In the introductory module we have learnt yet about different innovation types (by object, by results, by innovation sources….), but what happens when you integrate the “ecology1 dimension” to innovation? We are talking about Eco-Innovation.

What is Eco-innovation?

The idea of eco-innovation is fairly recent. The first appearance of the concept of eco-innovation known in the literature is in the book Driving Eco-Innovation: A Breakthrough Discipline for Innovation and Sustainability2.

Thus, Peter James defines eco-innovation as 'new products and processes which provide customer and business value but significantly decrease environmental impacts3. So, Eco-innovation means all forms of innovation reducing environmental impacts and/or optimising the use of resources throughout the lifecycle of related activities4. But, in this globalised world, and after different intents for improving this definition, the OCDE propose that

Eco-innovation is the production, assimilation or exploitation of a product, production process, service or management or business method that is novel to the organisation (developing or adopting it) and which results, throughout its life cycle, in a reduction of environmental risk, pollution and other negative impacts of resources use (including energy use) compared to relevant alternatives5.

According to the definition, eco-innovation promotes the introduction of advance technologies and completes application of available solution, including the non-technological approach. In addition, the concept is a chance for new opportunities in the organizations, involving new players, developing new industries and business and increasing the competitiveness. Thus, eco-innovation is the key element for facing the structural change in economies, which will be imperative in coming decades.

Dimensions of Eco-Innovation

Eco-innovation has two different dimensions, considering eco-innovation targets and eco-innovation’s mechanism6. According to the Oslo Manual7 , the eco-innovation targets may be:

Products - Processes - Marketing - Organisation

The figure below shows more about the eco-innovation target

Figure 1: Eco-innovation targets

The eco-innovation’s target can be technological or non technological (see Guide Subchapter 1.2.3. Innovation types by innovation source for learn more about technological and non technological innovation). Eco-innovation on both products and processes use to be related to a technological development; however eco-innovation on both marketing and organisations involves more non technological solutions. The second dimension is eco-innovation’s mechanism. The OCDE defines them as the ways in which the changes are made in the targets8 and it involves the following ways.

Figure 2: Eco-innovation’s mechanism

Benefits of Eco-innovation

The introduction of eco-innovation schemes in your company can provide with some benefits, as following:

Environmental - You could

  • support the sustainable environment growth of your area;
  • minimise company’s wastes;
  • reduce consumptions (energy and water);
  • improve company processes (more efficient);
  • reduce emissions;
  • produce more environmental friendly products and services.

Economics - You could

  • reduce your costs using more efficiently energy and water consumption;
  • open new markets for your products;
  • improve the competitiveness of your company;
  • attract new customers;
  • reduce your processes costs.

Social - You could

  • contribute to sustainable social growth;
  • collaborate to create a more competitive, creative and innovative society;
  • contribute to the creation of new job opportunities;

1 For more about ECOLOGY term and concept you can visit the article about it in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ecology/.
2 FUSSLER, Claude. and PETER, James (1996) p 364.
3 PETER, James (1997)p 52:57
4 European Community Eco-innovation web site http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eco-innovation/what_en.htm
This definition was adopted in the framework of the MEI (Measuring eco-Innovation) project financed by the European Commission in under the 6th R&D Framework program Thematic Priority: Call FP6-2005-SSP-5A, Area B, 1.6, Task 1. In KEMP. R. and PONTOGLIO, S. (2007): Workshop conclusions about panel survey analysis and definitions of eco-innovation . Deliverable 6.
6 From OCDE (20092 . Page 13.
OCDE (2005): Oslo Manual Guidelines for Collecting and Interpreting Innovation Data. 3rd edition.
From OCDE (2009) 2 . Page 15.