Success lies in scaling up 'game changing' sustainability

Large firms are increasingly adopting and scaling up sustainability innovations and reaping substantial rewards in the process, new research has found.

A study from WWF-UK shows that such innovations are often driven by smaller, disruptive business models creating new markets and altering existing ones.

Companies should monitor emerging models, the report argues, to gain better insight into how the competition is delivering value.

New entrants can also change market dynamics - the study points to corporations like Kingfisher and Hertz, both of whom have been prompted to move towards models based on sharing or renting goods and services due to the success of game-changing innovation from Zilok and Zipcar.

Companies also need to look beyond sustainable product development, as these type of products require business models that ensure a viable business case that captures all the value provided.

The report also states that it is crucial to get buy-in from the top as internal leadership support can help achieve scale. Umicore credits its business's transformation to a consistent vision from the top of the firm backing increased recycling and 'urban mining'.

Other measures include reassessing the value chain and for this, external collaboration with stakeholders is key.

"Truly sustainable business models look outside a firm's four walls to the impacts that the company has in the value chain, both upstream and downstream," the study states.

The WWF-UK's head of business and industry Dax Lovegrove said that scalability remains crucial for business innovation and that there was a pressing need for large firms to reconsider their business models as small-scale green innovators gain traction and market share.

"Enlightened business are learning that, with increasing pressure on natural resources and changing patterns of consumption, that they need to adopt 'disruptive' business models - or be disrupted," he said.

"There are huge opportunities out there for businesses that are willing to change, as well as threats for the ones that fail to adapt."

Maxine Perella


| Innovation | sustainable business | Circular economy


Waste & resource management
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