The time is NOW for green innovation and creative destruction, says Forum for the Future

EXCLUSIVE: The world needs to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to incrementalism and embrace innovation and creative destruction if we are to achieve the bold emission reduction pledges set out at the Paris climate talks.

So says Forum for the Future’s director of sustainable business David Bent, who believes the “usual suspects” of sustainability need to channel their efforts into inspiring other organisations across the globe to join the green industrial revolution.

In a video interview with edie (below), Bent said: “The Paris agreement was fabulous in one way and terrible in another. It was fabulous because it gives us a very strong ambition and a strong steer. It was terrible because there is no commitment to action.

“The emissions profile we need to get to 1.5C means we have to start cutting emissions now – we’re not going to do it by incrementalism. We need innovation and creative destruction. Current incumbents need to be willing to change themselves and cannibalise their sales today in order to be successful tomorrow.

Sustainability leaders need to bring the next wave of businesses into doing sustainability well. We’ve been very used to the same companies winning prizes and being the voices, but we’re not going to get to a more sustainable future if it’s the same usual suspects. We need to bring in that next tranche of businesses – especially from emerging markets – before it’s too late.”

System revolutionaries

At the beginning of 2015, Bent told edie that he thought the rapid growth of innovative new business models such as the sharing economy and servitisation would begin to put large, incumbent firms at risk of being left behind in the transition to a sustainable future.

Throughout the course of the year, we then saw a number of new business models make waves in a number of industries – from consumer goods and deliveries through to transport and accommodation – leading to a number of big businesses such as Samsung, Kingfisher and IKEA all preparing for their own business model shake-up.

In 2016, Bent believes the surge in service-orientated business models will continue to disrupt incumbents. “Last year, we were seeing servitisation and the sharing economy as expressions of the digital revolution,” he added. “This year, we can already see a large number of retailers under immense pressure.

“Sainsbury’s have put in a surprise bid for Argos because they’re so afraid of Amazon and what’s going to happen with deliveries of fresh produce [through AmazonFresh]. We’re also seeing a backlash [to new business models] – from taxi drivers against servitisation of taxis through Uber, for instance.

“So we’re seeing the response to it from incumbents – some of those responses might work, some of them won’t.”

edieLive 2016 Innovation Zone

Bent is a supporter of the edieLive Innovation Zone competition, which promotes and supports innovation in the sustainability space.

“The Innovation Zone competition is all about trying to induce the right sort of innovations which will make a big difference,” Bent said. “We can’t rely on incrementalism and competitions like this have proved to be a really good way of inducing sustainable innovation which will make a difference.”

Taking place within the Innovation Zone at the edie Live 2016 exhibition on May 17-18 at the NEC Birmingham, this year’s Competition is looking for emerging products, technologies and solutions in the sustainability space.

Submitting an entry for the Innovation Zone is free of charge, with the deadline set at 18 March. Read full details of the competition here.

Luke Nicholls

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