Sustainable Innovation Strategy

Sustainable Innovation Strategy

Authors: Christophe Sempels & Jonas Hoffmann

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan 

Price: £29.99

It could’ve been all too easy for Christophe Sempels and Jonas Hoffmann to fall into sanctimony when writing Sustainable Innovation Strategy, preaching environmental ethics or criticising businesses on their wasteful models and strategies. 

Instead, they take a more pragmatic approach in encouraging eco-efficiency and sustainable innovation amongst businesses, giving an insightful look into sustainable growth of business strategy.  

Using the ‘sustainable business model canvas’ as an anchor, the book takes a three-pronged approach: eco-efficiency, circular economy, and the transition from a goods-centred logic to a service-oriented one. Woven throughout every chapter is the theme of meeting the needs of today and tomorrow with the limited resources we have. 

The duo present the reader with tried and tested concepts designed to help businesses generate profit and value, whilst curbing their resource use and remaining environmentally friendly.   

To illustrate these concepts, examples are drawn from a surprisingly deep well of case studies such as: the Water<Less programme from Levi’s Jeans; a Stockholm train station’s conversion of body heat into building heat; and Xerox’s leasing of machines. 

This article was taken from Issue 77

The book excels at making a foundation of the simple aforementioned sustainable business model canvas and building upon it, layering idea over idea until the reader is presented with a crescendo of environmentally-friendly innovation strategy relatable to most businesses. It isn’t as much of an instruction manual as a call to arms; those expecting a step-by-step guide to environmentally-efficient business growth will likely be disappointed. 

So will those without a firm grasp of economic theory, as, when the analysis delves into more advanced economic concepts, without the example or model to properly anchor it down, it can get easier and easier to feel lost.

Another issue with the book is proportion. A hefty fraction is dedicated to tackling sustainable development at the strategic level, which, though a very informative springboard, probably belongs in a more business-centric book.    

Trimming this fat could not only have de-cluttered the first few sections, but would have also created room for more detailed transitions from business model to case study, thus putting a clearer lens over the examples it gives to the reader.       

Nonetheless, Sempels and Hoffman have created a book that is at once a wake-up call to our resource inefficiency in business, and a testament to how we can improve it. It’s just hard not to feel like it could have reached its true potential had a little more attention been paid to pruning.

Alex Gravells