meetings and drive innovation. Requiring that your suppliers meet specific eco-standards, for example, creates healthy competition and results in high quality products at no additional cost. Becoming environment-friendly lowers costs because companies end up reducing the inputs they use.

7. Environmental concerns are high priority on the global agenda, and eco-certified hotel rooms, organic catering with ‘brain food’ and hybrid meeting concepts will inevitably be elements in the meeting industry’s future. Copenhagen is a frontrunner within sustainability, having previously hosted large-scale conferences with a green profile such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in 2009 and the first ever ISO 20121-certified EU Presidency in 2012.

8. We use more than three times the Earth’s natural resources each year – this is both expensive and morally wrong. Sustainability is about balancing the design and delivery of your event in order to ensure both social, economic and environmental performances. Sustainability may appear to be a limiting and abstract concept, and the opportunities for economic profit might seem small. Instead of seeing the limitations, you have to think innovatively and consider sustainability as a business investment if you really want to make a difference.