Connecting Innovation with Sustainability

Professors Tima Bansal (Ivey Business School), Joel Gehman (University of Alberta), and Marie-France Turcotte (Université du Québec à Montréal) have been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to help companies connect innovation with sustainability. In this Q&A, the researchers discuss why this work is so important, what it will accomplish, and how businesses can get involved.

Q1. Why do innovation and sustainability need to go together? How hard is it to accomplish this in business?

Answer: Sustainability is about creating shared value—value for the business and for society simultaneously. It means business activities benefit a range of stakeholders—shareholders, employees, the community, society, the ecosystem—today and over time.

But if sustainability was easy, everyone would be doing it well. It’s not easy. It’s complex and it’s uncertain. In an effort to simplify, firms often think about sustainability as an ‘add on’ to what they’re already doing. This approach results in a vastly distorted picture of a firm’s long-term sustainability potential.

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