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Though concern for environmental issues dates back to the 1960s, research and practice in the field of sustainability innovation gained significant attention from academia, practitioners, and NGOs in the early 1990s, and has evolved rapidly to become mainstream. Organizations are changing their business practices so as to become more sustainable, in response to pressure from internal and external stakeholders. Sustainability innovation broadly relates to the creation of products, processes, technologies, capabilities, or even whole business models that require fewer resources to produce and consume, and also support the environment and communities, while simultaneously providing value to consumers and being financially rewarding for businesses. Sustainability innovation is a way of thinking about how to sustain a firm’s growth while sustainably managing depleting natural resources like raw materials, water, and energy, as well as preventing pollution and unethical business practices wherever the firm operates. Sustainability innovation represents a very diverse and dynamic area of scholarship contributing to a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to general management, strategy, marketing, supply chain and operations management, accounting, and financial disciplines. As addressing sustainability is a complex undertaking, sustainability innovation strategies can be varied in nature and scope depending upon the firm’s capabilities. They may range from incremental green product introductions to radical innovations leading to changes in the way business is conducted while balancing all three pillars of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social outcomes. Sustainability innovation strategies often require deep structural transformations in organizations, supply chains, industry networks, and communities. Such transformations can be hard to implement and are sometimes resisted by those affected. Importantly, as sustainability concerns continue to increase globally, innovation provides a significant approach to managing the human, social, and economic dimensions of this profound society-wide transformation. Therefore, a thorough assessment of the current state of thinking in sustainability innovation research is a necessary starting point from which to improve society’s ability to achieve triple bottom line for current and future generations.


Vinícius Chagas Brasil and J.P. Eggers

In competitive strategy, firms manage two primary (non-financial) portfolios—the product portfolio and the innovation portfolio. Portfolio management involves resource allocation to balance the important tradeoff of risk reduction and upside maximization, with important decisions around the evaluation, prioritization and selection of products and innovation projects. These two portfolios are interdependent in ways that create reinforcing dynamics—the innovation portfolio is the array of potential future products, while the product portfolio both informs innovation strategy and provides inputs to future innovation efforts. Additionally, portfolio management processes operate at two levels, which is reflected in the literature's structure. The first is a micro lens which focuses on management frameworks to boost portfolio performance and success through project-level selection tools. This research has its roots in financial portfolio management, relates closely to research on new product development and marketing product management, and explores the effects of portfolio management decisions on other organizational functions (e.g., operations). The second lens is a macro lens on portfolio management research, which considers the portfolio as a whole and integrates key organizational and competitive concepts such as entry timing, portfolio management resource allocation regimes (e.g., real options reasoning), organizational experience, and the culling of products and projects. This literature aims to set portfolio management as higher level organizational decision-making capability that embodies the growth strategy of the organization. The organizational ability to manage both the product and innovation portfolios connects portfolio management to key strategic organizational capabilities, including ambidexterity and dynamic capabilities, and operationalizes strategic flexibility. We therefore view portfolio management as a source of competitive advantage that supports organizational renewal.


Nikolaus Franke and Christian Lüthje

Users of products and services, be they user firms or consumers, frequently develop innovations for their own benefit. Such user innovation is a long-existing phenomenon, but it has gained much momentum in the new millennium. The Internet has greatly facilitated connections between creative users, and at the same time cost-effective design and prototyping technologies are making it increasingly feasible for users to develop their own products and services. Users have been found to innovate mainly because they want solutions that best serve their own needs. In general, their innovation activities involve no expectations of monetary profit, being motivated rather by self-rewards (such as fun, positive feelings of altruism, signaling of competence to the community of peers). This explains why users are typically willing to share their innovations without requiring payment. A problem of user innovation is that, since the benefit that others could gain is an externality for users, they lack strong incentives to invest in the active diffusion of their innovations. The consequence of this “diffusion shortfall” is social welfare losses. There are several ways in which producers and service providers can help overcome these problems and benefit from the innovation potential of users at the same time. They can apply the lead user method to actively search for a small group of particularly highly motivated and qualified users, they can outsource product design work to their users via user design toolkits, and they can broadcast innovation challenges to an appropriate crowd of external problem solvers.