Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through open innovation

This year, two-thirds of our customers' innovation projects concern CSR and the SDGs.

An open innovation strategy has become essential to achieving these goals. In addition to remaining competitive and innovative, leading enterprise companies use this approach to find innovative ideas and deploy large-scale solutions serving the common good.

Definition of SDG - CSR

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set a transformative agenda for global prosperity, social equality, and environmental sustainability. These 17 goals serve as a roadmap for nations, organizations, and individuals alike to tackle the world's most pressing challenges by 2030.

For large companies, aligning with these goals is not just about corporate social responsibility; it's about future-proofing the business and securing long-term growth. Organizations are increasingly recognizing that sustainable business practices are a competitive advantage. However, the route to meaningful change is filled with complex challenges that cannot be solved in isolation.

Enter open innovation—a collaborative approach to solving problems and creating new opportunities. At its core, open innovation promotes a culture of collaboration between different stakeholders, such as start-ups, academia, or non-profits. This is where Agorize, a leader in open innovation management software, can bridge the gap between intention and execution.

The 17th SDG: Partnerships for the goals

Before diving into how open innovation can help achieve the UN SDGs, let's look at Goal 17—Partnerships for the Goals. This goal highlights the need for inclusive partnerships that are built on a shared vision. The need for collaborative action has never been more critical, especially when the challenges, such as climate change or social inequality, are too large and complex for any single entity to tackle. This SDG is where open innovation shines, promoting cross-sectoral collaborations for achieving the other 16 SDGs.

The 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs)
Source : worldsustainabilitycollective.com
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"The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the most ambitious roadmap ever adopted by the United Nations member states. Today, for the success of this plan that can and must transform the world, we need involvement at all levels: States, local authorities, civil society, academics, researchers, and the private sector."

Real-world examples: Large companies using open innovation for SDG / CSR and value creation

Veolia

Veolia innovated in the used water economy with the help of startups. The group collaborates with entrepreneurs and change-makers to build a sustainable brand in emerging markets, source local solutions and develop projects that are generating social value.

Société Générale

The Free From Plastic Challenge called for innovative solutions to remove single-use plastics in all food distribution channels within Société Générale premises. 100+ startups participated in one of four categories: Vending Machines, Collective Catering, Event Catering, and an open category to imagine the food distribution channel of the future.
Finalists pitched in front of the jury composed of Innovation, HR and CSR C-Level executives from the group. The winner of the 2023 edition is “Coffee based”, a dutch company designing a variety of tableware products out of coffee ground waste.
The benefits are clear. Société Générale employees will no longer be exposed to these materials on a daily basis. Society as a whole no longer has to deal with them. And the banking group itself  gains in terms of attractiveness and employee commitment, not to mention long-term savings.

Unilever

Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ is an ambitious roadmap which aims at decoupling environmental footprint from economic growth. The company leveraged open innovation to receive solutions for more sustainable packaging options, water purification and waste management. Their collaboration with start-ups and researchers has led to the development of biodegradable plastics and water-saving household goods, making strides towards SDGs such as Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) and Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12).

Siemens

Siemens utilizes open innovation to further its commitment to Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7). Through its Siemens Stiftung foundation, the company has fostered partnerships with social entrepreneurs in Africa to develop decentralized energy solutions. By leveraging local knowledge and technology, Siemens is not just providing clean energy but also playing an active part in eradicating poverty (SDG 1).

IBM

IBM’s ‘Call for Code’ initiative is a global challenge that seeks technology-based solutions to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. By opening their doors to external developers and engineers, IBM is crowdsourcing innovation in areas such as natural disaster preparedness (aligned with SDG 13, Climate Action) and healthcare (SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being).

Schneider Electric

Every year, the innovation competition for students “Go Green Challenge” attracts 25,000 students who submitted nearly 2,800 innovative ideas for the development of sustainable energy.

How open innovation software supports achieving SDGs

Let's face it, it's the potential to create value from the SDGs that will drive companies to run dedicated transformation programs. This quid pro quo is indispensable, as Prof. Ivanka Visnjic explains in Forbes.

