Eight areas for radical sustainability innovation

Vinod Khosla says the only way forward is radical innovation.

He’s right. But what do we mean by this?

For large companies I guess it falls into these eight areas:

1) Power generation

2) Manufacturing

3) Site and office efficiency

4) Influencing suppliers and the supply chain

5) Transportation & logistics

6) Product materials, design and use

7) Product disposal/recycling/upcycling

8) Positively influencing stakeholders through policy and behaviour change

Let me know what I missed here. There’s bound to be something.

Of these numbers 4, 6 and 8 seem to me the most powerful, at least for retail or FMCG firms.

Number four because that’s where a lot of the carbon, social issues and pollutants are.

Number six because that’s how you minimise them.

Number eight because behaviour change is so vital, and consumers, institutions and governments need help to think these things through.

The OECD seems to agree on number four. Here’s a look at how. The UN too, considering John Ruggie’s work.

Further posts will look at some of the above in more detail as I think it through, do more research and read your comments.


  1. water

    upstream, on the factory floor, and post consumer.

  2. Anonymous

    How about radical innovation in business model. Instead of manufacturing things that get used up and thrown away (like tennis shoes) to make money, how about making something that lasts, can get updated/upgraded and you sell services around it (e.g. health and fitness training or advice). Making rampant use of throughput materials incrementally more efficient is not sustainable in the long run.
    But if we use less materials, what are the impacts on the wider economy which depends on extracting and processing more materials?

  3. I love your work Toby.
    What is missing hear is people/employee engagement that must precede everything else you mentioned

  4. Thanks all for the comments. I guess when I wrote the list I felt that

    2) Manufacturing
    3) Site and office efficiency
    4) Influencing suppliers and the supply chain

    Would cover water use, and that the last point covered employees. However this was probably not specific enough.

    The point about radical innovation I would put under design and manufacturing, but again, your comment is about broader issues perhaps, thanks to all for pointing these out.


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