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Released in Paris today, the Sustainia100 study names the top 100 sustainable solutions after reviewing more than 1500 projects and businesses on six continents. More than half of this year’s selected innovations are not only competing on sustainability criteria, but also on affordability and convenience with for instance new reuse, recycling and take-back models.
“It is the year for eco-consumers. In the new Sustainia100 study, it is remarkable to see how creative developments, particularly in the circular economy, are resulting in products and services that are highly competitive with non-sustainable alternatives. This empowers sustainability opportunities like never before,” says Laura Storm, CEO of think tank Sustainia, which carried out the study.
Practical and affordable solutions
Among the 100 cases acknowledged is the Brazilian social enterprise Solar Ear, which is producing hearing aids with solar-powered battery chargers. The hearing aids are equal in price to disposable alternatives, but last up to three years. Non-sustainable alternatives, such as polluting zinc batteries, last approximately one week. In Denmark, the young start-up Vigga.us saves parents up to $2,100 in the first year of their baby’s life by renting out clothing and exchanging it for larger sizes as the child grows.
“This year’s Sustainia100 solutions are fantastic because they show how practical and affordable sustainable alternatives are for everyone. As a matter of fact, anyone can be a champion for a healthy lifestyle and more livable communities, while demonstrating that none of us should wait for our governments to solve big challenges. Thank you Sustainia100 for showing us that the time for action is now!” says Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and Honorary Chair of Sustainia.
Call for bottom up transformation
By identifying 100 readily available innovations for cities, corporations and consumers, the Sustainia100 partners wish to highlight the potential for bottom-up transformation ahead of the much-anticipated climate change negotiations, COP21, in Paris from November 30 to December 11 this year.
“We need to enable a major transformation and this will require top down governance and initiatives,” says Bjørn K.Haugland, DNV GL Group Sustainability Officer. “But, equally important, the transformation calls for a bottom up revolution. A transformation shaped by new solutions, new technology and new innovations. As Sustainia’s solutions demonstrate, we have the tools we need to build a better world and if we mobilize and follow this mindset, the climate negotiations in Paris could be a success.”
Factors driving competitive innovation
The increasing competitiveness found among this year’s leading sustainability innovations is especially seen in circular economy innovation and new business models for underserved markets.
“First of all, a growing private sector interest in circular business models is a vital explanation for the rise in competitive sustainability innovations. An increase in commodity prices over the last 15 years has erased the real price declines of the 20th century, giving businesses and consumers a good reason to break free of the linear model of resource use”, says Storm.
One in five of the identified innovations are circular economy models, where businesses are exploring economic incentives attached to circular consumption. These innovations include food waste turned into biofuel; reused air-con filters; and 100 percent recycled work wear.
Additionally, the rising focus on underserved markets, especially in developing countries, is now beginning to create sustainable business models. With a large portion of the world’s population living on around, or less than, eight dollars per day, the ‘base of the pyramid’ as it is often referred to, represents an enormous global market. Twenty three of the 100 innovations are making profit or providing affordable solutions directly addressing the need for reliable energy, sanitation and waste management at the base of the pyramid. These innovations, for example, include insurances to protect West African smallholders against extreme weather by way of satellite data; and a low-cost cooking ingot made of recycled metal to treat people with iron deficiency.
The partners behind Sustainia100 are UN Global Compact, DNV GL, Connect4 Climate, Regions20, WWF, Realdania, Storebrand and International Federation for Housing and Planning. Now in its fourth year, the study showcases leading sustainability innovations which are screened and selected by independent sustainability experts from 18 international research organizations including Yale University, World Resources Institute and the Acumen Fund. Over the past four years, Sustainia has identified more than 3200 sustainable solutions.
The study is available free of charge at www.sustainia.me.