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What Are Sustainable Business Innovations?

Innovations in industries ranging from technology to finance and farming are affected by sustainable business solutions. Sustainability has been described as development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To better understand this concept, consider a real-world scenario. 

In order to farm large plots of land, farmers need tractors and other heavy-duty equipment that often emit harmful exhaust gases. To achieve the maximum yield possible, farmers may have made a concession to use pollution-generating machinery. Over the past 20 to 30 years, however, sustainable innovations in manufacturing have created diesel and hybrid engines that release lower levels of toxic emissions into the atmosphere.

These technological advances offer farmers options for using cleaner-running machinery, allowing them to reach their yield while causing less damage to the environment. 

Sustainable practices cross many lines of business and industry, whether it’s farming, manufacturing or construction. Among the more recent initiatives are: 

  • Hybrid Vehicles: Many automobile manufacturers are tapping into sustainable practices and green technology in order to design and produce hybrid vehicles than can achieve more than 40 miles per gallon.
  • Blue Technology: Automakers such as Hyundai and Volkswagen are among the companies putting increasing emphasis on so-called “blue technology” – producing vehicles with low emissions and high-fuel efficiency at a more affordable cost to the consumer.

As part of its Think Blue initiative, VW highlighted the story of a couple who drove a 2012 VW Passat SE TDI Clean Diesel from Texas to Virginia on a single tank of diesel fuel, averaging about 84 miles per gallon on the 1,626-mile trip.

Hyundai, meanwhile, boasts that its Blue Drive vehicles are built in plants certified as meeting the environmental management system requirements of the International Organization for Standardization. According to the automaker, “This means that the environmental aspects and impacts of the production process are formally managed to meet Hyundai’s environmental objectives and policies, as well as our continuously improving environmental performance.” 

  • Improved Packaging: By using recycled plastic and recyclable materials – in addition to reducing product packaging – companies can reduce waste and manufacturing costs. 
  • Organic Farming: Using fewer chemicals and pesticides can help produce healthier food and also protect the soil. In turn, reduced soil contamination means a cleaner water table, exposing humans and animals to fewer toxins. 
  • Green Construction: Constructing a green building may cost more upfront than a traditional building but savings likely will come from lower utility costs and the environment could benefit from a reduction in the use of potentially toxic materials.

 As continuing strain is placed upon the planet’s supply of fossil fuels, such initiatives are likely to expand and find greater traction. 

Target Rock Advisors, which provides sustainability-related services to utility companies, released an analysis in May 2012 that estimated “that the value of good sustainability policies and practices could be worth between $20-25 billion to utility investors.” 

It’s clear that as sustainable innovations spread across industries – and greater emphasis is placed on their potential financial and other benefits – the need for trained and knowledgeable professionals is likely to grow. Colleges and universities across the nation are responding to this demand by creating degree and certificate programs in sustainability education, offering courses ranging from marketing to mastering sustainable business practices.


This guest post is provided by Jason Monaghan who writes on sustainable education.  He also writes on topics such as leadership, business administration and negotiations for a number of universities through the University Alliance.