Historically, most companies advanced their sustainability credentials through reporting, efficiency or even just good marketing. Approaches often involved streamlining processes or products to achieve a smaller environmental footprint.These innovations are worthwhile and move us closer to sustainable development, but they don’t address the underlying value structure of a company. They are incrementally better, but not transformative or good enough to change our take-make-waste economy. SustainAbility recently began an analysis of 85 companies and their business models to better understand what innovation in this area looks like. We plan to release a full report this fall with all of our findings, but wanted to share early results and a few common trends that have emerged.
Business model innovation, for example, is more likely to occur at smaller companies. A focus on consumer consumption also is making an impact on corporate business models as firms find ways to create value without using more.