Today business, customers and society have high expectations of sustainability-driven changes
- New concepts
- New services
- New ways of living
A competitive advantage is often built by developing the product/service mix companies offer their customers. Understanding customers and understanding business are key elements of this: finding solutions that are valuable to customers and business. Today the winning solutions also need to be sustainable: compared with previous solutions, they need to make a positive impact on nature or society.
We designers can imagine different futures, create risk and opportunity scenarios, and then concretise, test, iterate and validate them. Bad ideas are killed during the design process, and good ones are strengthened by evaluating and developing them from different angles such as viability, desirability and feasibility. This is the basic work of designers, and in the era of the environmental crisis, it has been given an additional variable: the goal of sustainability.
In recent years, companies have relegated sustainability to the sustainability manager’s desk as a separate programme that monitors and reports but does not challenge the company’s strategy and business models. However, it is at the level of strategic direction, business models and offerings that sustainability is the most fundamental challenge. This is where it can create a competitive advantage.
Gaining a competitive advantage through sustainability can mean:
- New business models, e.g. circular economy business models
- More engaged customers or new customer groups
- Resources are used more wisely, decreased costs
- More engaged employees and attracting the best talent in the recruitment market
- A strategy for operations and an improved business performance
- Sustainability compliance (which also leads to sustainability-driven business development)
- Reduced risks
For this, we need management commitment. Sustainability should be discussed at the same tables where business strategies and business models are discussed. When companies get this right, everyone will be grateful:
- Business thrives and is more futureproof, meaning reduced risks
- Customers get to consume more sustainable products and services
- The sustainability manager is satisfied by reporting good improvements
- This in turn brings evidence of green financing for which management will be grateful.
Are you wondering how your organisation can create a competitive advantage through sustainability? We are happy to discuss this further to help you design and implement more sustainable business.
Br, Saana Tikkanen, Business Designer, Sustainability Lead and Maria Hansson Business & Ecosystem Designer, Sustainable Value Creation
Writers are Business Designers who work at the intersection of business, design and technology. They build bridges between sustainability and business by identifying concrete steps and seeking a competitive advantage through sustainability.