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How to Collaborate for Sustainable Innovation

Sustainable innovation often requires collaboration to access the skills required and value on offer, but is it not easy. ‘How to Successfully Collaborate for Sustainable Innovation’ was the subject of the 14 October Lavery/Pennell Sustainable Innovation Breakfast in London, which brought together corporates, startups, financiers and not-for-profit organisations (including BP, Balfour Beatty, Interface, Virgin and the BBC). The discussion is summarised below. Why Collaborate? The rationale for collaboration is clear (as discussed at the July innovation breakfast), and includes: Many sustainable innovations are beyond the delivery capacity and capability of any single organization, such as those requiring scale, varied skill-sets, or significant funding. By their nature, some sustainable innovations require peers to work together. An example is the aviation industry in relation to noise reduction, fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. Other innovations are only viable if value is added by different types of stakeholders, such as companies working with not-for-profit organisations to combine beneficial products with credibility and market access. Speed is becoming ever more important for innovation; large companies traditionally do not do fast/agile well – collaboration can help address this. Figure 1 shows the types of value that different partners can bring to an innovation project. Figure 1: Different Parties Bring Different Strengths to Sustainable Innovation   Collaborative Innovation Approaches Recent Lavery/Pennell research identified 11 innovation approaches used by a range of companies[1]. Eight of these approaches involve collaboration (see Figure 2). Good practice companies use most of these 11 innovation approaches, but many acknowledge that they do not do all of them well. Figure 2: Innovation Approaches used by Leading Companies   Inspiring Examples Several successful...

Sustainable office furniture options

For many organisations the lure of new furniture is hypnotic – soothing messages, dazzling imagery and encouragement from designers. But it is expensive and mostly unsustainable. So what are the alternatives? This article explains the options and how to choose between them – you may be surprised by the results. Over the last decade, the office furniture industry has started to improve its sustainability and companies have entered the market using circular economy principles to drive cost savings and environmental impact reductions. Below are the furniture choices available today, moving down a hierarchy (see Figure 1) from most to least sustainable. The discussion that follows presents the trade-offs between sustainability, quality and cost. Figure 1: The Sustainability Hierarchy for Office Furniture   Reuse (i.e. Used or Second hand). This is reusing your own or others’ furniture without doing anything to it. Pros: Environmental footprint only comprises the transport to move it Low cost if you are reusing your own furniture Cons: Can be relatively expensive if buying others’ furniture. Used prices (e.g. on eBay) can be high compared to some of the higher quality options described below. Used furniture can be worn, scratched, stained and/or damaged Not clear what you are getting – no quality assurance or warranty; parts (e.g. gas lifts) can fail soon after purchase Limited volumes and colours (usually out-of-fashion) Conclusion: Buyer beware. Lowest environmental impact but can be risky, limiting and poor value for money. Can work for very small volumes when you source from an organisation you know and trust.   Refresh/Repair/Refurbish: Where furniture has a facelift, such as reupholstering to replace worn or...

Circular economy creates office furniture savings

You can now buy as-new remade office furniture for less than half the new recommended retail price, thanks to the circular economy. Used and recyclable have limits While used office furniture has always been an option, it has traditionally involved compromising on quality. And some manufacturers produce furniture that can be recycled, but this does not usually provide cost savings for buyers. Remanufacturing is better Remanufacturing involves none of the quality compromises while bringing substantial cost and environmental savings. Here is how Rype Office, an award-winning furniture company using Circular Economy principles, does it: Rype Office takes the long life components of used furniture, like steel frames which last for hundreds of years, and rebuilds the rest of the piece around them. Modern precision equipment and the latest resurfacing technologies produce high quality pieces that look like new – a real alternative to expensive new furniture. Those long life components are the most expensive and environmentally harmful to make new, so the cost is reduced by half and the environmental footprint by more than two thirds. High quality furniture at a good price For example, the remanufactured Orangebox G64 shown below (a leading ergonomic chair still in production having sold 1.3 million) is indistinguishable from new. Rype Office sells it for £240 compared to the new recommended retail price of £600. End of life savings too Consistent with the principles of the Circular Economy (as espoused by the Next Manufacturing Revolution, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and The Great Recovery), Rype Office offers to lease its furniture or buy it back furniture at the end of each life. This saves customers...

Building disruptive new businesses

This video offers practical lessons on how to create a disruptive business, with details on building a circular/remanufacturing business. Greg Lavery explains how Lavery/Pennell has fashioned its own disruptive business model and created Rype Guides and Rype Office, a furniture remanufacturing startup that is challenging the UK furniture industry. This presentation occurred at the July 2015 EPSRC Industrial Sustainability conference in...

3 big differences between sustainable innovation and regular innovation

Sustainable innovation differs substantially from regular innovation. Read what a group of leading innovation and sustainability experts had to say on the subject. On 9 July, international corporates, startups, academia, financiers and not-for-profit organisations (including Pepsico, Arqiva, Imperial College, Green Alliance and the BBC) discussed sustainable innovation at the inaugural Lavery/Pennell Sustainable Innovation Breakfast in London. Sustainable innovation  is defined as innovation that leads to greater profits, better social outcomes and less environmental damage. And the conclusion of the group was that it differs from regular innovation in three substantial ways: Sustainable innovation is more disruptive New business models (such as remanufacturing, servitisation and asset sharing) challenge many aspects of incumbent companies including production, operations, brand, marketing and sales. They also introduce non-traditional risks. This broad challenge to corporates often causes them to defend the status quo; large organisations develop ‘corporate antibodies’ within the company’s culture to resist change. Beyond new business models, incremental sustainable innovation initiatives, like changing staff behaviour regarding energy use, have proven to be almost universally short-lived without significant accompanying internal system and process change to incentivise the new behaviours. “Quick wins” like installing more efficient replacement equipment are much less disruptive; however it was argued that these use existing technology with a strong economic case and so should not be recognised as “sustainable innovation”, even though they may have environmental and/or social benefits. There’s a stronger rationale behind sustainable innovation While sustainable innovation is more disruptive, it is also considered to have a stronger case for change than other forms of innovation. The drivers for change include: Changing consumer aspirations and behaviours, such as Millennials...