The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The Eco-Innovation Challenge


Box 3.1 | Social innovation

Eco-innovation is not only about developing new products and processes; it is also about

finding new ways to do things differently. These are often called social innovations and

examples are emerging across society as people start looking for more effective ways to

get things done. Motivations for changing behaviours may not just stem from a growing

environmental consciousness, but also because it means cheaper, healthier or more

equitable ways to achieve the same, or even better, services or functionality. Other reasons

may include movements, like gorilla gardening, with political connotations. According to a

European-wide survey, 30% of Europeans think that minimizing waste and recycling is the

action they could take with the highest impact for solving environmental problems; 21% and

19% ranked buying eco-friendly products and energy-efficient appliances (respectively) as

the most effective; whereas travelling less and adopting sustainable modes of transport

gained 15% of the vote and using less water 11% (EC 2009). While all these actions do

require changed behaviours, they are also often reactionary actions (choosing the ‘ecoproduct’

when the market provides it). More radical social eco-innovation goes more into the

creative potential of society and calls on people to be open to change. It may also lead to

user-led innovation.

Car sharing is one of the most classic examples of social/service eco-innovation; it challenges

people to approach car ownership differently. At the beginning of 2009, approximately

380,000 Europeans were estimated to be members of car-sharing schemes with around

11,900 cars available to them (Moma 2010). It is a trend that has been rapidly spreading

across Europe; beginning in 1987 in Switzerland, it reached Germany in 1990 and has since

reached 14 member states, with new programs emerging in both Portugal and Ireland in late

2008. Across Europe, the majority of users are private, with only about 16% being business

customers. Very successful schemes are those which collaborate with public transportation,

like in Brussels. The environmental benefits are manifold; cars are typically smaller with

better fuel efficiency than the average car. Most importantly, surveys reveal that 1 carsharing

vehicle replaces at least 4 to 8 personal cars (Moma 2010).

Eco-innovation good practice 5 Living Lab

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