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Sustainability Monitor

How can innovation be made sustainable?

by Thomas Birringer, Leonie Mader

In order to achieve sustainability, we need more, quicker and better innovations.

One of the key concerns of any society is to be future-proof. At the various levels of politics, there is a debate over which decisions need to be made today in order to maintain what has been achieved and how to initiate the required developments. The central question here is what preconditions does sustainable innovation need?

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Many climate activists are skeptical with regard to the emphasis on innovations as a way to more sustainability. In their opinion, this distracts from the need for behavioural change and suggests that an easy solution is possible.

But in fact, this perspective closes the path to more sustainability, because it is based on a narrow concept of innovation. Innovations are not simply new technologies which continue with existing approaches to living and working based on a linear trajectory. Rather, social and technical innovations have the potential to change the way we live and do business.

To harness the potential of innovations, a framework based on the polluter-pays principle is required. In the global competition between economic and political systems, sustainable innovations can be a competitive advantage. In this context, instruments such as Co2 pricing must be thought of in global terms.

Innovations include more than just technology. New organisational structures and new business models must also be considered as well. This will also trigger behavioural changes in the population.

Read the "Monitor Sustainability" as a PDF file here.

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Thomas Birringer

Thomas Birringer

Head of the Ukraine office +380 44 4927443

Gisela Elsner

Gisela Elsner kas

Global Sustainability Policy Officer and KAS Advice and Complaints Officer +49 30 26996-3759

Tobias Wangermann

Tobias Wangermann bild

Digitalisation +49 30 26996-3380
Single title
April 6, 2022
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About this series

The publications of the Sustainability Monitor are part of our Monitor publication series. The Monitor series deals with one main topic at a time from the perspective of KAS experts and places it in the political and social context on the basis of a few key points.