Sustainable development as a change vector for innovation and business opportunities in the energy sector

"(...) sustainable development is the main source of organizational and technological innovations enabling the improvement of turnover and profits. Sustainable businesses are able to reduce their costs by reducing their inputs (...) In reality, since the objectives of innovation consist of [increasing turnover and profits], we can see that smart businesses now view sustainable development as the new frontier of innovation."

Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad et M.R. Rangaswami. Harvard Business Review

Innovate and change to stand out in the long term

Innovation in sustainable development can pay off. In January 2016, in Davos, at the World Economic Forum, the Commission for Business and Sustainable Development was created. It brought together several influential international business leaders to assess the direct benefits that could result from the UN's 17 sustainable development goals.

Paul Polman UN

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and a member of this commission. Photo credit Flickr/UN

And this commission in fact estimated that a potential new market of $ 12 trillion was within reach if these measures were applied. In addition, energy is the most attractive sector with a potential market value of 4.3 trillion. Paul Polman, a member of this commission and CEO of Unilever (one of the giants of the food industry) urges companies to partake in a new industrial revolution. Thus, a new paradigm emerges where sustainable development becomes synonymous with profit. A sustainable business creates wealth while preserving the quality of its environment and the people affected by its actions. One can see this global change in transport in the case of Tesla, in the field of agro-food with Unilever, but also in many other fields such as that of energy.

The energy sector is on the verge of a revolution

Phlippe Roos , Ain Beni Mathar power plant

Photo credit Philippe Roos, Flickr, Ain Beni Mathar power plant, Morocco, 2010

The sector is changing rapidly and new sustainable industrial solutions have emerged in recent years. At the COP 21 in Paris in 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on companies to fight global warming. Companies were invited to limit their consumption of fossil fuels and turn towards clean energy (Le Devoir, December 9, 2015).

But beyond this call for political change, it is a true economic reality that is being born before our eyes. On March 10, 2016, a UN report stated that investment in renewable energy had reached a record $ 286 billion, compared to $ 130 billion in investment in fossil fuels. In addition, the report mentions that for the first time developing countries had invested more ($ 156 billion) than developed countries ($ 130 billion) in renewable energies.

 The message is therefore that: the world of tomorrow is the road before us and those who turn the corner before the others will have a competitive advantage because they will stand out with their innovations and will therefore be more competitive. This new global market will also allow for change in our world, to make it more fair, equitable and green.