Sustainability is The New Driver of Innovation.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 22, 2007

I’ve been talking to the Nike folks lately and learning a lot about viewing sustainability as an energizer of innovation and a growth engine for corporations. This is important because however much people want to perceive sustainability in terms of “limits to growth” and “restraint on excess,” we need to link it to economic expansion and business development if it is ever going to have any chance of succeeding in the US. Harnessing sustainability to change the WAY we grow—Bill McDonough’s cradle-to-cradle paradigm—is critical.

With the political election season starting to heat up, I would like candidates to begin moving beyond yakking about global warming as a threat to a conversation about the kind of solutions that make sense for us. Promoting sustainability as a business enterprise offers enormous opportunities for new products, new processes and new profits. We have all been critical of the corporate community in the US for being so far being Europe on the sustainability issue. But, frankly, it has only been the last year or two that the culture at large has tipped green. Now everyone from IBM and GE to a whole slew of startups such as bio-clothes maker Nau, are piling. This is a very good thing.

And stay tune to Nike. It has a big announcement on sustainability coming up. Marketers and brand managers should watch what Nike is about to do. There is a real, but small market for what I call “hairshirt” environmentalism, which asks for people to do less. I myself fall into that category, believing that we should live lightly on the land (who really needs 30,000 square feet McMansions?) and “consume” by way of having great experiences in our natural environment, not gobbling up more stuff.

But most folks want “more,” as Seth Godin puts it and you can have that “more” in a much better, planet-friendly way (as McDonough points out, forests grow and they grow fast—but they’re not polluting). The US and European cultures want this kind of growth. Corporations have to follow or fail.

Reader Comments

malaclypse the tertiary

May 24, 2007 5:44 PM

Shorter Nussbaum: "If we can spin sustainability as a growth engine and not the snake oil that it really is, people will drink the kool-aid."

Capped off with a quote from noted economist, Seth Godin no less.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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