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Big Ideas Summary

Sustainability is important to innovators because it encompasses various social, environmental, and economic features concerning the resilience of an innovative idea. We have divided this large topic into sections: sustaining outcomes; urban sustainability; and, corporate sustainability. Following those sections, you will find the usual sections: books; websites; videos; and, who to follow.

Sustaining outcomes

A successful innovation is based upon sustainability and resiliency. This ensures that an innovation is able to maintain longevity within social, environmental, cultural and economic terms. In order for this to happen, revision, scaling, and troubleshooting or pivoting must take place. Revision is always important to guarantee the best possible outcome is achieved. Furthermore, revision is important as a “trial-and-error” approach to ensure success and resilience of an innovation. Scaling is also imperative to understand and extend dimensions of an innovation. Scale must be considered within many different components of a project, to better recognize the purpose of its attributes and traits to project sustainability. Troubleshooting or pivoting is common in many early stage ventures and organizations that prioritize innovation. This is a part of the entrepreneurial process which involves moving in a new direction – altering your business plan – as a response to metrics and other feedback. Letting go of those aspects of your venture that aren't working and leveraging its strengths is important for sustaining outcomes.


Patagonia is one of the earliest sustainable companies, and is a great example of a company that effectively revised, scaled, and pivoted, to save the company from extinction. Patagonia rapidly lost business in the 1990s due to changing market conditions and what they saw as an outdated business model. The company beat the odds by revising their entire manufacturing process and supply chain, switching completely to using organic cotton, recycled materials, natural dying processes, and other changes that were highly innovative at the time. Today the company is still privately owned by its co-founders, has multimillion dollar sales revenues, and is often consulted by the largest corporations like Walmart and PepsiCo on sustainability.

Urban sustainability

Urban sustainability is urban space that uses sustainable innovations, technologies and developments to ensure the city is resilient, while considering future populations and environmental impacts. Sustainable cities are focused on detecting and decreasing their use of energy, water, and food, as well as monitoring and improving air and water quality.


Green roofs are an example of urban sustainability initiatives. Liveroof is an example of a green roof initiative that allows users to purchase models that they can put on their roofs to create their own gardens or green spaces. Green roofs offer many benefits such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation and potential ecosystems for various species, as well as contribution towards lowering air temperature in cities.

The Stop

The stop is a community based food centre in Toronto that does much more than your typical food bank. The stop is a community organization that is combined with a food bank and other charitable features to create a unique and inclusive community focused framework. The stop generates participation and volunteering around food in neighbourhoods through cooking, gardening, and other support towards sustainable food systems. Furthermore, the Stop provides educational health workshops surrounding childcare and nutrition. The Stop represents sustainable solutions to urban food issues, by incorporating community-based solutions to food insecurity.

Food co-ops

Karma Co-op is a food co-op that is member owned and sells organic, local and fair trade products. Food cooperatives are a consumer based food supply system that directly connects the farmer to the consumer. Food cooperatives tend to be founded on locally based natural or organic foods, and aid in producing active communities with responsible residents spreading awareness on environmental issues.

Car sharing

Zip car is a car sharing company that offers 11,000 vehicles throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria. Zipcar members drive less, which has the potential to save a staggering amount of oil and gas. Zipcar claims, 10% of the world’s population will adopt car sharing as their primary form of transportation.

Corporate sustainability

Corporate sustainability is a business method implemented by businesses that choose to consider social, environmental, cultural and economic elements. Through this business style, companies ensure policies that promote corporate social responsibility, which promotes resiliency from within the company. Corporate sustainability tends to be founded on transparency and constant innovation to ensure the company is informed on current issues.


Microsoft is implementing a companywide commitment to becoming carbon neutral in 2013, which began on July 1st 2012. The commitment includes Microsoft’s business operations in over 100 countries. To achieve this goal, Microsoft has produced an accountability business model that targets improving efficiencies, increasing their purchase of renewable energy, improving data collection and reporting, facilities, supply chains and their software products. The company is also a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Coca Cola and WWF

An example of a corporate sustainability initiative is Coca Cola’s partnership with WWF for “Arctic Home” campaign to raise awareness surrounding vulnerable polar bears in the Arctic. Coca Cola will feature images of a mother polar bear and her two cubs traveling across the Arctic. This partnership is founded on a 3 million Euro investment towards Arctic conservation efforts.


UPS suggested left hand turns on the courier routes be eliminated to save on gas.


Kimberly-Clark decided their Scott bath tissue didn't need a cardboard roll.

Waste Management

Waste Management decided that waste is not waste, it's a new resource.


Patagonia partnered with eBay to drive online customers to buy their product used from someone rather than new from the company.


Our Common Future, The Brundtland Report – The United Nations

In 1978, the United Nations published Our Common Future, The Brundtland Report, that strongly enforced environmental issues onto the political agenda, which aimed to combine the environment and development as one sole issue. This report is recognized as one of the most influential published environmental documents due to entrenching sustainable development as the foundation of conservation efforts. The famous passage that defines sustainable development reads, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crises – Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch

The Post Carbon Reader is a compilation of short essays by the world’s most stimulating environmental experts. These short pieces range from a variety of contemporary affairs such as renewable energy, urban agriculture, and resiliency. These pieces all depict life after the population and consumption growth that boomed in the 20th century. This explosion led to various environmental impacts such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and freshwater depletion. The Post Carbon Reader offers current social, environmental, and economic threats as well as potential solutions to halt further impacts.


The Making Cities Resilient: 'My City is getting ready!' campaign, launched in May 2010, addresses issues of local governance and urban risk

SustainAbility is a think tank organization that seek to educate business leadership on sustainability

Teaching and Learning for Sustainable Future is a programme developed by UNESCO meant to educate for a sustainable future

Worldchanging is an online, open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design is the primary reference point for corporate responsibility (CR) reports and resources worldwide

GoodGuide allows one to find better products that are healthy, green, and socially responsible through a search engine

45 Sustainability Resources published by Purdue Global shares 45 noteworthy sources on sustainability

Reducing your digital carbon footprint in the wake of Covid-19 published by UC Berkeley's Extension program

Starting a Green Business is a series of resources from FindLaw that can help you start your own sustainability initiative

Who to follow

@AndrewWinston Globally recognized consultant-speaker-sustainability evangelist. Author of Green to Gold and Green Recovery. Tweeting the greening of business and the world.

@britesprite Leading Sustainability Journalist & Writer, including for The Guardian.

@GreenBiz An organization defining and accelerating the business of sustainability

@ClimateReality Founded by Al Gore, Climate Reality aims to provoke a global cultural movement demanding action on the climate crisis

@Greenpeace Global organization seeking to change attitudes and behaviour to protect environment and promote peace

@AlGore 45th Vice President of the United States, a Nobel Peace Prize winner focused on Environmental issues, specifically climate change

@Sustaincities Promoting civic sustainability and urban environmentalism

@TimMohinAMD Author of Changing Business from the Inside Out, Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD

@mrochte Director of Corporate Sustainability,



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