Sustainability Solutions: Driving Factors and Key Innovations


In recent years, the word “sustainability” has become synonymous with “environmentalism.” However, this is entirely too simplistic. If we wanted solutions that just saved the environment, we could certainly do that by shutting down all power and chemical plants, stop using devices and products that require natural resources (i.e. all of them), and stop driving cars – essentially, stop using all technology.

Sustainability, in reality, is much more complex. Truly sustainable solutions strive to balance economic, social, and environmental outcomes. Sure, it might help the environment if we stopped using electricity, but the economic and social outcomes would be catastrophic (don’t believe me? Just think back to the last time your power went out for just a few hours).

While there are many routes to a more sustainable world, I personally believe that technological innovation will be the most impactful. As members of the tech community, we should be constantly thinking about innovation with regards to how it impacts the economy, environment, and society. While many solutions complement or over-lap with each other, let’s examine where we are seeing significant innovation across these three pillars of sustainability:

Social Impact of Innovation in Sustainability

Driving Force:

Companies, startups, and foundations are focused on helping people and creating both local and global change for current and future generations. Consumers are looking for technologies that promote their health and wellbeing.

Key Innovation Areas:

  • Less toxic/harmful ingredients and materials;
  • Increased access to products/services, especially for underserved populations;
  • Products that benefit mental and physical health;
  • Products and systems that increase healthy socialization and community development; and
  • Supply chain processes and transparency that protects people and communities at every level.

Example:

Gululu created an interactive water bottle for kids to promote hydration and socialization, and they also have a partnership with Water=Life to provide clean water to developing countries.

Environmental Impact of Innovation in Sustainability

Driving Force:

Increasing concerns for climate change, pollution, wildlife, and limited environmental resources such as water, are driving the desire to find technologies that can contribute to these solutions.

Key Innovation Areas:

  • More efficient manufacturing processes;
  • Less materials/packaging;
  • Waste remediation;
  • Less toxic waste;
  • Waste that doesn’t have lasting or long-term impacts; and
  • Efficient use or re-use of resources.

Example:

Renewology has many projects, one of which is recycling ocean plastic into fuel.

Economic Impact of Innovation in Sustainability

Driving Force:

Ultimately, for-profit companies have to play to the bottom line. While sustainable solutions might have been a costly pipe dream in the past, technological innovation is now making it an economically feasible option. Social pressure has also been a significant factor driving the sustainability movement for B2C companies, but for B2B companies, economic factors tend to be the primary motivation. As increasingly economically options become available through technology innovation, sustainable solutions for B2B will not only become feasible, but fiscally beneficial.

Key Innovation Areas:

  • Less expensive and more efficient processes;
  • Re-using/recycling materials;
  • Lower cost materials; and
  • More efficient logistics/transportation.

Example:

Dyecoo uses CO2 for a water-free textile dyeing process that is also said to significantly reduce dyeing time and energy use.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for sustainability. It varies across industries and companies. The challenge is finding a solution that not only balances social, environmental, and economic outcomes, but also fits your organization’s business, structure, and future direction.

At yet2, we love a challenge. Sustainability presents exactly that. Finding our clients solutions that complement their business and boost their bottom line, but also benefit the environment and society at large, is challenging, but also incredibly rewarding for all involved.

 

Related blog posts:

Meet the Team – Megan Waldock

Biotechnology as a Tool for Sustainability