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Enabling sustainability-oriented innovation in R&D management :

Organization, frameworks, methods and tools

The awareness of environmental and social aspects within our society is on the rise. Government strategies and action plans with respect to resource efficiency or circular economy push the topic  (see e,g, European Commission 2011 and 2015, German Federal Ministry for the Environment 2016). In companies, sustainability topics are increasingly discussed, e.g. by addressing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.  For practical purposes, sustainability issues are often broken down into environmental, social and economic dimensions (triple bottom line, see Elkington 1997), and many companies deal with the topic by implementing a sustainability management. 

In this context, innovation also plays an important role. This has implications for R&D management which encompasses the organization of research, technology development as well as the identification and implementation of ideas. It can have a broad influence on the commercial and the sustainability impact of a company and can thus serve as an enabling system for providing sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). 

SOI focus on solutions for customers (product, services, and business models, but also processes) with the purpose of “creating and realizing social and environmental value in addition to economic returns”, focusing on relative improvements “in comparison to a prior or other entity” (Klewitz and Hansen 2014, Paech 2007 and Hansen et al. 2009).  Hence, the concept of seeing innovation as a successful implementation of an idea in the market is extended by a contribution to an improved sustainability with respect to production, market and consumption (Schaltegger and Wagner 2011). 

Pursuing sustainability-oriented innovations requires a special approach with respect to frameworks, methods, tools (Gaziulusoy 2015) and organization (Adams et al. 2016). Results from a recent survey show that while a large share of companies consider sustainability aspects in the goals established in their innovation strategy, it seems that sustainability is far from being an integral part of innovation management (Lang-Koetz and Schimpf 2019, the implications for R&D management as a whole were not analyzed).

This session addresses the role of sustainability-oriented innovation in R&D management – from a theoretical but also a practical perspective. 


The objective is to address how the concept of sustainability-oriented innovation can be considered in R&D management, how it can be concretized for companies and how it can be implemented into practice. 

Expected challenges can be found at all management levels from business strategy over processes, methods and tools. Examples are:

  • Incorporation of sustainability aspects into the innovation strategy and definition of concrete goals
  • Development of novel search methodologies for market and technology intelligence
  • Novel frameworks, process models, methods and tools for a sustainability-oriented R&D management
  • Determining sustainability impact for innovation ideas and concepts
  • Development of assessment methods beyond the conventional market & technology assessments (integration of life cycle perspective, evaluating CO2 footprint, assessing social impact in the supply chain etc.)
  • Incorporation of sustainable design principles into product and technology development
  • Development of concepts to achieve closed loop innovation and facilitate circular ecoboy
  • Development of technology marketing approaches for sustainability-oriented innovations
  • Fostering entrepreneurship for sustainability-oriented innovations


  • Claus Lang-Koetz 

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