An Innovation Director has responsibility for managing a pipeline of technologies, innovations and projects in a particular category. As well as ensuring these match new consumer needs, allowing the company to remain profitable and competitive, the Innovation Director for a sustainable future will:
- Know their corporate sustainability targets, and be remunerated based on the innovations that help deliver these
- Have in depth knowledge of tools and methods to measure the environmental and social footprint of the brands, products and categories they work in
- Be familiar and versant with sustainability innovation methods like cradle-to-cradle, biomimicry, lifecycle assessment, carbon footprinting, etc
- Scout clean and green technology diligently for promising solutions they can apply to their problems and opportunities
- Be steering the company’s overall portfolio towards decoupling the profitability of future innovations from their environmental impacts
- Have an extensive network of sustainability innovators, technologists and designers to consult on relevant issues
- Be reading Cradle to Cradle and WWF’s Green Game-Changers, and have heroes including Buckminster Fuller, Amory Lovins, Ezio Manzini, Bill McDonough, etc
The point here is less the specific details, and more that these issues will make up the future job requirements of existing Innovation Directors. We don’t need a new function; this is about embedding sustainability into existing roles and ways or doing business.
If brands are to lead us to a sustainable future then Innovation Directors, as a key player in developing great brands, will surely have a critical role to play. Yet only by focusing on the integration of such new skills to compliment existing ones, can we hope to deliver on the promise of sustainability branding, and move from rhetoric to reality.