Why innovate for sustainability?

Companies today find themselves in a world that is more volatile, complex and uncertain than ever before. A wide range of macro trends, societal challenges and political upheaval are affecting global value chains, indicating that ‘business as usual’ will not be a sustainable option for much longer.

Against this backdrop, leading companies  are recognising that they need to adapt and change the way they do business in order to thrive in this new context.


Why take a collaborative approach?

The 17th UN Sustainable Development Goal underlines that partnerships will be key to achieving sustainability by 2030.

Since 2014, the EU-InnovatE Project has enabled Aalto University – along with partners from Warsaw, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Munich – to identify and study 18 multinational companies breaking new ground in the energy, food, living and mobility domains, including household names such as E.ON, Barilla, Unilever, IKEA, and BMW. All these cases have included collaborative innovation processes to make products or services more sustainable.

Download the QUICK GUIDE to Collaborative Innovation for Sustainability.


What can we learn from their experiences?

Analysis of these companies’ unique approaches to collaborative innovation for sustainability has created a valuable new set of insights and case studies for managers, business students, and other interested stakeholders.

See what an international construction company – SKANSKA – has learned from their collaborative innovation process for affordable housing:


Top Enablers for Companies

Our case companies identified 8 key enablers that helped them to succeed in their collaborative innovation activities. We reformulate these here as recommendations for first steps towards collaborative innovation for sustainability:

  • Seek top management support
  • Support a company culture of learning, trial and error
  • Create cross functional teams to work on innovations
  • Try out ideas early on with end users
  • Make resources available for experimentation
  • Enable staff and managers to work directly with stakeholders
  • Engage a limited number of well-chosen stakeholders
  • Be open to collaborating beyond the usual business partners to access new ideas and capabilities