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Insight | Four keys to sustainable innovation  

05 December 2017

Professor Kenneth Amaeshi argues a sustainable mindset is not only essential for survival, but can also drive innovation in organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Many organisations still see sustainability through the prisms of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

For these organisations, being more environmentally aware and incorporating eco-friendly practices into operations is a nice to have, but it’s not business critical.

This narrow-focus ignores wider considerations that are not only critical for modern organisational survival, but can reap huge benefits by driving innovation.

In Scotland, for example, the shifting environment is pronounced. Once heavily fossil-fuel dependent, during the past few decades the country has reinvented itself as a key player in the development of renewables.

The Green Investment Bank’s presence in Edinburgh and the significance of Zero Waste Scotland in promoting the circular economy are just two examples of the supportive sustainability agenda.

Moreover, the shift has been borne out by an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and inventive organisations who understand how important it is.

It is also an attitude we at the Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI) are working hard to foster in more organisations, and something that can start by following four non-linear steps:

  1. Map the activities of the value chain
  2. Identify the positive and negative impacts of these activities and their implications for your organisations’ sustainability
  3. Negotiate these impacts with external and internal stakeholders
  4. Develop appropriate interventions.

We call this the MIND model. We believe it’s integral to a value chain approach to embedding sustainable culture in organisations. It can also make the process less complex and easier to put into practice.

Successful leaders understand the need to realign and test their strategies in response to the ever-changing world around them. Challenges create opportunities and the space for new ideas.


Professor Kenneth Amaeshi is Chair in Business and Sustainable Development at University of Edinburgh Business School, and Director of the Sustainable Business Initiative.

He will share his insights and methodology through a dynamic three-day Advanced Sustainability Programme in May 2018.

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