What companies need to consider for ecologically sustainable innovation

Helbling Ideation Blog

Companies need to take their social responsibility for environmental sustainability seriously – at the latest now. Taking bold action to embed sustainability in corporate processes and create sustainable products will become vital to the long-term survival of us all. The pressure on companies to act is increasing, and it is no longer enough to simply set goals and make promises. 

Focusing on sustainability is mandatory, serves to minimize risk, and allows market access to be maintained even under future framework conditions and regulations. Properly addressed, it is also possible to increase cost efficiency through savings and the prevention of compulsory levies. In addition, the attractiveness as a provider and employer increases. 

Providers of products and services have great leverage in terms of resource consumption. They direct most of the sustainability of our economic system through their footprint and over the entire life cycle of their products. To remain competitive in the long term, providers of products and services must therefore address the issue of environmental sustainability beyond their own footprint. “It’s not enough to just look at a company from incoming goods to outgoing goods. You have to think further ahead,” says Roman Käslin, Project Manager Innovation Pre-Projects at Helbling Ideation. 

The course is set in the early phases of product development. We are convinced: Only efficiently organized and professionally managed innovation projects reconcile customer needs, economic efficiency, technical feasibility and sustainability. We know the subject from practical experience and are happy to help you set the right focus and lay the foundation for a new, sustainable product portfolio.  

We recommend the following approach: 

  • Determine your company’s environmental footprint and undertake a life cycle assessment (LCA) of your products. Use an iterative approach and make pragmatic estimates, in order to keep the effort reasonable. In most cases, this is enough to identify your own potential. If LCA results must be used externally and auditable, there are smart methods where the LCA effort is rationalized through detail analysis of reference products and scaling for similar products of the same portfolios. With supplier and end-user impact assessment, things can get complex. However, it is often the larger share of the total footprint that you can influence as a supplier. 
  • Once the facts are on the table, the task is to identify potential for reducing your ecological footprint. The greatest potential lies in fundamentally questioning how the customer benefit can be provided in consideration of sustainability in the three aspects of economy, ecology and social aspects. In addition to product and process innovation, this often requires business model innovation with changes to the architecture of value creation, the revenue model or even the value proposition. An interesting source of inspiration are the 45 identified patterns for sustainable business models in the book Sustainable Business Model Design. 
  • Conceptualize and evaluate new approaches – and do it pragmatically. You don’t have to rebuild the whole company, ideas and their verification can be done on a high abstraction level and within a limited framework in a risk-based and iterative way. Optimize where you identify the greatest leverage. 
  • Take advantage of the opportunities offered by new business models or processes and develop new products and services. Based on business models optimized for sustainability, visions, product and service concepts can be designed and evaluated in parallel for the four innovation factors of customer need, economic viability, technical feasibility and sustainability. Of course, this requires the respective prototypes and early verification with potential customers. 

The key activity in the process is the identification of potentials. In this process, sustainability knowledge must be combined with detailed understanding of technical feasibility, economic understanding and know-how of the industry and the framework conditions. We help manufacturing companies in this process and are happy to support you with our experience and implementation strength – systematically and pragmatically – so that you can develop ecologically sustainable innovations and remain competitive in the long term. 

Do not hesitate to contact us. 

Further studies and background information can be found here: 

  • Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by economic activity (Eurostat, 2022): Around one-third of energy consumption and 32% of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalents) in the EU are generated in the manufacturing sector – meaning 68% are mainly attributable to sourcing and application. 
  • The Circularity Gap Report 2022: Only 8.6 % of the resources used are reused – so mankind is still well away from a circular economy. 
  • The Circularity Gap Report 2021: Circularity of resource use would need to nearly double to 17% by 2032 along with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in order to meet the Paris Agreement goal of less than 2 degrees Celsius warming. 


Give us a call.

We will advise you personally.

Helbling Technik AG, Zurich
Hohlstrasse 614
CH-8048 Zurich
Telefon: +41 44 438 17 01