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Written by Natacha Wilson

5 Key insights to lead sustainable innovation

A common misconception about sustainable innovation is that it relates purely to the environment and tackling climate change. Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources.

Recently I was interviewed on the Neil Wilkins Podcast about researching sustainability. In my work as a leadership development consultant and coach in responsible research and innovation, I work with extraordinary people and teams to help them increase their positive impact. During the interview, we explored the role of research and innovation, and the people involved, in shaping a “sustainable future”.

We unpicked elements that make up the concept of sustainability and how these link with global challenges, including reducing the risk of another pandemic and responding to climate change. We looked at the impact of research and innovation and how it can help to stimulate change for the benefits of all.  Another topic we discussed was  the role of leaders, managers, and business owners in becoming the change makers we need, to lead us toward a sustainable future.

Here are 5 top insights taken from our conversation about leading sustainable innovation      

Think and behave like a start-up

To innovate we need to develop our entrepreneurial mindset, problem solving skills, resilience, and the ability to source funds.

Embrace research to find your purpose

Working with researchers and innovators has reminded me of the importance of purpose and vision. When we know how our work fits in the bigger picture, solving problems which impact so many, we become a force for good. 

Be prepared to pivot your business

Organisations of all sizes need to adapt their businesses to embed sustainable practices. For some, it will be the chance to adapt the core of their business and adapt their purpose to contribute to a sustainable future. For others, such as Patagonia, sustainability is their raison d’être.

Focus on the value you bring to people and planet

In research and innovation, we always talk about impact. What impact are you creating,]? How can you measure it?  And how can you communicate this to large groups? Technology and open research are key drivers to share the impact of research and innovation early on, and to broader audiences and beneficiaries.

Lead by helping others to welcome change

We all have a role to play in leading and implementing sustainable practices in all we do. Global leaders can create the systems, structures and provide funding which are necessary to adopt sustainable practices, but we also need change agents across sectors, organisations, and levels of society. It is time to lead the way for good.

Shaping a sustainable future is a shared effort that requires vision, drive, cooperation, and collaboration at all levels

Are you curious to hear more? Then listen to my conversation about researching sustainability with Neil Wilkins.



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About Natacha Wilson

Natacha Wilson, founder of Cambridge Insights, is a learning and development consultant and coach. She creates tailored development programmes, which combine 21st century skills, mindsets, and wisdom, to boost leadership capabilities and nurture innovative cultures. Her mission is to support transformational leaders and  “leaders in the making” increase their postive impact, solve global challenges and create a greater world.

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