Top 5 sustainable innovation trends in 2022

Shinta Noorsyahbani

Junior Marketeer at Regreener

What is sustainable innovation?

Sustainable innovation is a concept that combines the use of resources that are not damaging to the planet, with ways to sustain continuous improvement for company growth, competitive advantage, and increased market growth. This often results in new, more sustainable products, services, or processes.

The term sustainability refers to the capacity to endure in a continuous way. It also often refers to environmental sustainability. The world is facing environmental challenges now more than ever, and with this social and economic challenges arise. Nowadays, solutions that are not inclusive or do not consider root causes are often seen as short-sighted.

While traditional innovations are more cost, technology, desirability, and performance oriented, sustainable innovation focuses predominantly on environmental and social factors along with costs, green technology, desirability, and performance.

We are in need of sustainable solutions that help improve our lives, without having a negative impact on our neighbors and ecosystems. Interest in the circular economy grew over 32%. in the past year. Consumers and businesses are aiming towards sustainable economic growth by reusing products, reducing waste, and minimizing environmental impact.

Focusing on sustainable innovation is the first step to a circular economy. Ultimately, circularity will help achieve climate commitments 45% of emissions come from products and services we consume and produce daily. It is time to reimagine infrastructure, technology, investment ecosystems, design and more.

How can businesses adopt sustainable innovation?

Sustainable innovation sounds wonderful, but it does not come easy. It takes commitment, time and effort. Businesses need to acknowledge that old operating models and global supply chains are not workable when consumers are calling for greater sustainability.

First, businesses should look into streamlining their internal processes into more sustainable ways. An example is reshoring: A recent study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) shows 40% of organizations in the UK switched at least one international supplier to a domestic alternative last year. These businesses were able to cut emissions by reducing the travel distance of their raw materials and key components.

As of May 2022, Europe’s share of CO2 emissions in global transportation alone was 15%.

The unique circumstances that industries are facing today are forcing businesses to view sustainability as a part of efficiency. Businesses are forced to change buying patterns as every business decision is being viewed through a green lens.

Businesses that are able to adapt to the multi-layered challenges we face, will be the ones that are able to survive and create long-term, transformative change. Companies today risk being made redundant if they are not able to adapt to changing times. It is crucial to find a good balance across sustainability, flexibility, and productivity. Nowadays, addressing one alone cannot deliver success.

Green technologies

To be able to innovate sustainably, we also need green technologies. The goal of green technologies is to drastically reduce future environmental and ecological risks and to create a sustainable product. Green technology can be categorized in two areas: Climate Tech and Clean Tech.

There are current speculations whether there are better terms out there to use, however, for now we will be referring to these two terms.

Climate Tech focuses on greenhouse gas emissions, therefore, they include topics such as carbon capture and afforestation. These sectors focus on reducing the severity of greenhouse gas emissions. They do this by trapping the already existing gasses or by considering how to reduce greenhouse gasses in the near future.

Clean Tech focuses on cleaning humanity’s impact on the environment, including: pollution, air quality, as well as recycling and waste management. These sectors don’t necessarily consider the impact of emissions. For example, recycling or waste management may require technologies that emit greenhouse gasses, however, the impact on human waste is reduced. Therefore its focus is clean tech.

Trending sustainable innovations in 2022

In order to stay hopeful and positive about climate change, it is important to stay up to date on the latest news concerning green technologies, the environment, sustainability, climate change, and innovation. According to PhD scholar and educator Elin Kelsey: “hope matters, as it allows us to imagine a better future and work towards it.”

Next to that, surrounding yourself with positive climate content will help realize your sustainability goals by giving you more courage to stay persistent. Surely, this blog will make you more hopeful in our fight against climate change. In the next section, we will discuss the top 5 most trending sustainable innovations in 2022:

1. 5G-based smart grids

Digital technology can help us in our fight against climate change by providing energy efficiency. Fourth generation cellular network stations (4G), are proven to consume more energy than 5G. According to Huawei, nearly half of the energy consumption of 4G base stations is used to cool down the transmission equipment.

Next to that, it allows a large amount of data to be used to collect billions of data points. Wind turbines may be able to communicate with solar panels, electric car batteries, or Internet of Things (IoT). This could help reduce waste by utilizing renewable energy as efficiently as possible.

The technology is also able to enhance traffic management: Driverless or connected cars connected to a 5G network will be able to improve energy efficiency by streamlining cruise control and automated driving features.

5G launched in 2019 already. However, as of now major phone manufacturers are commercializing 5G phones so many more people will be able to access the technology.

2. Green hydrogen

Hydrogen is expected to play a big role in the decarbonation of economies. Once it is produced, hydrogen can generate electrical power while only emitting water vapor and warm air. It has potential to replace fossil fuels, which could make it the fuel of the future for e.g. aviation and cars.

However, in order for it to be successful, we have to scale up the infrastructure that is necessary for green hydrogen use. This will take time and significant investment. Goldman Sachs, an investment bank and financial services company, estimated that the hydrogen market could be worth over 10 trillion by 2050 in Asia, Europe, and US..

