04 Nov 2014 Press release Technology

New UNEP Publication Makes Business Case for Eco-Innovation

Paris, 5 November 2014: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a new publication today - The Business Case for Eco-Innovation - which demonstrates the compelling case for companies to embark on eco-innovation. The publication is intended for a business audience as part of the UNEP Eco-innovation Project.

The global business landscape is rapidly changing. Companies are facing growing market and regulatory pressures in the face of dwindling resources and environmental degradation. Extreme weather patterns are already affecting business profitability while global water demand is expected to surpass supply by 40 per cent within 20 years.

"Unless a company is looking beyond its gates to assess sustainability risks and opportunities throughout its value chain, and in cooperation with key partners, it will be incapable of unlocking the transformational potential to deal with these growing external pressures. Leading CEOs have already identified the need to change their business strategies and point to systemic change as the right approach," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

Contrary to short-term, incremental improvements, the strategic nature of eco-innovation drives long-term value creation and increased competitiveness, which extends beyond the company gates to the value chain. Eco-innovation requires incorporating sustainability throughout all business operations, based on life-cycle thinking, and solutions tailored to market needs.

"Eco-innovation is linked to our core values, strategy and our search for product differentiation," says Fabien Brones of Natura, a Brazilian cosmetics firm which tapped new markets with a business strategy based on innovation for sustainability.

The Business Case for Eco-Innovation shows that eco-innovative companies of all sizes are growing at an average annual rate of 15 per cent. "Our expansion from the small shops to big supermarkets was thanks to our eco-innovation. This entry into mass retail has given us a big boom in sales," says Tom Domen, Long-Term Innovation Manager for Ecover, a Belgian manufacturer of ecological cleaning products.

Through the process of eco-innovation, companies collaborate with their key partners to develop joint solutions to increase shared gains and maximize sustainability impact. "Collaboration with key value chain partners helps deliver sustainable, cost-effective solutions to tap markets where no solutions previously existed," says Jonathan Hodgson of Specialized Solar Systems in South Africa.

Eco-innovative goods and services are gaining a stronghold in global and regional markets, influenced by consumer demand, regulatory pressure and sustainability imperatives undertaken by companies. Eco-innovation is especially relevant to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who demonstrate a high degree of responsiveness due to their adaptability and flexibility. As contributors of as much as 70 per cent of GDP and two-thirds of formal employment in developing and emerging economies, SMEs are potentially a key driver for eco-innovation in the transition to a resource efficient economy.

"It is not just about incremental change but real innovations with a view to transforming the systems across the supply chain. Understanding the value of eco-innovation will determine the future success and resilience of a business," says Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering.

About the UNEP Eco-innovation Project:

Funded by the European Commission, UNEP is implementing the Eco-innovation Project to develop local and national technical capacities to strengthen sustainable practices in SMEs. The Project taps into UNEP's vast experience in Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production service providers' network and other business intermediaries to assist SMEs in implementing eco-innovation. As a technical guide, UNEP is also developing an Eco-innovation Manual with sector specific supplements and a practical guideline on Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production Policy for Eco-innovation.

For more information, please visit: www.unep.org/ecoinnovationproject

To download The Business Case for Eco-innovation, please visit: www.unep.org/BCForEI

To access the glossary, please visit: http://www.unep.org/resourceefficiency/Business/WorkingwithBusinessIndus...

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