Innovation has always been the cornerstone of businesses. As the old business model paradigm is changing, businesses are increasingly developing products adding sustainability to the mix, linking corporate social responsibility and innovation: sustainable innovation is born. And they are doing it while focusing services and marketing to a profitable market, tapping into niches and also pushing to transform them into mainstream markets.
Among these new businesses we find EcoAlf, a leader in the field of sustainable innovation, that has created a sustainable business model out of fashion made of trash, “trashion.” They create clothing and accessories from recycled materials such as fishing nets, plastic bottles, and even coffee grinds. They serve a niche market with their high-end ecodesigned products, and their unique business model unites new and existing services to deliver ethical products in a circular economy. By managing the local supply chains within the 11 countries in which they operate, each recycled material is processed and turned into new products in the region it originated.
EcoAlf’s innovations combining recycling, manufacturing, and fashion have a positive impact around the world. Founder Javier Goyeneche, who will be a speaker at the Sustainable Brands Barcelona 2016 summit (22nd to 24th of May), was firm at an interview back in 2014, “companies that aren’t sustainable in the mid-term are going to be left out.”
They are not the only ones making sustainable innovations in the fashion industry. Equilicuá makes biodegradable ponchos entirely from potatoes. These and their other products sourced from sustainable agriculture serve their environmentally conscious consumers.
However, sustainable innovation is not something we find only in niche markets, we can also find innovation in well-known mainstream brands, such as The North Face. Their part in sustainable innovation is related to the welfare of the down used in their products, for which the devised the Responsible Down Standard.
But sustainable innovation does not only take place in the textile industry. The hygiene and body care industry also benefits from new ideas. One of them is dry shampoo, a product initially developed to save water in markets with poor water supplies such as Africa. It is now also gainfully marketed towards the West. This design thinking involved major corporations such as Unilever, and the number of dry shampoo options proves how big the market for this chic environmentally-sound product has become.
Other companies are keeping up with their environmental conscience too. Sanex Zero%, for example, simplified their packaging and soap on an industrial scale with huge results. Following their slogan “Less is more,” they created a biodegradable and easily recyclable container that uses 73% less plastic and is reusable. Their soap itself has earned a European Ecolabel for supporting good environmental performance. Less is more in the eyes of consumers as well, as their products prosper in stores worldwide. If a bottle of soap can evolve to reduce costs and environmental impact, where is the limit?
For some companies, the sky is the limit. Their imagination regarding new sustainable business models has given birth to services such as car sharing. Car2Go and Respiro manage fleets of cars in different cities across the globe. This is a short-term rental service aimed to city dwellers that do not own a car but that occasionally need it. These companies take care of the fleet, which is in some cases powered by renewable energy sources, and help reduce the number of cars inside cities. These types of companies are at the forefront of sustainable innovation.
It is no wonder that summits and conferences are taking place all over the globe. This year, in Sustainable Brands Barcelona 2016 (22nd to 24th of May), 40 thought leaders and sustainability practitioners, such as Javier Goyeneche, will speak about innovation in sustainability and share inspiration with us.
Sustainable innovation will be a growing driving force in the economy for years to come. Modern consumers care about where their products come from and how they are made as it impacts their bio-footprint. Corporations have the social responsibility of finding sustainable options. And given the limited resources on planet Earth and consumers’ interest in sustainable brands, it is worth investing in innovation.