Strategic Innovation – Meaningful Innovations Decarbonized

Strategic Innovation – Meaningful Innovations Decarbonized
Author Name: Katrin Scholz-Barth
Date: Jan 25 2021
Category: Innovation

Think: Awake a different mindset for new business models and operation

Act: Innovate inspired by nature

Lead: Dare to create the future

Strategic Innovation

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. … they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do,” Steve Jobs once said, which still resonates with creatives and innovators today, everywhere.


Innovation is the engine of economic development and innovators solve complex problems, improve efficiencies and make things better. We all have the capacity to change the world if we put our minds to it, to shape a better world and reduce threats and vulnerabilities from complex problems, often of our own making, like climate change, deadly disease and faulty algorithms. 

For business executives, innovation is about leadership and wealth creation and executives are under pressure to generate value and reduce risks to stay in business and profitable while navigating change and embracing ambiguity. 

Innovation to the rescue before it’s too late!

Technology and the Loss of Critical Thinking?

A growing reliance on technology-based innovations fuel convenience and instant gratification. However, this short-term thinking in pursuit of quick financial gain comes at a steep cost. Have we lost our ability for critical thinking? 

We’ve managed to set our planetary home on fire and watch with indifference as carbon dioxide levels and temperatures raise in the atmosphere.

Did you know that each online search emits roughly 0.2 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, due to the energy it takes to power the cables, routers, and servers, that data centers use 200 terawatt hours (Jones, 2018) to 500 TWh (Bashroush & Lawrence, 2020) of energy a year, roughly 1% of global electricity use? 

Indeed, internet companies put out as much CO2 greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, as the pre-COVID airline industry!

This raises a serious question: is the current model of value creation, business practices, and capitalism as whole, fit for the future? The answer is a resound NO!

So, how can executives utilize strategic innovation informed by sustainability to make businesses future proof? 

A $12 Trillion per year Opportunity

One of the greatest opportunities of our time is innovation at the intersection of social entrepreneurship, science, and sustainability to solve real complex, interwoven sets of challenges like climate change, to reverse global warming and fulfill the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Even by conservative measures, future markets for products and services to fulfill the SDG are estimated at $12 Trillion per year by 2030.

That’s a real incentive to change the narrative. When we reframe the goal of creating a low-carbon economy as an intellectual challenge not a matter of compliance, then creating a zero-carbon footprint society becomes a competition that mobilizes minds and businesses to cash in on sustainability. 

The Gulf region is poised to blossom with creativity and innovation. We have the capacity to proactively lead the transition to carbon neutrality by combining the region’s human, social, financial and environmental genius.

Important breakthrough ideas happen in chaotic environments, in unpredictable collisions of different interests, perspectives, and backgrounds. With over 80 different nationalities represented in the Gulf, the region is predisposed to generate such breakthrough ideas. But good ideas need to be recognized, valued and nurtured and they need incubation time.

What’s still needed most is encouragement, will and determination on all levels and removal of corporate resistance to solve climate change.

Get uncomfortable! Stop asking why. Start asking why not? Say yes! ‘Possible’ is an attitude. The opportunity cost now is lower, and the early adapters, those bold enough to disrupt and upend markets now with innovations in pursuit of a sustainable future, will be the winners.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker

Katrin Scholz-Barth is an internationally recognized expert in Strategic Sustainability and Regenerative Development. Katrin serves as President of SustainableQATAR and principal of Katrin Scholz-Barth Consulting. As part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar program she helped define and create the program-wide sustainability and innovation strategies to deliver a carbon-neutral mega sports event in a fragile desert environment. Katrin frequently teaches strategic sustainability and decarbonization to students and entrepreneurs as the business practice of the future based on functional ecosystems for sustained wealth creation and economic performance, including environmental social governance (ESG), green finance and long-term investment potential for risk reduction. She taught at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania and is a thought after keynote speaker at international conferences on her areas of expertise in ecological landscape design and conservation agriculture for watershed protection. Katrin’s coauthored book Green Roof Systems: A Guide to the Planning, Design and Construction of Building Over Structure, was released by Wiley and Sons in April 2009. 

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