Sustainable Innovation

New Era has arrived : Higher business performance becomes main driver for Sustainability

Today’s CEOs are determined to create sustainable business. ‘Social Responsiblity’ remains a driver. The new ‘Leitmotif’  however is truly commercial : higher business performance through lower costs, stronger customer relationships and increased revenues.

Accenture and the United Nation Global Compact have recently published the results of their global study based on 750 surveys and 50 in-depth interviews with CEOs of large companies (1, 2).

‘A New Era’ has arrived, according to Accenture and Global Compact : Sustainability is now considered to be business critical from now and onwards. Among the key conclusions of the study are :

No less than 93% of the interviewed CEOs believe that Sustainability will be critical to future success of their business. 72% say actions on sustainability issues are important to strengthening their brand, customer trust and company reputation.

Economical downturn has raised the importance of sustainability, according to 80% of the CEOs.

CEOs urge now to actively engage and create sustainable solutions after the ‘defense’ mode due to the economical crisis.

Customers are considered to be the most important stakeholders when it comes to Sustainability, according to 58%. CEOs observe an increasing demand for products and services that address sustainability concerns. And there is no time to waste !

Employees are the second important stakeholders (45%). Hence the importance of internal training on Sustainability issues.

Implementation of Sustainability Strategies. 88% of the CEOs state that sustainability should be implemented through the value chain. Oly (54%) admit that this has been properly done in their own entreprise.

Among the recommendations of Accenture and Global Compact are :

  • Customer research on requirements for sustainable products is essential to make the right choices in new product development.
  • More and accurate information should be provided to customers, leveraging new technologies such as social media where appropriate.
  • Sustainability principles should be built into innovation agendas from design and throughout the lifecycle of product development.

The recommendations match well the findings of The Green Take following interviews with Sustainability Directors in Europe in 2009 and 2010, of which highlights have been published on this blog.  To name three of them :

  • Sustainability is seen as a business opportunity and a way to survive the (next) economical crisis.
  • Customers are considered to be the most important stakeholders to drive Sustainable Development. They request sustainable product alternatives that help them to to manage or reduce their environmental footprint and perform in a socially responsible way.
  • Customer Driven Innovation,  Life cycle analyses, Design for Environment and Co-creation will be key for successful sustainable innovation. 

Source : 1. Nieuwsbrief Duurzaam Ondernemen,, 2. A new era, an Accenture and Global Compact survey,


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