One of the biggest green hydrogen projects is located across western Europe; HyDeal Ambition would be roping 95GW of solar power to drive its 67GW of electrolysers. It could help to convey green hydrogen across Europe at €1.50/kg before 2030, hoping to have 3.6 million tons of H2 yield annually.

3. Floating offshore wind power

The development of offshore wind power has increased due to wind power being stronger off shore than on land. Until recently, they could not be installed in very deep or sea bed locations because they were based on fixed structures. Fortunately, they are now able to be installed on platforms that are anchored to the seabed. A perfect example of climate tech innovation.

Compared to other countries, the UK has a well-developed legal framework for offshore wind compared to other countries. The world’s largest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank Wind Farm, is capable of powering up to six million homes. They are located more than 130km off the north east coast of England.

New developments also come with legal challenges. This refers to IP challenges as well as regulatory challenges. Costs fall rapidly when technology is deployed at scale. However, regulatory checks need to be adapted to ensure that economic benefits from offshore wind are not lost due to unnecessary obstacles.

4. Lab grown food

Cultured or lab grown meat is another area that is able to lighten the carbon load. However, more investment and regulatory approvals will be needed to get there. Cultivated meats are real animal products made in labs and commercial production facilities. Yes, it’s real meat!

Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of cultivated meat start-up Eat Just, envisions a world where meat grown in a lab is available in supermarkets as well as Michelin star restaurants. According to crunchbase data, 2 billion has been investedinto the space in the last two years.

To achieve net-zero emissions, sustainable innovation in the food industries need to be addressed. As of now, 700 people in Singapore have been served cultivated meat products. John Tetrick hopes to rapidly scale up as it receives approvals in different countries.

5. The sharing economy

The sharing economy can be described as an economic model where goods and resources are shared by individuals and groups in a collaborative way. Think of platforms where you are able to share food, clothes, bikes, scooters, cars, or e-scooters.

This model has grown bigger and bigger in recent years, especially in mobility industries. The global shared mobility market is expected to grow CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) at 8,5% between now and 2030

Positive environmental effects emerge when sharing goods, as it leads to reduced consumption of new goods. This results in decreased amounts of emissions and waste. An example: According to recent analysis performed in Greater London, 87-156 tons of CO2eq were avoided over 19 months with a peer-to-peer food sharing app.

Benefits of adopting and/or investing in sustainable innovation

According to recent studies done by Knut Haanaes, professor of strategy and international management and member of the CEO’s sustainability advisory board at Carlsberg, 90% of executives believe that sustainability is important. However, only 60% of companies incorporate sustainability in their strategy, and only 25% have sustainability incorporated in their business model.

Here are three main benefits of adopting and/or investing in sustainable innovation for businesses:

- Competitive advantage

Adopting or investing in sustainable technology can give your business a competitive advantage. A recent study from GWI revealed that seven out of ten internet users believed big corporations of any kind should be doing more to address environmental issues.

- Increase financial performance

Taking the example of reshoring, businesses are able to realize significant cost savings through operational efficiency. By managing their value chain, businesses can mitigate risks arising from climate change, resource scarcity or community issues.

- Talent attraction and employee engagement

Companies with strong sustainability programs are better in achieving employee morale, loyalty, and therefore also an increased turnover. They also have a significant increase in productivity over firms that did not adopt sustainability practices. According to a survey from the health insurance company Bupa, 64% of 18-22 year olds located in the UK consider it important for employers to act on environmental issues.

How does Regreener contribute to sustainable innovation?

Regreener supports research and development in different industries. We work and partner with scientists and businesses in the field of reforestation, agriculture, and tech.

As of now, we are supporting zero-emission aviation research. For this, we have partnered with AeroDelft - a motivated TU Delft student team - with the mission to prove that emission free aviation is possible. By developing the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft, AeroDelft wants to inspire the aviation industry to make the change on a scale that will result in worldwide sustainable aviation.

Currently, they are working on project Phoenix. In July 2021, a full-scale model was created which enabled them to start working on integrating all the systems to be able to fly their first flight.

Wrapping up

As of now, sustainable innovation lies not only in the hands of environmentalists, but also in the hands of businesses and the technology world.

Throughout different time periods in history, innovation has been the driving force to tackle some of the most difficult challenges humanity has ever faced. However, climate technology, sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship will unlikely be enough to turn back the damage done if they operate by themselves. It is important for different industries and sectors to work together and fight climate change as a team.

These emerging technologies remind us of the changes that need to be made to our own consuming behaviors. However, they also give us reason for optimism and hope in our action to fight climate change – together.

Read more

Recommended article A → Hoe we de omvang van de circulaire economie in tien jaar kunnen verdubbelen

Recommended article B → Duurzame innovatie in Nederland

Recommended article C →Een analyse op wereldschaal van het model van de sharing economy - een case study van AirBnB

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