Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Must we chose between innovation and sustainability?

For all of you who are itching to get back into the classroom come September so you can get your hands on some good S&T debate, you might want to point your cursor over to the Harvard Business School Online. Specifically, there is an Open Thread posted by Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab.

His post poses to readers the idea that innovation and sustainability are at odds. His hypothesis is thus:
Innovation feeds society's need for consumption, and sustainability is supposed to break us of our consumption habits. The comments posed by readers are quite interesting and insightful.
One post, by a reader names Sean states,
"Innovation is a significant change to a process that adds new value.
Sustainability is the effort to minimize a process's external costs that would otherwise be imposed on society."

A similar but different question could be raised as well. As students and practitioners of policy, how can we make sure that innovation and sustainability are not at odds, but rather working together? Or, if you believe the two are nemeses of each other, what policies are appropriate to make sure they can at least coexist without minimizing the positive effects of both?

Please leave your comments below.

1 comment:

Jon Camfield said...

I'm not sure the solution for this is most naturally at the policy level (with some exceptions). To really marry innovation and sustainability we as a culture need to value long-lasting items, low-impact items, and so forth over the latest shiny-but-soon-to-be-outdated bling (Steve Jobs, looking at you).

So, from a policy perspective, high costs for non-recyclable trash (for business and consumers), requirements for e-cycling by manufacturers, and tax credits to buy (more) sustainable products (hybrid cars, smart themostats that can cycle down during heavy load, etc)