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Sasha Baillie, LuxinnovationA great number of companies have today realised that they need to be sustainable – not only to preserve the environment, but also to cut costs, find new business opportunities and become more competitive. “In our role as the national innovation agency, Luxinnovation helps companies become more sustainable through innovation,” says CEO Sasha Baillie. “As a starting point, we decided to analyse and identify relevant areas for sustainable innovation in businesses.” The result is the report “Sustainability framework: Areas in which businesses can become more sustainable” edited by Luxinnovation’s Market Intelligence department. The report was initially presented at the launch conference of the Klimapakt fir Betriber programme.

Sustainability framework by Luxinnovation to encourage sustainable innovation

Sustainability: 3 pillars, 17 sustainable development goals

Sara Bouchon, LuxinnovationBecoming more sustainable is a matter of protecting the planet, but not only. “All sustainability work is based on three fundamental pillars: planet, people and prosperity,” says Sara Bouchon, Director Market Intelligence at Luxinnovation. “The planet dimension is often the most emphasised dimension of sustainability, but the two other pillars are just as relevant for companies.”

In our role as the national innovation agency, Luxinnovation helps companies become more sustainable through innovation.

The United Nations defines the “people” dimension as the ambition to end poverty and hunger and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality. The “prosperity” aspect focuses on ensuring that everyone can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature. “From a business perspective, this means that a company cannot be fully sustainable by focusing only on its environmental impact,” explains Dr Bouchon. “It also needs to take into account its human resources and how it contributes to ensuring economic prosperity.”

Based on these three pillars, the UN has defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint for how to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs include dimensions such as clean water, clean energy and climate action, just as well as goals related to economic growth, industry, innovation, infrastructure and responsible consumption and production. They also comprise peace, justice and strong institutions.

Sustainable innovation for companies

However, the step from the inner pillars and SDGs to the daily activities of most companies can seem very long. “In the ‘sustainability framework’, we have translated these high-level foundations into six concrete business functions where company executives can innovate in order to make their businesses more sustainable,” says Dr Bouchon. “This includes rather obvious actions, such as replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, but also implementing innovative solutions to improve the use and charging of electrical vehicle fleets or to enhance the energy efficiency of offices, for instance.”

I want to highlight business model innovation, which has a great potential to help companies find new ways of generating revenue from a more sustainable use of products and resources.

“Much can also be done on a strategic level,” Ms Baillie points out. “I want to highlight business model innovation, which has a great potential to help companies find new ways of generating revenue from a more sustainable use of products and resources. Data-driven business strategies can also help foster sustainability.”

The report also lists the 25 most relevant sustainability topics for businesses that concretely exemplify what can be done. “We hope this will inspire companies to think further about what might be relevant and useful for them to do,” says Dr Bouchon.

Sustainability Innovation Hub

Luxinnovation offers a range of initiatives to support sustainable innovation in companies. “We are an accelerator and facilitator of digitally enabled and sustainable economic development through research and innovation,” says Ms Baillie. “We work with companies across Luxembourg’s economy to identify innovation challenges and opportunities and to identify the best way forward, both for individual companies and for groups of businesses who can jointly benefit from common solutions.”

In many cases, digitalisation is crucial for companies to become more sustainable.

The main services in the field have been regrouped in the agency’s Sustainability Innovation Hub. They include the Fit 4 Sustainability programme, a simplified guide to aid for environmental protection, sustainable solutions for groups of companies and a mapping of sustainability enablers. The hub is part of the Klimapakt fir Betriber initiative by Luxinnovation and Klima-Agence.

However, a number of other Luxinnovation services also reflect the theme of sustainability. “In many cases, digitalisation is crucial for companies to become more sustainable. Artificial intelligence can for example be used to optimise production processes, monitor businesses’ global environmental footprint or remove bias in recruitment processes. Companies looking for support with their digital transformation can turn to our Digital Innovation Hub,” says Ms Baillie.

I’m convinced that the increased awareness of sustainability is a real game changer, and that it will give rise to a multitude of business opportunities in the near future.

As another example, she mentions the current edition of start-up accelerator programme Fit 4 Start that is providing participants with coaching and awareness raising about how they can have a positive sustainable impact. “I’m convinced that the increased awareness of sustainability is a real game changer, and that it will give rise to a multitude of business opportunities in the near future,” she concludes.

Illustration: © Luxinnovation
Photos: © Luxinnovation/Marion Dessard

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