Gatekeepers of Sustainable Innovation

Green economy is widely recognized as one of an essential drivers shaping businesses and innovation strategies in the coming years. However, only in very few consumer sector companies sustainability and innovation are interlinked in responsibilities of professionals: sustainability issues are often still too remote or marginal to be a key innovation driver for people working with innovation management. Here we aim at depicting alternative strategic approaches for bridging this gap and engaging different groups of professionals in seeing sustainability as a driver for innovation.

The results of this paper and presentation are based on think tank Demos Helsinki’s innovation concept called Peloton (peloton is the group that rides together to save energy on a bicycle race and it also means ‘fearless’ in Finnish). Peloton has been operational for five years with fifteen innovation workshops with hundreds of gatekeeper professionals from distinct, even competing, companies. During the workshops, the companies have co-created dozens of new sustainable innovation concepts. Many of them have become real.

As a result, the Peloton strategy is being proposed as a tool to link smart use of resources and business. The strategy helps businesses to understand who are the key professionals within corporations with potential capabilities of combining sustainability, user-centrism and innovation as well as embedding them as part of job descriptions. Gatekeeper analyses provides a tool that helps to articulate opportunities beyond energy efficiency and the current ecological consumer markets serving only a fraction of the total market size in a new, more user-centric manner. This could help them in finding new alliances within company and link their sustainability targets to business targets.

Conference paper presented in World Resources Forum Davos 2013. By Aleksi Neuvonen, Outi Kuittinen, Maria Ritola and Satu Lähteenoja.