'Greenovations' steer course for sustainability


On April 28, 2010, more than 100 students, educators, and business leaders gathered at Hult International Business School in Cambridge to celebrate the publication of "Greenovate!" – a collection of more than 50 brief, information-packed business cases about organizations from around the world that are working right now to address the challenge of creating more green business products and processes.

As the authors, Hitendra Patel, Tyler McNally and Ronald Jonash, from the Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center) explained, “Greenovations create and capture new value by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” The key ingredient to greenovations is creating sustainable business models, ensuring that profit will sustain the good intentions of organizations into the foreseeable future.

Greenovations make an environmental difference in one of three different ways: reduction of consumption; the exploitation of renewable resources; and recycling. Many of these efforts have begun at the top of the economic pyramid — the Toyota Prius and the Amazon Kindle being two famous examples of reducing the use of resources for transportation and reading materials in developed countries.

The bottom of the economic pyramid represents a sector of growing importance in greenovating efforts worldwide where resources are scarce. A stirring example of this was represented by a sponsor of the event Empower Playgrounds, a Utah-based organization that manufactures playgrounds that transform children’s playtime into electricity that powers lamps needed for classrooms in places like Ghana.

As the President and COO of One Laptop per Child (OLPC), Charles Kane has greenovated as a way to realize his group’s educational mission. Kane explained that OLPC’s mission is to improve the quality of children’s education throughout the world by giving them access to inexpensive laptop computers (the “XO”). The XO consumes less than 10% of the energy required of conventional laptops. This allows the computer to be distributed in areas where the power infrastructure is primitive or even non-existent. Innovative ways to generate energy – a handheld crank or a small portable solar panel – allowed the XO to go where no laptop could go before. “We ‘greenovated,’” Kane summarized, “not out of choice but out of necessity."

Mark Turrell, CEO of Imaginatik which helped to sponsor the book launch event, praised "Greenovate!" for the aptness of its presentation for the modern age: the short cases distill information in easy-to-read segments; they can act as templates for inspiration and repeated use for organizations interested in greenovating; and, the many insights gathered from all over the globe resembles collecting and distilling collective intelligence through crowdsourcing.

As Hult Dean Henrik Totterman pointed out in his address, "Greenovate!" also marks the first publication of Hult International Business School Press. Following "Greenovate!," Hult looks forward to the publication of similar books examining innovation in healthcare and education. They will be part of the Beyond Eureka Series of books on innovation, which promise to offer insights on successful innovations in crucial sectors in the world economy.

As population increases and dwindling resources will eventually force all of us to innovate out of necessity, Beyond Eureka hopes to offer insights and guidance on innovation for those who wisely choose to do it now.

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