What is Sustainable Innovation?

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So, what is sustainable innovation? According to Richard Adams of the University of Exeter, it can be summarized as:

“Sustainable innovation involves making intentional changes to a company’s products, services, or processes to generate long-term social and environmental benefits while creating economic profits for the firm.”

Sustainable innovation is creative business practices that flow from a loose set of guiding principles, such as:

  1. An underlying and abiding concern for the natural environment
  2. A general desire and motivation to improve the human condition
  3. A passion for invention and technological development
  4. The desire to rationalize systems, processes, supply chains, and logistics
  5. An entrepreneurial spirit and ambition for financial success


The industrial revolution focused on development without considering environmental consequences. In the late 20th century, environmental awareness shifted toward sustainable innovation. Traditional innovation prioritizes profit without considering the longevity of the larger production and distribution process or product design.

In contrast, sustainable innovation is guided by principles such as concern for the natural environment, human condition improvement, passion for invention, rationalizing systems and logistics, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Sustainable innovation considers a product’s entire lifecycle, emphasizing concepts like the circular economy, using renewable and recycled materials, minimizing environmental impact in logistics, running plants on clean energy, and streamlining processes. Philips Hue Bulbs exemplify sustainable innovation with their energy-saving LED bulbs that have a longer lifespan.

Sustainable innovation is crucial to address challenges like resource depletion, climate change, and a growing population. Companies demonstrating a commitment to sustainable innovation enjoy a competitive advantage as consumers prioritize ethical choices, and governments consider environmental records when awarding contracts.

Examples of sustainable innovations

Examples of sustainable innovation span various industries, including manufacturing, farming, construction, energy storage, and renewable energy. Innovations like solar glass and smog-free towers offer long-term savings and environmental benefits. Dutch supermarkets implement sustainable practices, such as self-harvesting herbs, reducing waste, and improving consumer choice.

The benefits of sustainable innovation are holistic, transforming production processes, supply chains, and logistics, attracting customers and talented employees. ICL Group, a leading fertilizers manufacturer, has embraced sustainable innovation and operates based on circular economy principles and corporate social responsibility. ICL’s success lies in engaging its workforce, partners, and communities. The company aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 and actively contributes to environmental and social initiatives.

ICL Group a leader in sustainable Innovation

ICL Group was an early adapter of the concept of sustainable innovation. As a leading fertilizers manufacturer, among other of its science-based businesses, ICL has always placed enormous emphasis on research and development. Innovation has been a driving force within the company since its foundation, and transitioning to sustainable innovation was a simple and logical progression.

ICL’s sustainability is a profitable working model for new business ventures and the group is expanding into new markets sustainably. All new enterprises are planned around the key principles of circular economy, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable innovation. A key reason for ICL’s success in transforming the corporate mindset is its ongoing engagement with its own workforce, partners, and host communities.

ICL can justifiably claim to be a leader when it comes to sustainability, having also made a demonstrable transition to environmental social governance with its roadmap to zero carbon by 2050 and community initiatives.


Systematic Review: Innovating for Sustainability

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