Developing a culture of innovation and sustainability

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MA. CRESIALDA O. MARTINEZ-CANING

MA. CRESIALDA O. MARTINEZ-CANING

Innovation and sustainability. These are two of the most important concerns faced by businesses all over, difficult to define and harder to embed.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to be innovative and to find new sources of growth given the challenging and competitive business environment. According to management guru Peter Drucker, innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. However, entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation.

Brian Leavy, contributing editor of the journal Strategy & Leadership, identified the following climate-setting factors as central to the success of innovative companies:

Placing of people and ideas at the heart of the management philosophy.


Giving people room to grow, to try things and learn from their mistakes.

Building a strong sense of openness, trust and community across the organization.

Facilitating the internal mobility of talent.

For instance, Wal-Mart tapped the imagination of its people and used it to drive company growth and competitiveness. Other innovators who worked hard to ensure that innovation becomes part of the organizational culture include 3M, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, the Lego Group, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, DuPont, and General Electric. These companies employed the skills of their people to introduce innovations either through the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, process, new marketing method, and new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.

Without doubt, innovation is important to maintaining competitiveness. However, the current desire to embed an innovative culture can also be harnessed to advance sustainability. The interest in sustainability and innovation has been growing because of some sustainability issues faced by the business community, such as climate change, population ageing, water shortage, pollution and critical raw materials scarcities.

SMEs are motivated to adopt sustainability practices because of the perception that these bring competitive advantage, increase company profitability, and are a response to stakeholder pressure, legal requirements, reputation concerns, environmental performance and internal organization improvements.

According to corporate sustainability scholar Hilke Elke Jacke Bos-Brouwers, the management of innovation processes may differ. However, it is important to secure the support of the employees so that they could collaborate on innovative ideas. More importantly, the success of sustainability-oriented innovation requires the support and an inherent desire in the owner-manager.

Looking at our own organizations, are we ready to embrace sustainability innovation?

Ms. Caning is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business at De La Salle University. She welcomes comments at crescane@gmail.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

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