All Aboard the Eco-Innovation Express

October 5th, 2010

Eco-friendly news, information from Earthwise - green businesses

According to some observers, at the leading companies, the four Ps of Marketing — price, place, promotion, and product — have been supplanted by the triple bottom line of sustainability: profit, people and planet. The new mantra reflects business performance in terms of environmental and human/societal outcomes as well as financial results.

Let’s look at Eco-Innovation, the subject of commentary in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Unfortunately, for G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, too many corporations and businesses are mired in thinking about environmental concerns from the perspective of mitigation: the company got into trouble, perhaps with pollution, and the day has arrived when the problem area has to be cleaned up and remediated.

This defensive posture precludes looking at incorporating environmentally sound practices on a company-wide basis, from generating ideas for a product, to sourcing the materials to the very processes that create it, package it and bring it to the marketplace.

Here are some examples from the Maddock and Vitón story, plus some others that have embraced eco-innovation:

DuPont  and other chemical companies have transformed their products and processes with the principles of green chemistry, effectively reducing its environmental impact and the production and use of hazardous substances. A lesser-known company called Albemarle provides fire safety solutions for the electronics, auto and aviation sectors, under the Earthwise brand. Albemarle recently introduced an eco-friendly flame retardant that is non-bioaccumulative and recyclable. The fire safety solution is organically based, rather than mineral-based. It is a polymer, which means the chemical is too large to be absorbed by the body or animal life.

GE has fashioned Ecomagination, an initiative that responds to consumer demand “for cleaner and more energy-efficient product” that also will generate revenue growth for the company.

At Nike, sustainability is the responsibility of all employees, and every product is subject to a sustainability analysis.
Finally, IBM holds a periodic Global Eco-Efficiency Jam, a brainstorming session with global participation over 48-hours to cook up new ideas. Let’s take this one step further and acknowledge the impact of time or money in the eco-innovation process.

Over what timeframe will these programs roll-out?

What are the expenses and the potential cost-savings of embracing this approach?

What are expectations for the internal rate of return?

What are the opportunity costs of delaying its implementation — or of being distracted by other operational programs?

Recognizing that these situations will vary between companies and industries, they remain vital considerations in embarking on an eco-innovation strategy.

Perhaps a first step is to conduct a sustainability audit, as discussed in the next blog post.

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One Response to “All Aboard the Eco-Innovation Express”

  1. Howard Moore says:

    Katie, good positive article. I note the comment “too many corporations and businesses are mired in thinking about environmental concerns from the perspective of mitigation.” Don’t knock them: we SHOULD feel responsible for remedying the mistakes we have made, as well as feel creative about developing new and more efficient products. There are business opportunities in remediation too, although those of us in that sector are working hard to do ourselves out of business.

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