BUSINESSES HAVE to start producing more disruptive innovation in order to meet the sustainability challenges and goals of the future.
The combination of rising energy and commodity prices, concerns over security of supply and consumers who are demanding increased levels of corporate responsibility will force businesses to make radical changes to the way they work.
The need for innovation to tackle sustainability challenges is nothing new, but environmental NGO Forum for the Future, with help from the likes of Unilever, TUI, Bupa, B&Q and Marks and Spencer, has now published a guide to encourage businesses think about new ways of working.
Breakthrough Innovation Your Guide to Innovating for a Brighter Future will stimulate thinking around new products and gismos, as well as new services and skills, said author and leader of Forum for the Futures Sustainable Business Model Group David Bent.
He added: Sustainability issues are already affecting businesses, and their impact will only increase. We know that disruptive innovation is needed to help us address the major issues we are facing in a world constrained by its resources and we know big companies struggle with how to do it. By helping them make sure there is resource set aside for innovation, that transformative innovation becomes part of their culture.
The guide doesnt define what the innovations will look like, but will get people started said Bent. Examples of disruptive innovations are, to date, hard to come by, he admitted, but one would be Cafédirects introduction of Fairtrade coffee to the UK. That not only disrupted their own supply chain and that of the coffee market, but also led to wider change, with Fairtrade products in other products like bananas. Eventually, the Nissan Leaf electric car could be heralded as a disruptive innovator, if the concept becomes mainstream.
A switch from providing products to services may also evolve. This will help companies build resilience in an increasingly resource-constrained era, said WWF head of business and industry Dax Lovegrove. The Zipcar short-term leasing model, for instance, is now being adopted by the bigger players including Hertz and Enterprise. This shows that new disruptive business approaches are starting to enter the mainstream, added Lovegrove. Many in the private sector see the needs for disruptive innovation to enter the next phase of sustainability.
Bent said the evolution of disruptive innovations would take time and money, as well as leadership. He said that normal, incremental innovation needed to continue, but that isnt enough.
Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer agreed. The positive changes we have made as a business to date are well and good, but they will never be able to stand up to the scale of the challenges we need to face in the future. Sustainability demands disruption; any organisation that doesnt radically re-invent itself will not have a business in twenty years time.
A report from the inaugural Foodservice Footprint Thought Leaders and Innovators Conference & Partnering Event is available in the July issue