Sustainable Innovation

Factors that contribute to Sustainable Innovation within SMEs

Not only the large companies, but also Small and Medium Sized Companies (SMEs) may very well profit from sustainably innovation. It increases competative advantage, reduces (production) costs and improves social and environmental impact.

Hilke Bos-Brouwers, of the ‘Vrije Universiteit’ in Amsterdam in The Netherlands, recently presented theses conclusions of her PHD research.

Based on her extensive research among 1056 Dutch SME companies (< 250 employees), Mrs Bos-Brouwers concluded that SMEs innovate in a sustainably way, but slightly different as compared to larger entreprises. Innovations are often incremental, very pragmatic and type of innovation can vary per industry sector.

Hilke Bos-Brouwer has identified seven critical factors that, significantly contribute to the success of sustainable innovation in SMEs : (1) Obligations, (2) Trained employees (3) Suppliers (4) Industry groups (5) Degree of formalisation (6) Customer (needs) (7) Government.

Bos-Brouwer also brings up a list of (partly new) and definitions that may be helpful. Some of them translated in English :

  • Sustainable Development :  development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (definition Commission Brundtland, 1987).
  • Sustainable Entrepreneurship : integrating environmental, social and economical aspects in the core business of the company, on a volontairy basis, whereby stakeholders needs and supply chain cooperation is regarded key to improve the company results on the short and middle term.
  • Innovation :  renewing or improving products, services, technical and organisational processes or marketing strategy ; the novelty of the innovation can be related to the industry sector or market.
  • Sustainable Innovation : renewing products, services, technical, organisational processes or marketing strategy in such a way that the economical performance as well as the environmental impact and the social impact, on the short and the long term, are taken into consideration, .
  • Sustainable Innovation Processes : decision making, design and implementation processes that guide sustainable innovation projets

Sources : (1) and (2) press release [PWC-MEDIA] ‘Persbericht VU – Duurzaam innoveren winstgevend voor MKB’, 3 september 2010, Free university of Amsterdam


3 Comments so far
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Interesting topic. I am also studying this topic on how SME can innovate in a sustainable way.

Comment by Lenny van Onselen

I am also into finding methods and tools for sustainable innovation in SMEs. Specially in BSR. And Hilke Bos-Brouwers no dought has a worthwhile contribution in this topic

Comment by Mateen

Im studying enterprenuership and leadership and i found this topic very interesting

Comment by Selma

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