Sustainable innovation agenda at COP21

Polin Kumar Saha | Published: November 26, 2015 22:19:55 | Updated: October 23, 2017 03:36:50


Industry, innovation and infrastructure constitute one of 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that form the framework of the 2030 UN mission for sustainable development. There is no doubt that sustained investment in innovation is a key driver of economic growth and development, especially for developing countries. In Bangladesh, the need for innovation is felt on account of poor infrastructure and weak governance in almost every development sector. That means a solution will be needed for balanced development among social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the country. In this regard, initiating ways for promoting innovation may provide a significant boost to facilitate sustainable development which could also be linked to the reduction of global temperature -- a key agenda of the forthcoming UN COP21 (Climate Change Conference) to be held in Paris. 
In order to limiting the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C, many initiatives have been taken by different countries under the sequential agreement of UN conferences held across different countries over the period. Among all of these, the process of sustainable innovation is gathering pace, leading to rethinking on changing the path of industrialisation for the future. The hot topic of 'sustainable innovation' will be discussed at the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15) at the largest business-oriented discussion at COP21 in Paris. In a close discussion forum SIF15, many Bangladeshi representatives including ministers, industrialists and climate activists are going to attend the COP21 in order to firm up common interest on policy making aimed at achieving the sustainable innovation goal.
So, what can Bangladesh's agenda for sustainable innovation at COP15 be and how Bangladesh stands strategically at the discussion forum for achieving benefits in the industrial arena? The agenda of innovation gap between high and low income countries can surely be one. Creating a platform might be a concern between developed and developing countries. Bangladesh may raise the related significant issues in the forum since the efforts for emerging as a green economy have already been initiated across different sectors of the country. 
Innovation is perceived as a business agenda within the context of sustainable innovation at the COP21. Incorporating sustainability movement into companies is vital to overcome major business risks since innovation process provides nutrition for good corporate health. More specifically, innovation process has the power to make more profits in business and at the same time reduce socio-ecological impact of a company. Therefore, a connection between sustainability and innovation is found for a company that might have seven bottom benefits, such as -- increasing revenue, reducing energy cost, waste cost, materials and water cost, increasing employee efficiency, reducing hiring and attrition cost, and strategic and operational risks.
However, for achieving SDGs, a country initially needs a performance-based sustainability policy in managing product innovation. It is true that different monitoring strategies are adopted in different countries that make an illusion between sustainability and the concept of innovation. Keeping this in mind, the COP15 sustainability forum may focus on sustainability polices and its practices in product innovation. Theoretically, the policy for sustainability management is universal and transnational, but the practices vary significantly from country to country; even sustainability management is seen differently in respect of the same product in two countries.
As a result, the countries of low income background may fall back from the competitive advantages of sustainability management achieved in high income countries. Therefore, an integrated sustainability policy is required across organisations by bridging the common vision for product development between high and low income countries. Bangladesh should negotiate with the developed countries for the opportunities in the following interrelated themes: developing and transforming the related strategies for green business; global justice in case of emission versus product innovation; degradation by physical means like land, water, biodiversity etc; fundamental human needs and multi-level capacity increasing; and framing or tool development for monitoring sustainable product innovation. 
The writer is with the BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. polin.kumar@brac.net
 

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