A Case Study in Innovation, Profit, and Sustainability

Advocates for corporate sustainability herald a day when green-thinking isn't just good for the earth, it's good for the company's profit margins as well. And certainly this has been the case in some notable examples, such as Interface. When it works best, thinking sustainably drives innovation.

Stu Hart, the sustainability pioneer, argues that for companies to survive, they'll have to switch to this sort of mindset. Hart addresses the urgency of moving toward sustainable innovation. Companies that embrace it may be the only survivors, he says (click link to see video).

This line of thinking relies on sustainability as a starting point. Out of sustainability grows an interest in (or a necessity for) innovation, and a virtuous cycle of Sustainability > Innovation > Profit is created. 

But there are other starting points as well, as the leaders of Elkay have discovered. Elkay is a leading manufacturer in faucets, sinks, water coolers, and kitchen cabinetry. Though the company has a growing interest in sustainability (as part of their corporate value to "Be in Business Forever"), their research team wasn't searching for a sustainable product line when it stumbled upon the company's latest innovation in water coolers, the ezH20 water bottle filling station. Instead, the R&D team was just trying to solve a consumer problem: how to refill a water bottle at a traditional water fountain.

In this short video, Elkay CEO Tim Jahnke shares more about the evolution of the ezH20 system, and the difference it's making on college campuses, and in airports and hospitals across the country. His story is a case study in finding the business advantage in sustainable innovation.

Innovation: The Business Side of Sustainability

(Jahnke's video is part of our Champions of Responsible Business video series. Visit our YouTube channel to see more videos from Elkay and other leading companies.)

Do you have an example of how sustainability has driven innovation? Or innovation has contributed to sustainability? Share your stories in the comments section below. 

Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about other topics on her personal blog

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