Support Innovation


Seek out collaborators and work with others to help identify and support new ideas and solutions.

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As a procurer, you can play an instrumental role in sparking sustainability innovation within your value chain. By joining forces with others, you can share the costs and risks of exploring and developing value chain sustainability solutions.

Solicit ideas from your value chain

You can create opportunities for value chain innovation by opening the floor to ideas from various sources, including current suppliers, customers, and potential new suppliers. Start by transparently communicating your sustainability challenges to your value chain partners and see who might be interested in helping develop solutions. Consider implementing models for capturing these ideas, such as: crowdsourcing platforms, supplier innovation days, or open invitation contests.

Potential partners could be sustainability-oriented start-ups, social enterprises, or current suppliers open to experimenting with new sustainability solutions. These partnerships can be invaluable, especially when sustainable alternatives are not yet available at scale.

EXAMPLE: Consumer goods company partners with social enterprise to improve plastic recycling

Henkel, a German chemical and consumer goods company, was the first major company to partner with the Plastic Bank to support its goals around closed-loop recycling.¹ The Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that sets up recycling systems in coastal communities to collect plastic waste and reintegrate it into the global manufacturing supply chain.

EXAMPLE: Electronics value chain participants team up to pilot circularity

Three members of the hard disk drive value chain—Seagate (supplier), Google (buyer) and Teleplan (recycler)— teamed up to pilot rare-earth metals recovery. The proof-of-concept effort successfully recovered rare-earth metals from Google’s retired hard drives and coordinated new material flows to return rare-earth metals into production.²

EXAMPLE: Interface's journey to 100% recycled nylon carpet

Carpet manufacturer Interface worked diligently with its suppliers for over a decade to develop a supply of recycled nylon, enabling them to create a 100% recycled nylon carpet.³

Invest in value chain innovation

You can further support innovation by providing grants and funding or co-developing solutions through pilot projects or R&D alliances.⁴ You may also consider creating an incubator or accelerator program targeting specific sustainability challenges. Such programs can support early-stage companies that have the advantage of greater agility and disruptive potential than more established organisations.

EXAMPLE: Disney solicits sustainability solutions through open grant application

Disney Supply Chain Investment Program (SCIP) aims to address poor working conditions in its key sourcing markets. Through an open grant application, the company solicits scalable solutions from non-profits, social enterprises, and other NGOs.⁵

EXAMPLE: Apple created Impact Accelerator to support supplier diversity and sustainability

Apple’s Impact Accelerator supports black- and brown-owned businesses that provide sustainability solutions, such as renewable energy, carbon removal, recycling innovation, and smarter chemistry. The accelerator offers chosen suppliers customised training, mentorship, and strategic partnership opportunities.⁶

EXAMPLE: BHP invests in start-ups to help reduce upstream emissions

Most of the mining company’s emissions result from the processing of ores by upstream value chain partners. To address its Scope 3 emissions, BHP invested in Boston Metal, a start-up using technology to produce emission-free steel.⁷

Collaborating for Value Chain Decarbonisation cover

Collaborating for Value Chain Decarbonisation

With the urgent need to reduce global emissions, rapid decarbonisation of our economy is essential, and the key is collaboration across the value chain. Our new guide provides practical advice and examples to help companies support their supply chain partners to decarbonise.

You'll find advice on how companies are prompting, influencing, supporting, and investing in their value chain and resources and ideas for how to support six key decarbonisation pathways: renewable energy adoption; energy efficiency and conservation; logistics; materials stewardship and waste; lower-impact agriculture and land-use; and carbon removal.

Managing Multiparty Innovation: How big companies are joining forces to seize opportunities at their intersections cover

Managing Multiparty Innovation: How big companies are joining forces to seize opportunities at their intersections

This article by HBR discusses how large companies can harness the innovation potential of early-stage multi-party collaborations, known as “ecosystems innovation”. It covers the foundational principles, common pitfalls, and opportunities.

Tournaments for Ideas cover

Tournaments for Ideas

This paper, by Yahoo Research and Haas School of Business, offers a framework for creating a tournament for ideas that can be used to source innovation utilising the wisdom of crowds. It includes illustrative examples of how these tournaments work in practice.

How to Find Killer Ideas, Shark Tank Style cover

How to Find Killer Ideas, Shark Tank Style

This article from Inc. Magazine explains how to use internal pitch competitions to crowdsource innovative ideas from your employees or suppliers. It uses the Geneca Innovation Challenge to demonstrate the process.

Lessons from multi-sector innovation cover

Lessons from multi-sector innovation

This report, from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, presents recommendations on how to design collaboration between multinationals, financial institutions, and start-ups to harness fintech better to help solve sustainability challenges in the real economy.

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LASER Framework: To Design Innovations for The Circular Economy

The WEF's LASER framework has six steps. Step 3 highlights the need for the entire value chain's involvement in enabling the circular economy.