Why is this important?
Companies need to be and remain innovative in order to assert themselves on the market. This applies even more so when they are faced with fierce competition. Sustainability aspects can increasingly provide important stimuli. In particular climate change, increasingly scarce and thus more expensive natural resources, an ageing society and global population growth mean there is a need for new environmental and social solutions and economic policies which are sustainable in the long term. These might be an innovative product (e.g. a low-emission car) or a new combination of products and services (e.g. car-sharing models).
What do the terms mean?
Product and service innovations can be geared towards reducing your company’s negative impacts on the one hand, e.g. using a more environmentally friendly material for production, as well as helping users reduce their own negative impacts on the other, e.g. with a product consuming less electricity or water when used. The same goes for services: on the one hand, a service can be created in a way which is in keeping with sustainable development. For example, changing the internal organisation of work could offer employees greater flexibility, thus improving their work-life balance. In addition, a service can support customers in becoming more sustainable themselves, such as with a sustainability-oriented advisory service (e.g. offering sustainable financial services).
The value chain includes not only suppliers and other business partners together with their contractual partners, but also the users of your products and services and possibly also recyclers (see criterion 4).
The term product life cycle refers to the entire product process including prior to its market launch, while in the market and once removed from the market. This therefore includes impacts in the areas of design, raw materials, manufacture, transport, usage and reclamation. In the interests of sustainability, recycling would be desirable at the end of use, rather than disposal. Companies can contribute to sustainable development at all the stages by means of innovative processes.
What needs to be borne in mind?
This criterion relates in particular to the processes and measures that boost your company’s innovative capacity. These range from simple company suggestion schemes to participation in research projects. It can be further boosted by a suitable atmosphere for innovation in which risks are allowed to be taken and a constructive no-blame culture dominates. Also report on the incorporation of sustainability topics into the existing innovation processes, e.g. clear sustainability criteria for projects in the research and development department.