Clear Understanding of Sustainability Challenges Drives Innovation

by | Apr 30, 2014

downy single rinseThis article is sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Companies and individuals who have a comprehensive appreciation of today’s sustainability challenges are driving environmental innovation.

Procter & Gamble is one company committed to understanding consumers and the world in which we live in order to make smart decisions in sustainability. “Most consumers are unwilling to make trade-offs in performance or price. Therefore, as we design products that conserve resources, we must maintain product performance and value,” says Len Sauers, VP of global sustainability for P&G.

Because the world’s sustainability challenges have become quite clear, finding ways to innovate is easier today, says Frank O’Brien-Bernini, Owens Corning chief sustainability officer. “It’s a real gift for an innovator to have a clear view of problems worth solving.”

This understanding informs Owens Corning’s products in the building materials and composites market. The company developed its award-winning EcoTouch Insulation with the needs of both the environment and the homeowner in mind. The product reduces energy consumption and lowers monthly heating and cooling costs, a key desire of its customers, O’Brien-Bernini says.

Such innovation can be seen in all areas of industry. Ford is introducing the 2015 F-150, a truck built from military-grade aluminum alloy (with a high-strength steel backbone). The technologies used in the creation of the truck were developed because of efficiency regulations put into place by the Obama administration in 2011 and because consumers want better gas mileage.

“This is a major innovation and platform change, all being driven from fleet efficiency goals for miles per gallon,” says Matthew Littlefield, president and principal analyst with LNS Research. Littlefield predicts that other truck makers will likely follow suit in coming years.

Process of Innovation

Sustainability is a great driver for innovation, says David Dornfeld, Director, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley. “If you look at the big transitions that have happened in the last 100 years, you will notice they have always been prompted by the need to get more value out of a process or reduce cost or inefficiency,” he said during an interview with Sustainability Outlook magazine. “Henry Ford epitomized this when he pushed the transition from a craft production to an automated production. [He] took the inefficiency out of random organization and made the whole process more organized… Productivity went up, cost went down.”

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