The choice of tool to implement an "open" strategy is crucial to its success: incremental value generated, growth, program ROI... will be the first indicators to be monitored, even before the carbon footprint.

This is why an Open Innovation management platform must be able to meet the following needs.

Facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration

Through open innovation platforms like Agorize, businesses can establish networks comprising NGOs, policymakers, industry experts, and academics. Such diversity ensures holistic solutions that look at problems from various angles. For instance, a healthcare company aiming to improve global well-being (SDG 3) could partner with NGOs experienced in delivering healthcare services in remote areas, tech firms with innovative medical devices and policymakers who can provide a conducive regulatory environment.

Driving employee engagement

Employee participation is crucial for achieving sustainability goals. With features like internal idea competitions and hackathons, open innovation software enables companies to tap into the collective wisdom of their employees. Such activities drive engagement by aligning individual values with corporate goals, further bolstering a culture of innovation and commitment to SDGs.

Accelerating time to market

When various stakeholders contribute to the ideation process, the time to develop, test, and launch new sustainable products or services is significantly reduced. For instance, a company aiming to contribute to the Goal of Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7) can fast-track R&D processes by collaborating with clean energy startups, thereby reaching the market quicker than through conventional channels.

Scaling impact

Open innovation is not just about solving immediate challenges, it’s about scalability too. Once a prototype has been developed, tested and launched successfully, it can be scaled across various markets. This scalability amplifies the positive impact a single initiative can have on SDG achievement.

Accountability and reporting

One of the standout features of modern open innovation platforms is the robust analytics and reporting tool they offer. By tracking KPIs relevant to SDGs, these tools provide companies with actionable insights into their contributions towards global goals.

Enterprise companies Ideation funnel supported by Agorize software

The next steps: How to get started

Meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is a monumental task that requires coordinated effort, creativity and a willingness to innovate. The Agorize platform is uniquely positioned to help you gather diverse perspectives, refine your sustainability initiatives and execute actionable plans efficiently. If you're a managing director, innovation director, change director, or CSR director looking to make a significant impact, we invite you to arrange a meeting with our team. Agorize can provide a tailored demonstration of how our innovation management software can transform your SDG efforts from aspirations to tangible results.

Why Agorize?

Agorize is at the forefront of open innovation management software, helping organizations translate their sustainability goals into actionable solutions. We have successfully deployed more than 1,000 platforms worldwide to support collective intelligence approaches through startups competition, students challenge, hackathon, and call for ideas to accelerate innovation. Last year, more than two third of these platforms, across industries, were about CSR: sustainability, diversity and inclusion, reducing plastic use, net zero emissions. In a nutshell, we offer:
  • Customization of the platform to align perfectly with your specific SDGs and sustainability objectives, and your branding.
  • Worldwide impact: Leverage a global network of 10 million innovators to find the right partners.
  • Expertise: Benefit from a team with deep knowledge in sustainable development.
  • Security: Our robust data protection measures mean you can focus on what truly matters—innovation for sustainability. And we are ISO 27 0001 certified.


Since 2011, Agorize has developed a unique offering:

Agorize is the most comprehensive innovation management platform connected to a community of 10 million innovators and supported by a team of experts. We help enterprise companies build and manage innovation ecosystems and programs.

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Sourcing technologies and startups

Discover tangible solutions that are ready to be depoyed.

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Innovate with purpose


Engage in responsosible and sustainable transformation processes.

Agorize innovation for good

Employer brand and human capital

Make innovation a tool for employee commitment.

Our crowdsourcing solutions to meet your strategic challenges

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Idea crowdsourcing

Deploy your ideation platform for your employees or external communities. Define a theme and let your audience feed it with their ideas, vote for the best ones and participate in your improvement.

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Co-create with your ecosystem

Create your innovation competition with your target audience: students, startups, tech profiles, employees, etc. Use collective intelligence to solve strategic problems.

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Give purpose to innovation

Find innovative solutions to meet one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN.

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Achieving the SDGs starts with a talk

It’s essential for the existence of your business and society's well-being. 

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