Exploring the need for more radical sustainable innovation: what does it look like and why?

Dewberry, Emma and Monteiro de Barros, Margarida (2009). Exploring the need for more radical sustainable innovation: what does it look like and why? International Journal of Sustainable Engineering, 2(1) pp. 28–39.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19397030802643518


It has been argued in recent years that Western economies need to increase their resource productivity by 90% over the next 50 years. This is a radical aim. This paper draws on design for sustainability (DfS) thinking to scope interventions that encourage greater levels of resource productivity through reconfiguring concepts of growth and well-being within organisational strategies, structures, systems, processes and outputs. Based on research from a UK EPSRC funded project Design Dialogues (2005-2008), this paper links together sustainable design and innovation literatures and dialogue-based primary research that together inform the development of an approach to innovation for sustainability. The emphasis on sustainable innovation is to understand what is designed (the outputs of business) and why (the inputs: the values, beliefs, visions and objectives) within a context of ecological limits. The foundations of this approach are introduced here in order to demonstrate the potential to provoke a new way of thinking about longer-term organisational innovation through making explicit the intrinsic connections between natural and human capitals. This paper explores the need to think differently in order to create sustainability and presents the outcome of this research: a methodology for innovation for sustainability.

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