Innovation can change the world
Innovation Can Change The World
Innovation changes the world. Think of something as simple as the shape of Toilet Duck. Or disposable pepper grinders. Think of mobile phones, iTunes and iPods. These things have not only changed categories; they’ve altered the way we do things. Brands like Apple and Virgin have built their businesses on the idea that change – often radical change – can be very, very good for business.
But can innovation really change the world? We are quickly realizing that at the rate we’re going, resources are going to run out. Whether we’re worrying about our carbon footprint or the longevity of a workforce under threat from HIV/AIDS, there are some big changes afoot. The way we’ve done business in the past is not sustainable. Our ability to adapt and evolve to a changing environment will propels us forward. And as any follower of Darwin knows, only the fittest survive. Global shift, local issues
For the past four years we’ve been working with brands to understand their role in this global shift in consciousness. Branding for Good is about a fundamental shift in how businesses see their ‘corporate social responsibility’. How they can shift their thinking from ‘responsibility’ into ‘investment’ and do better business, more sustainably, without risking the bottom line.
Change is not easy. But it is inevitable. In the developed world, brands have taken a beating. Research shows that given a choice on product and price parity, more and more consumers in America and Europe will choose the brand they think has the more ethical reputation. And increased access to information and the viral nature of developing social networks has meant that unethical behaviour can – and will – be ferreted out and spread across the globe before the spin doctors have put their pants on.
Coupled with screaming headlines, a rash of eye-opening documentaries and a rise in consumer consciousness, brands have had to clean up their act and talk up their ‘green’ and ethical credentials pretty quick.
South of the equator, where large scale socio-economic hardship means brand choice is more about price than social consciousness, things get a little more complicated. Green, or environmental issues, are still important, but don’t match up to the day to day issues around public health, access to infrastructure and resources, unemployment and chronic poverty. In countries like South Africa, brands and businesses need to be a lot more strategic about how they plan, execute and communicate their sustainability journey and messages.
But how? Altruism in business is a myth
We hear two things from clients. Firstly, to be coldly corporate, brands can’t just afford to do good for good’s sake. And secondly, the challenge feels too big and many businesses don’t know where to start. And our answer? Altruism in business is a myth. But doing business better makes better business sense. Brands with an eye on the future need to think a little more long term than they have to date. They need to think of the strategic benefit of changing the way they behave, whether it’s long term cost saving, or increased consumer engagement. Those brands that are able to adapt, will have a better chance of surviving. Changing overnight is not an option. So, how can businesses evolve?Through innovation.
In many companies, the R&D or innovation departments are often where change happens anyway. And in many companies, good change has historically meant more growth.
So what if brand owners could face their sustainability challenge by harnessing their existing innovation streams? What if they could step out of the mindset of ‘this is something we must do’ and use the momentum and inspiration innovation generates to move their business into its next life cycle? And we’re not just talking about the big blue sky, category crushing ideas, but the small incremental steps that can take business from where it is, to where it needs to be.
In fact, Jeffrey Hollander, author of ‘Responsibility Revolution: how the next generation of businesses will win’
, suggests that we are now entering an age where we are being forced to redress the net result of the industrial revolution, which spurred mass consumption and throw-away consumerism. But Hollander is not all doom and gloom. He says we are entering another era of innovation and opportunity that could match that of the industrial revolution. By focusing on sustainable innovation, businesses could find new – and better – ways of operating at every level, from supply chain and logistics, to communication and brand building.
Firstly, identify the issues that will be core to your long term sustainability. What issues affect your work force, your supply chain, your products, your ability to manufacture, your raw materials, your consumers? What resource is most critical to your ongoing ability to do business? And what would happen if that resource was no longer available? Much like light bulbs have had to get smarter and more efficient how might your business or products have to change?
Then look for ways to innovate towards a lower risk future. Start with your company, your market and your brand(s). All will be excellent sources of innovation inspiration. Read Innovation Can Change The World.
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