Teaming up for green innovation
By Jim Hutchison
University of Oregon
Take a look at the recent “Future Friendly” marketing campaign and you can see how companies such as Proctor & Gamble are working to make being green easy — for consumers.
That may be a fine strategy from a consumer-marketing standpoint, but from an innovation or R&D perspective it is not so easy being green.
Developing a sustainable product or process is a complex endeavor. Evaluating product performance is an evolving process, and advances in one area may be more than offset by impacts elsewhere in the cycle. For example: The energy it takes to produce a green material may outweigh the environmental benefits of the material. The entire life cycle of a product needs to be considered. Navigating the complexities of sustainable supply chains and green marketing provides additional challenges.
And, despite the prevalence of green marketing campaigns, sustainable business is still an emerging market, which means there are few established rules or best practices. We do know what fuels green innovation. It requires continuously optimizing the sustainability of every aspect of a product or process, including material selection, energy requirements, product safety, marketing, distribution, legal regulations, and end-of-life considerations. Businesses that employ an integrative approach to these considerations are likely to have a competitive advantage.
This may sound overwhelming, but creating sustainable products and practices is worthwhile. And there are fabulous examples of success right here in Oregon.
How do you employ an integrative approach to green innovation?
Recruit the right people.
Jim Hutchison is the associate vice president for research and strategic initiatives at the University of Oregon, where he holds the Lokey-Harrington Chair in Chemistry. He is a member of the leadership team for the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), co-founder of the Green Product Design Network, and director of the Safer Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing Initiative.
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