7 hurdles that prevent breakthrough sustainable innovations. How clients can help to overcome these hurdles!

Most companies nowadays understand the need to become more sustainable. In general it is fair to say that companies are making progress and have a positive intention to become more sustainable. So called breakthrough sustainability innovations are however scarce. Mostly because these type of innovations are complex and can not be done by one company alone or by a new startup.

So what are the hurdles that prevent breakthrough sustainable innovations?

In the December 2018 issue of the scientific journal for Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy, Erdelmeier (2018) presents 7 hurdles from two start-up initiatives for sustainable chemistry. These hurdles can be summarized as:

  1. Finding the best place (facilities and infrastructure) to start;
  2. Dealing with all the administrative un-knowns (legal, financial, insurance etc);
  3. Regulatory procedures may be far longer than announced and expected;
  4. Getting the appropriate funding;
  5. Dealing with high up front costs and late return on investment;
  6. Communication and marketing efforts and budgets are difficult to estimate;
  7. Potential clients are rarely willing to pay a premium price for a more sustainable process or product.

Erdelmeier (2018) also presents possible solutions and improvements to overcome these hurdles. In general these proposed solutions are to build platforms, support structures and networks. All these presented solutions are in my opinion definitely useful. However I think it is key to include the client in the start-up activity for a more sustainable solution. Including the client can be done in a variety of ways, from being a co-investor to being a more passive participant. The main message is to make sure that the client is in some way involved as it can help guide the innovation towards customer needs. This does not only help in reducing risk but also in maximizing opportunity potential.

Involvement of the client can also help in dealing with regulatory procedures and lowering communication and marketing costs. Sometimes it is also possible to find creative solutions with the help of clients for funding and pricing issues. Investors are more willing to invest at favourable conditions in new initiatives if clients are involved by co-investing or willing to pre-order or to give other forms of support. Involving clients definitely helps in creating more interesting platforms, support structures and networks.

Norbert Bol


Erdelmeier, I. (2018), Introducing new reactions and technologies in industrial synthesis: Challenges, hurdles and opportunities for start-up initiatives for sustainablechemistry, Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy, Volume 10, December 2018, Pages 79-83.

Photo by madhan rNo stone is too big

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