In Brazil, they are producing solar-powered hearing aids, which are equal in price to disposable alternatives, but last up to three years. Non-sustainable alternatives, such as polluting zinc batteries, last approximately one week. Further North in the kingdom of Denmark, a young start-up saves parents up to $2,100 in the first year of their baby’s life by renting out clothing and exchanging it for larger sizes as the child grows.
Published today, an annual sustainability study, SUSTAINIA100, names the top-100 eco-innovations 2015 after reviewing more than 1,500 projects and businesses from six continents. The 100 cases point to a paradigm shift in eco-innovation: More than half of this year’s selected innovations are not only competing on sustainability criteria, but also on affordability and convenience with for instance new reuse, recycling and take-back models.
“It is the year for eco-consumers,” says Laura Storm, CEO of think tank Sustainia behind the study. “In the new Sustainia100 study, it is remarkable to see how creative developments in particularly the circular economy are resulting in products and services highly competitive with non-sustainable alternatives. This empowers sustainability opportunities like never before.”
“This year’s Sustainia100 are fantastic, because they show how practical and affordable sustainable alternatives are for everyone,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Gov. of California and Honorary Chair of Sustainia. “As a matter of fact, anyone can be a champion for a healthy lifestyle and more livable communities, while demonstrating that none of us should wait for our governments to solve big challenges. Thank you Sustainia100 for showing us that the time for action is now!”
By identifying 100 readily available innovations for cities, corporations and consumers, the Sustainia100 partners wish to highlight the potential for bottom-up transformation ahead of the much-anticipated climate change negotiations, COP21, in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. The partners behind Sustainia100 are UN Global Compact, Connect4 Climate, Regions20, WWF, DNV GL, Realdania, Storebrand and International Federation for Housing and Planning.
Two Factors Driving Competitive Innovation
The increasing competitiveness found among this year’s leading sustainability innovations is especially seen in circular economy innovation and new business models for underserved markets.
“First of all, a growing private sector interest in circular business models is a vital explanation for the rise in competitive sustainability innovations. An increase in commodity prices over the last 15 years has erased the real price declines of the 20th century, giving businesses and consumers a good reason to break free of the linear model of resource use,” says Storm.
One in five of the identified innovations are circular economy models, where businesses are exploring economic incentives attached to circular consumption. These innovations include food waste turned into biofuel; reused air-con filters; and 100 percent recycled workwear.