Sustainable Innovation

Best Practices : Conclusions I
October 19, 2009, 11:05 am
Filed under: Best Practices in France

The Best Practices are inspiring examples as such. But also general conclusions can be drawn.

1. Top-down implementation and matrix structure.

Environmental and social objectives. All companies mention both social and environmental corporate responsability goals, though most attention is paid to the environmental goals.

Top-down implementation. Corporate Responsability Objectives tend to be implemented top-down. Which is obligatory in France. Backing of the board is obligatory to motivate and encourage.

From communication to cross-disciplinary work. Many DD teams have been historically embedded in Corporate Affairs. Activities move now beyond communication. An extensive interaction is required with auditing firms. Environmental footprint scans, NGO and customer dialogues are also now part of the job. Multi-disciplinary teams are therefore needed. Many of the interviewed managers have a mixed background, such as an engineering education plus a broad business experience.

Matrix organisation. Corporate Responsability Staff tend to work in matrix organisations.  Reporting into Corporate Staff, they closely cooperate with the representatives in the Business Units who carry specific sustainable goals. Matrix structures are difficult as formal authorithy sometimes lack. Nevertheless, the matrix structure is felt to be a good compromise. The CR chiefs have the commitment of the Board and team members bring in their business and knowledge.

2. Corporate Responsability is a Motor for Innovation.

Corporate Responsibility is a driver for Innovation. A variety of innovations are initiated. The Innovation process however remains difficult as it requires new working methods. A particular French challenge are the limited experiences with transversal working in French companies.

Innovation comes in all varieties. The Best Practices give a variety of Innovation Examples. They all contribute to economical, social and environmental goals. Roughly we can distuinguish 3 categories and mixtures :

Technological Innovation : Innovations like new products, services, add-ons and processes. Example : Orange will halve the data centres energy use.

Organisational Innovation : Innovations like in working processes, HR, recruitment policy, organisational culture. La Poste favours permanent contracts to offer employees more security.

Business Innovation : Innovation of marketing, distribution, pricing and smart combinations of known products and technologies. Example is the Total Cost of Ownership models being used at Total and Bouygues Immobilier.


    Sustainable Innovation Varieties,  Jacobine Das Gupta 2009

    3. Economical crisis reinforces Corporate Responsability

    Sustainable Development and CR activities will continue as planned. Main reason is that Sustainable Goals are part of the survival plans. Mrs Lostis of Bouygues Immobilier explained : ‘We have touched the borders of the financial system, now people are more aware about other borders too, like our responsability for the environment.  This growing awareness helps to implement and execute the changes necessary to act as a responsable and sustainable company.

    4. It are the customers that request sustainable solutions

    All CR managers confirm : The customers demand is a strong driver to create new green, sustainable and solidary alternatives. They simply expect it. At date, for all the interviewed companies, their sustainable policies and solutions are part of their competative advantages.  You need to get to market with your sustainable solutions soon. In the near future sustainable product characteristics will be a ‘hygiene factor’ (without, you’re out !)


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