Why Integrate Environmental Innovation in Your Business Strategy?

Nicolas Rietsch, founder and director of Obalys, has studied this issue for the past five years. During his DBA at Grenoble Ecole de Management, he defended his thesis on this subject. His goal is to present company leaders with a plan that allows them to implement an environmental innovation policy by defining their strategy and following its impact on performance.


With the COP 21 to be held in Paris in December, climate change is front page news and the time is ripe for many major corporations to enact strategic changes. "There is greater awareness. Business leaders understand the issues and know they have to act. As a result, they are defining new strategic visions." explains  Nicolas Rietsch, who just defended his DBA thesis on the subject of strategies for managing environmental innovation.

Organizations can approach the issue from two perspectives: "Environmental strategies can be reactions to the expectations of various interested parties such as regulatory agencies, investors or clients. But these strategies are also a chance to create real added value throughout an organization. In such cases, we can speak of innovation." adds Nicolas Rietsch.

Currently, the main challenge for business leaders is how to create and implement environmental innovations that provide added value in a sustainable manner. Nicolas Rietsch's work highlights several ideas to help leaders move forward:

Ensure that top management is actively involved in the process

As with most changes in a company, success is often driven by the vision and active commitment of top management. It's up to company leaders to provide motivation and turn environmental innovation into a strategic stake for all employees. 

Verify that an environmental innovation strategy is in line with company strategy

It's essential to carefully lay the ground work for environmental innovation so that it's in line with the company's goal. Doing so helps ensure that there is enough support for the strategy and leads to improved performance. 

Systematize and professionalize the process

It's important that the management of environmental innovation projects be carried out in a rigorous manner. Environmental issues have yet to be widely accepted and therefore the management of such challenges must be exemplary. Nicolas Rietsch's work identifies four key steps:

  • Evaluate the priority of internal and external stakes, understand their environmental impact and analyze possible opportunities.
  • Create short, medium and long term strategy. Set goals and provide rewards for reaching each goal.
  • Construct a united team. Define the criteria and conditions for approving, financing and implementing innovations.
  • Implement projects and accompany teams that are affected by a project. This includes providing training and communication about the project. Supply data for performance indicators and follow their evolution.

"Companies must go beyond regulatory constraints and consumer expectations. They should see the environment as a source of creativity and added value. The only way to differentiate oneself and capture new opportunities is to put the environment back into the center of a company's business model." concludes Nicolas Rietsch.